I have a query that I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on. Recently I've had a lovely student come to the dojo to practice; very enthusiastic and keen, sincere and good natured. He is a Muslim and will not, because of his precepts and faith, bow to the ground either at the Kamiza or to another when we greet in the Japanese way(In our dojo when in seiza we bow all the way down to the mat to another when we finish the session as a thank you). He will nod a small bow in respect to another.
We have had great open talks about religion and spirituality and we really understand each other to a great part.
Would you allow his freedom to follow his creed and forgo the standard dojo bow and just get on with training or not? For me it's not just that simple. We speak about it and find that we discover more things as we look at the issue. Very interesting and not a quick solution. Of course I could easily overlook this one incident and just get on with training (which I might do) and not bother about his rules of conduct. But how far do we open up the Japanese tradition to allow a varied standard?
I have 30 students and as many as 15 nationalities and all faith groups. We have a great relationship and it's a wonderful dojo.
Now I like this guy, but since I like to view my Aikido to be part of a spiritual discipline (not that I impose it on students but if they are interested I will speak my mind) I like to speak with him about the dynamics of being a guest and conforming to the standard of the host. A self surrender to another way of being if you like. Most people find no trouble in doing this but because of certain rules of conduct we find ourselves in these situations.
But what has been the most joyful thing coming out of this query is our talks that leads deep into the reasons and meaning of religious and spiritual understanding.
There are also the more sterner applications of faith rules as not allowing men to train with women etc. How do we deal with that? Open a men's only class? A Muslim class? A Christian class?
What do you think?
Hi Bjorn. It seems we are neighbours. In response to the above may I offer you my opinion.
It is your space and if you like, your house, your universe. You therefore are responsible for the rules of entry and participation and behaviour.
If you visited anothers house and their rules were that all visitors must take off their shoes then is that not what you would do or else you would not visit them at their house. If you visited a mosque or a temple or a church or even a school classroom then you would act according to their rules for that visit as a matter of respect wouldn't you?
So I'm not saying here that you should ban the person I am merely breking it down into a simplicity of two parts:
1) That it is all a matter of respect.
2) That it is your responsibility to KNOW and adhere to the rules you personally put there. So if you decide that bowing to the ground is part of your way then all who want to learn from you should respect that or leave. On the other hand if you decide that all should bow to the ground unless their own religious beliefs prevent them from so doing then take responsibility for that as a rule of operation and then there is no problem.
Personally, by your brief description of the guy, he seems like a very respectful and honourable person and one you also respect so it would seem wise to me to do the latter and then all may know your new rule of conduct and all is back in harmony.
Quality is far superior to quantity. G.