Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza
Bowing to the Kamiza at the beginning of class is a traditional action within many martial arts. Being a Westerner I am quite positive this doesn't have the same meaning to me as to a person more versed in Japanese culture. However, it still holds meaning for me. The Kamiza has been explained in another post as the "head seat". In this case the head seat is left open, or conversely it can be thought of as being filled by O Sensei's picture.
First, I put the bow in perspective this manner. A few years ago my grandfather passed away, and when we get together as a family I, in my mind, still leave a place open for 'ole grandpa. Sort of the head seat if you will. To both remember what my grandfather meant to me, and to recognize what his life contributed to the family. The bow and this action are to me similar though they don't share the exact same personal connection. I bow to O Sensei to consciously recognize what his life contributed to mine that being Aikido.
Secondly, the original poster pointed this out already. I do use the bow as a very sharp and delineating line between my hectic days and my Aikido practice. It is that final moment where I attempt to drop everything, but practice. I very much use that bow to set my mind right.
I'm sure others bow with different reasons in mind, and that is absolutely their prerogative. I've just adapted my mind to this traditional custom, and gave it a place in my personal paradigm.