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Old 07-22-2007, 11:21 PM   #1
Don
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Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I know this has been variously discussed under threads devoted to the intersection of aikido and religion, but I would like to solicit opinion based on another premise: Why we do what we do.

My basic question and solicitation for opinion is this: Why do you bow to kamidana/kamiza? Have you thought about why YOU do this and is it of any significance to you?

At the outset, I will state that in the past 3 years my life has changed fairly significantly. One of the consequences is that I have begun to ask why I do what I do. I have lately turned that attention to my practice during aikido of bowing to the kamidana/kamiza.

I have long been told that it is to show respect for O'Sensei for creating aikido. That seemed benign enough.

However, in looking into this I have found apparent confusion. We CALL the small shrine-looking thing in the front (shomen) of the dojo the kamiza, but it would seem that at least in almost every dojo I have been in (and I have visited many) that the more appropriate term is kamidana.

Kamiza would seem to be a general term for what might be called the upper seat or seat of most importance. Think of a meeting with the president of your company. He sits at the kamiza. Kamidana is a shrine in which much of what we see on what we in aikido call the kamiza. In fact one dojo I have frequented on business is run by a buddist priest and it looks 99% like the kamidana at our dojo, although we call it kamiza. Kamidana also as I understand it are found in homes and may have pictures of ancestors, and the purpose here of bowing is to either give thanks to the kami (spirit or god in shinto belief) or to ones ancestors.

So, if I am bowing to a kamidana (which in fact seems more appropriate to say) then it would seem I at least need to know what it really means. So, firstly since I don't believe in either the multiple kami that is a part of Shinto or in ancestor worship that would invalidate bowing for THOSE reasons. Secondly I can accept bowing to another ALIVE person as a sign of etiquette and respect. I can give respect in the bow to that person and they can accept it and return it (or not by virtue of if or how they bow). Bowing to an inanimate assemblge of wood and an inanimate picture of O'Sensei out of respect is useless in my view. It cannot accept or return respect. O'Sensei is long since dead and (possibly) in another realm where our respect to him is of little consequence. Finally isn't seriously practicing aikido and trying to encourage its practice to others showing MUCH more respect to O'Sensei and his memory than a perfunctory bow?

So, other than "being a part of the group behavior" it seems that there is no purpose IN THIS CULTURE for bowing to the kamidana/kamiza. Some would argue that during the bow is a time to center one's self and meditate. My counterpoint is that sure you can do that, but meditation generally requires one to be focused on nothingness and not "when to bow".....and I can do that before the class.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not bashing aikido. I have practiced it diligently for 14 years so I have been around the track more than a few times and I greatly enjoy aikido. it is a great physical practice and is mentally calming. It just seems to me that in our zeal to spread aikido, we spread CULTURAL and EXTERNAL practices as well as the content and essence of the art. It is quite natural that this would have happened in the first generation of aikidoka in the U.S. or other country other than Japan since everyone was instructed by a student of O'Sensei. But as we have grown, I just wonder if others question the relevance of what the second and third generation of non-japanese instructors teach. Since I am an assistant instructor, I spend a lot of time looking for good teaching vehicles, and in the process I have found that some things that appear at first as vital pieces of a technique can be left out or modified quite extensively without detriment to the technique. What that means is that some other part of the technique is what is real and that the other parts teach a lesson but are just that: TEACHING ARTIFACTS. It is important I think to be able to distinguish what is ULTIMATELY important and what is not in the progression of teaching a technique. It is also important in any other thing we do. Otherwise we are forever trapped in the externalities of something.

A very long post for a seemingly simple question. Your opinions would be welcomed. Please remember I am not bashing aikido, but posting a serious question. If you feel offended and want to bash me, please don't...I'll just skip over it.....Thanks for your opinioins!
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Old 07-23-2007, 12:06 AM   #2
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

When Japanese people learn English they first learn introductions, which are often accompanied by the handshake. If they were to say, we don't do handshakes in Japan, then, they would miss out on something important when trying to do business overseas. Of course, that is a useful action, whereas bowing to the Kamiza may seem not so.

So, what are you going to do? Could you imagine going to a dojo in Japan and saying - "I am not going to bow to the Kamiza because it is meaningless" ??? To Japanese, it has great meaning and they may not understand your point. And even if they did, they would probably not regard you with much respect. Personally, I am not religious at all, but I do show respect when required (when people say prayers at dinner, or bowing to the Kamiza, or whatever).

At one dojo I trained at in Japan the Kamiza contained the ashes of their previous sensei. I guess, you could say he was there. And again, although I am not religious, when I bow to the pic of O Sensei, I feel I am bowing to O Sensei, not the pic.

The problem, I think, is in dojos in the West where most trainees have no idea about Japanese religion. It will be even harder if there is no Japanese terminology in the dojo. And even more difficult if there are a few devout Christians, or others, in the group. Some dojos have no Kamiza and no pic of O Sensei. I am OK with that too.

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 07-23-2007 at 12:11 AM.

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Old 07-23-2007, 12:07 AM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I write (and live) as an atheist: just as I have no problem bowing in respect and gratitude to my living teachers and partners, I have no problem in including a bow to the deceased founder of my art as part of the same opening and closing ritual.
That is purely my two cents. Everybody's mileage may vary :-)

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Old 07-23-2007, 01:09 AM   #4
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

We have a "reality" TV show here called Lost Tribes, where an Australian family gets to spend 10 days with an African tribe, during which time they must learn to live like the "natives" or fail. For some of these people, it is a tremendous culture shock, to the extent that these people's personal "reality" are at odds with certain tribal and social customs. I don't know if you've got it there, but it's interesting to watch these people flounder and sometimes attempting to justify their (inappropriate) behaviour based on their perception of "reality" (i.e. what *should* be) and the reality of the situation they are in.

It is also interesting to see how some people's attitudes and behaviour can change over that time and how cultural immersion can influence such changes.

I think that, irrespective of one's personal beliefs or whether one thinks that the "order of things" has no particular meaning or purpose, the socially and generally accepted thing would be to "do as the Romans do". To do otherwise, would be inappropriate - at least within accepted group norms and dynamics.

However, what you do in your own "house" is your business of course.... if such cultural artifacts have no intrinsic value for you then by all means, discard it. I'm positively certain it would not detract from the technical practice in anyway. As to whether it inculcates in the student following, a sense of respect of something greater than the Self, remains to be seen. My wife seems to think so, but I'm not sure I agree.... yet.

Ignatius
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Old 07-23-2007, 01:22 AM   #5
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Don McConnell wrote: View Post
However, in looking into this I have found apparent confusion. We CALL the small shrine-looking thing in the front (shomen) of the dojo the kamiza, but it would seem that at least in almost every dojo I have been in (and I have visited many) that the more appropriate term is kamidana.

Kamiza would seem to be a general term for what might be called the upper seat or seat of most importance. Think of a meeting with the president of your company. He sits at the kamiza. Kamidana is a shrine in which much of what we see on what we in aikido call the kamiza. In fact one dojo I have frequented on business is run by a buddist priest and it looks 99% like the kamidana at our dojo, although we call it kamiza. Kamidana also as I understand it are found in homes and may have pictures of ancestors, and the purpose here of bowing is to either give thanks to the kami (spirit or god in shinto belief) or to ones ancestors.
Actually, there's a problem with your initial assumption. First off all, a Buddhism and kamidana 神棚 are completely unrelated. Buddhism is Buddhism, and kamidana are Shinto. Japanese people often mix the two, but the fact that a Buddhist priest has a small "shrine" set-up like the one at your dojo means nothing as far as the religious import of that "shrine".

Secondly, dojos with kamidana are very, very few. This is a kamidana:
.

The only dojo I've ever seen with a kamidana is the Aikikai dojo in Iwama.

Notice how high it is, and with the bottles on it?

Not even the Aikikai Hombu Dojo has a kamidana. Kamidana are supposed to be raised, near the ceiling. Much higher than the little step you generally see at the kamiza 上座 in dojos. Also, they should be facing to the south or the east.

What the vast, vast majority of dojo have is a tokonoma 床の間.

Tokonoma have no religious significance. They simply indicate and serve as decoration for the kamiza - the seat of honor in a house. While the kamidana faces south or east, the kamiza/tokonoma is the wall farthest from, or opposite, the entrance. They should not be confused with the butsudan 仏壇, a home Buddhist altar which signifies the spirits of departed relatives. A guest in a Japanese house will typically be seated in the kamiza, and thus, if there is one, in front of the tokonoma. A guest is never seated in front of the butsudan unless it's a really small room.

If your dojo has an elevated shelf (the "dana" of "kamidana" means "shelf", by the way), with little cups and bowls containing rice, salt, water, and sake, and has a rope with paper lightning hanging across it, you have a kamidana.

If your dojo has a little stoop, on which is placed a vase of flowers underneath some sort of hanging scroll and a perhaps a picture of Ueshiba Morihei, then you have a tokonoma.

If your dojo has a little stoop, on which is placed a vase of flowers underneath some sort of hanging scroll, and little cups and bottles containing rice, salt, water, and sake, chances are likely that someone got confused.

Quote:
So, if I am bowing to a kamidana (which in fact seems more appropriate to say) then it would seem I at least need to know what it really means. So, firstly since I don't believe in either the multiple kami that is a part of Shinto or in ancestor worship that would invalidate bowing for THOSE reasons. Secondly I can accept bowing to another ALIVE person as a sign of etiquette and respect. I can give respect in the bow to that person and they can accept it and return it (or not by virtue of if or how they bow). Bowing to an inanimate assemblge of wood and an inanimate picture of O'Sensei out of respect is useless in my view. It cannot accept or return respect. O'Sensei is long since dead and (possibly) in another realm where our respect to him is of little consequence. Finally isn't seriously practicing aikido and trying to encourage its practice to others showing MUCH more respect to O'Sensei and his memory than a perfunctory bow?
Well, you're not bowing to the kamidana, you're bowing to the tokonoma. Bowing to shomen, to the kamiza, in Japanese dojos is not always (dare I say, not often?) something of religious significance. Usually the bowing to shomen is to signify a change in attitude - a shift from everyday life to focused training.

Now, bowing and clapping is definitely a Shinto-based ritual meant to summon the spirits (kami) to observe your practice. Some say that this can be done without religious signficance, but IMO they've taken the ritual out of the Japanese idiom, like saying doing the sign of the cross can simply mean "good luck" rather than being an appeal to God.

Quote:
So, other than "being a part of the group behavior" it seems that there is no purpose IN THIS CULTURE for bowing to the kamidana/kamiza. Some would argue that during the bow is a time to center one's self and meditate. My counterpoint is that sure you can do that, but meditation generally requires one to be focused on nothingness and not "when to bow".....and I can do that before the class.
Bowing is never part of meditation, but as I suggested above typically it is used in Japan to symbolize a shift in attitude.

Quote:
It just seems to me that in our zeal to spread aikido, we spread CULTURAL and EXTERNAL practices as well as the content and essence of the art. It is quite natural that this would have happened in the first generation of aikidoka in the U.S. or other country other than Japan since everyone was instructed by a student of O'Sensei. But as we have grown, I just wonder if others question the relevance of what the second and third generation of non-japanese instructors teach. Since I am an assistant instructor, I spend a lot of time looking for good teaching vehicles, and in the process I have found that some things that appear at first as vital pieces of a technique can be left out or modified quite extensively without detriment to the technique. What that means is that some other part of the technique is what is real and that the other parts teach a lesson but are just that: TEACHING ARTIFACTS. It is important I think to be able to distinguish what is ULTIMATELY important and what is not in the progression of teaching a technique. It is also important in any other thing we do. Otherwise we are forever trapped in the externalities of something.
Well, in Japan, I've seen lots of different styles. Some places, they do the bow and clap. Other places, a simple bow to shomen. Still others, only a bow to the teacher to open the class. Bowing is simply endemic to Japanese culture - it's used to open meetings and classes.

Does any dojo need to bow? I don't think so. But as I've said before I would expect a dojo that did away with bowing to also do away with hakama, Japanese terminology, and maybe even dogi. The physical, and for most westerners, the non-physical aspects of aikido can be taught in sweats. But if one wants to retain something of the cultural origins of aikido, which while not strictly necessary, is still something of value in aikido, then retaining the simplest of cultural courtesy and bearing -- bowing to shomen and/or teacher at the beginning and ending of class, bowing to your practice partners -- seems like the least one should do.

All that said, there's a danger in taking things too far. Some people ascribe more meaning and intent to Japanese courtesy (and terminology) than even the Japanese do. On that score, I suggest that if a bow to your partner means more than a handshake would, then you're probably overthinking it. (Using the general "you", here.)

Last edited by Josh Reyer : 07-23-2007 at 01:27 AM.

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Old 07-23-2007, 07:05 AM   #6
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
Some dojos have no Kamiza and no pic of O Sensei. I am OK with that too.
Yeah, I was thinking of putting my picture up instead... O' Dalen
- sounds more irish

Peace

Dalen
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:38 AM   #7
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

O'Brother

ha-ha-ha, smiles.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:43 AM   #8
RoyK
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I don't think bowing is only meaningful if there is another side who'd acknowledge the gesture. The gesture is meaningful to me, and that's enough reason for me to partake in it, beyond the fact that it's a tradition just like wearing a gi.

Bowing is meaningful to me because when I bow to O'Sensei, I feel as if I enforce the respect I have for what he created. Since I practice what he created, in turn I enforce the respect I have for what I do and how I choose to spend my time.

it's actually a nice concept, that when I bow with sincere gratefulness and selflessness, I am the one to eventually gain from that feeling. That's, at least, how I currently perceive it.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:51 AM   #9
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

One of the amazing benefits of following etiquette is a sacrifice of the ego's hold on a person. many of our cultural and individual etiquettes are based in an unknown need that we have for something......whatever that may be. By bowing and following etiquette, we lose our personal habits, a lurking place for the ol' man ego, and empty our 'vessels' in preperation for the misogi aspect of training.
Teo's post above is great. It points to a lot of assumptions that people have about 'reality' and discusses the kinds of breakdowns that are almost required to inhabit a new perspective. I believe in the tribal aspect of aikido. It is an aspect that is under-nourished in many respects and,as I experience it, an indespensable tool for teaching tolerance towards the earth and it's functions. The tribal perspective fills in the blanks on many of the mystical elements of O'Sensei's Aikido. Hokkaido anyone?

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:13 AM   #10
KamiKaze_Evolution
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I don't feel offended and no intended to bash Mr Author, because i have usually bow to shomen but O Sensei's potrait without clap my hands. I know that such misunderstanding is too deep until can't corrected, especially to some of Christians/Muslims without any martial arts. I had been asked by my churchmates regard a faithfull Christians become good martial artist, and some of them are don't really know that metally fact regards Chuck Norris martial arts grandmaster as a Christian as well as an entertainment star.

Simply, i do really respect to O Sensei and apperciate his works at his lifetime but i don't worship him as kami. Logically, bow to each others is necessary among Japanese culture and evenly Aikido Dojo. I don't fell that i am worship each others with my sensei or Aikidokas else, is it illogic that a kami worship to another kami? And how about Japan national flag? It will be sensual if only Japanese flag displayed at foreign dojo, because it considered as cultural attack. But it doesn't matter if both American and Japanese flags displayed at an American dojo. Perhaps that some normal Christians or clergies don't really understand that what is Aikido, but it is effects to the community and perhaps that non-Christians misunderstand about Christianity.

BTW, this is my personal testimony. I know that someone will pisses me off here, i don't ever call myself wiseful person or i am holiness.

Have a nice day my buddies!

KamiKaze
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:04 AM   #11
dragonteeth
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

If you are up for a little background reading, I would recommend Dave Lowry's book In the Dojo. It has a very detailed section on the layout of the dojo, the Shinto significance of the kamiza/kamidana and the associated rituals, and some Taoist ideas that also apply to dojo layout. Keep in mind that this is a Japanese cultural history treatise, and doesn't necessarily reflect how non-Japanese (and even some modern Japanese) view the subject.

I agree with what has already been said, especially about most dojo having tokonoma instead of kamidana. Each dojo sets its own spiritual and cultural tone in regards to both the kamiza ritual and aikido practice in general. Certainly if you have significant religious objections to the kamiza rei, then I would discuss it with your sensei. In the past I have met practitioners of different arts who as Jehovah's Witnesses were firmly against both the kamiza and shomen rei (and some even towards bowing to fellow students) just as they are against saluting the flag. As long as they remained respectful of those around them who did rei, the teachers, and the art itself, it generally didn't pose a problem once it was discussed with the sensei.

Personally, I view the kamiza rei simply as paying my respects to O-Sensei the same as I would if he were there, which doesn't interfere with my Christian beliefs at all. It is the attitude of the heart that constitutes worship, not the simple act of bowing, IMHO. I spend the short meditation time before training calming my mind and giving a small prayer for a safe, productive practice for all. Afterwards I do the same but instead express gratitude for my teachers and dojomates, and for the learning and growth I experienced in practice.

Best of luck in finding an answer that works for you!
Lori
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:06 AM   #12
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Joshua's post was extremely well done. I would like to add to his post this little tid bit. The kamiza, notice za at the end, is the same as the za in seiza. So the kamiza is the God's seat. In the old days and probably still today depending on the dojo, the Sensei would sit at the front on a little stool and conduct class from that location. The Sensei is the "God" of that dojo. Hence kamiza being used for the front of the dojo. Most people didn't speak Japanese when the arts came to the West so I'm sure you can understand the mixups with the terms.
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:27 AM   #13
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I'm intrigued by the use of the words kami and spirit in this thread. I'm at work so I'll need to be brief!

I am an atheist, I do not believe spirits are watching my training. However, I do respect the spirit of the men and women who's knowledge and experience I am about to share - in other words I respect their attitude, and by showing my respect (bowing) indicate my intention to share their spirit/attitude in my training with humility.

I have no problem showing my respect and thanks for the spirit/attitude of someone who has died. We do it each year when we wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. It is a specific time of the day/year/training to be respectful and remember the others who's effort and work allow me to be where I am today.

Sorry for the brevity, I hope I didn't lose any clarity.

Jon

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Old 07-23-2007, 11:10 AM   #14
Just Jamey
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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.
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Old 07-23-2007, 11:12 AM   #15
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Do you shake hands when you meet someone?
Do you know why?

Q
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Old 07-23-2007, 11:25 AM   #16
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
Joshua's post was extremely well done. I would like to add to his post this little tid bit. The kamiza, notice za at the end, is the same as the za in seiza. So the kamiza is the God's seat. In the old days and probably still today depending on the dojo, the Sensei would sit at the front on a little stool and conduct class from that location. The Sensei is the "God" of that dojo. Hence kamiza being used for the front of the dojo. Most people didn't speak Japanese when the arts came to the West so I'm sure you can understand the mixups with the terms.
"Kamiza" as the front of the dojo generally uses a different kanji - "kami" meaning "upper", so the "kamiza" is the upper seat while the lower level people sit in the lower seats.

I've trained at a number of dojo in both the US and Japan that had some kind of Shinto shrine setup - Aikikai hombu dojo used to have one too, but they took it down after the war.

As to:

Quote:
So, what are you going to do? Could you imagine going to a dojo in Japan and saying - "I am not going to bow to the Kamiza because it is meaningless" ??? To Japanese, it has great meaning and they may not understand your point. And even if they did, they would probably not regard you with much respect. Personally, I am not religious at all, but I do show respect when required (when people say prayers at dinner, or bowing to the Kamiza, or whatever).
My impression has always been that most Japanese don't really care all that much whether or not you bow - it's just the custom, that's all. If you have some kind of a reason for not bowing they most likely wouldn't give it a second thought,

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-23-2007, 11:54 AM   #17
Lan Powers
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I bow..(showing respect) but refrain from clapping (summoning kami/spirits) as that seems, and is stated to be part of Shinto religious ritual.
I respect the founder, I don't worship him.( or multiple kami )
I respect you (Bow) I don't worship you either.
Bowing has been given over-importance here in the west since we are so ignorant of the "proper" actions and wish to fit in the larger world of practitioners.
Simple respect, courtesy. Seems sufficient reason to me.

We shake hands in the west as a holdover from the time when a clasped hand was an un-armed hand. To show trust/respect.
That iswhy it is the right hand to shake with, since 90% are right handed.
Best regards
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:13 PM   #18
SeiserL
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Acknowledgement/appreciation for our predecessors/ancestors is always important. So, no problem bowing.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 07-23-2007, 06:51 PM   #19
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
Joshua's post was extremely well done. I would like to add to his post this little tid bit. The kamiza, notice za at the end, is the same as the za in seiza. So the kamiza is the God's seat.
I agree: Thanks for an excellent post Josh. I was going to attempt an explanation myself, but you have done so far more eloquently and in more detail than I would have done. I too can only add a little.

Here are two easy characters: 上 (up) and 下 (down).

It can be confusing that the "kami" in "kamiza" doesn't actually mean spirit. The word just means "upper seat" (上 kami "upper" and 座 za "seat" -- as in seiza 正座 "correct-sitting") where the most important people sit. But who is the most important? The kami (神 spirit/god) of course! So the kami sits in the kamiza上座 area. You bow in the direction of the upper seat. The most important people sit there (including, possibly, a kami, if you believe in Shinto). It's the god's/spirit's seat if you want it to be. The opposite is the shimoza (下座 lower seat -- notice the easy character for lower) where most of us regular folk sit.

I also agree with the views that to the average Japanese, there is not much religious significance in bowing to the kamiza-area. Whether you're bowing to the kami sitting there (in the tokunoma or kamidana) or not, it seems to be most important as an act of reigi (etiquette) which is the thing that enables us all to train together sincerely and respectfully.
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Old 07-23-2007, 07:30 PM   #20
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
Tokonoma have no religious significance. They simply indicate and serve as decoration for the kamiza - the seat of honor in a house.
All that said, there's a danger in taking things too far. Some people ascribe more meaning and intent to Japanese courtesy (and terminology) than even the Japanese
I've said this elsewhere so I'll repeat it briefly here again, since, apart from those with military experience the formalities of address and deference are very slim in Western society -- but they are not entirely lost in concpet or fact.

This recurrent debate touches on knowledge about Western traditions in distinction in forms of respect versus worship, which in the West is matter of some significant thought. .

Dulia is a Greek word in theology that is distinguished from "latria." "Latria" is "worship" given only to God. "Dulia," on the other hand, is appropriate to any human being, alive or dead (typically dead), or even worthy inanimate objects. In Classical Latin the term used for both was "servitus." Early Christians failing to render "servitus" to the emperor, for example, were the similarly the cause of much controversy, which may have been as much linguistic as it was political, not unlike the debate about Japanese forms of rendering respect. While that usage elided the distinction made by dulia/latria in Greek, Orthodox theology held the two are different in kind and not in degree, as early as St. Augustine, as they remain.

The most closely related words in English to "dulia" are veneration or homage.

Dulia or homage can properly to political superiors, objects of great beauty and reverence, or people of superior quality, living or dead, without verging into worship. All of these are typical of Japanese observances toward kami of various types (including, ironically enough, the Emperor.)

What is done in the dojo toward the tokonoma is homage due and paid and nothing more.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:46 PM   #21
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Just an extra note on "kamiza". "Kami" is an old Japanese word to mean "upper, higher", used for many different things, and thus distinguished by different kanji. For example, there's the physically "higher" - 上, and the metaphysically "higher" - 神, and the socially "higher" - 守, and the "highest" part of your body, the crown of the head - 髪.

The "kami" in "kamiza", refers only an "upper" sense in social context. The "seat of honor", as I suggested. Japan has its own share of devout Buddhists, Christians, and even atheists. Even in these people's houses there is a kamiza (and shimoza). It's simply a layout of a room according Japanese etiquette. Indeed, someone who knows the etiquette can go into any western house and point out where the kamiza is, or would be if the person living there followed Japanese etiquette.

Just last week I attended a meeting at my school, and I could tell before anyone sat down who would sit where, simply based on an understanding of which seat was the kamiza (and thus where the principal would sit).

So while kamiza and kamidana share the same "kami" sound, "kamiza" has no religious significance, and neither does bowing to it.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 07-24-2007, 07:18 AM   #22
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Josh, could you add your comments here to the Aiki Wiki? I think your posts would be a wonderfull addition on this subject.

Thanks, and Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 07-24-2007, 08:46 AM   #23
Erik Calderon
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I love the formality of the bow, at the start and end of class.

http://www.shinkikan.com

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Old 07-24-2007, 10:59 AM   #24
jonreading
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Bowing is a cultural immersion. We train a Japanese martial art. Without getting into the argument of bowing, I believe first and foremost to respect the culture which gave me Aikido. My life has been affected [for the better] by Aikido and I wish to show my respect and gratitude for that gift. I have no problem taking the extra effort to learn a little bit about Japanese culture in the process of training aikido. Just because something is empty to me, does not mean it is empty to others...

When in Rome...respect and obide by the culture in which you find yourself.

Last edited by jonreading : 07-24-2007 at 11:00 AM. Reason: spellin'
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Old 07-25-2007, 10:33 AM   #25
John Matsushima
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Personally, I love the fact that here in Japan, after practice they leave little oranges and wine for us to eat and drink after practice. Japanese people are so nice! I always bow and say "itadakimaaaas!" I never thought it was enough for everyone though.....

-John Matsushima

My blog on Japanese culture
http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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