Monday, July 8, 2013

I Bow This Way, You Bow That Way

We bow even in Japanese martial arts, judo, karate or kendo.  I started taking aikido (a kind of martial arts) lesson last year.  I bow so many times in the class.  I’ve realized that there is a slight difference in the way of bowing between martial arts and sado.

At sado, you sit on your legs and place your hands on the floor in front of your knees and tilt your upper body from your hip.  Even in sado, every school has a different style of bowing.  I have seen some people placing their fists at the side of their knees when they bow.  You can’t simply say what the correct way is.  In the aikdo class or in some books, people put out their hands one after another while at my tea school, we place both hands at the same time.  Why are they different?  However, I’ve realized that my aiki teacher and some of the students are not following the rule.  They put out both hands at once like the sado style.  The way of bowing really varies.


Martial arts

I asked my aikido teacher if there is a correct way of bowing in aiki.  He explained the reason of his way of bowing.  In martial arts, people usually place their left hand first and then right hand a moment after.  It allows your right hand free until the last moment, which is a preparation for an unanticipated attack.  You can grab your sword, defend or attack back with the right hand.  Wow, I didn’t know that the manner of hands has such meaning.  This is my teacher’s opinion.  We just practice kata (forms) and aikido is not a martial art for fighting.  So, he thinks that he doesn’t need to do the one-by-one hand bowing at aiki.  The explanation really got me.  Since then, I follow my teacher’s way in the aiki class.

Now it also clearly makes sense how we bow in sado.  There is no fighting in the tea room, so you can put out your both hands at the same time in peace, unless someone attacks you with hot tea or throws a tea cup at you. hahaha.

Aikido on Wikipedia >>>


  1. In Korea (I think also China, but China is not that traditional anymore), men bow with left hand over right. Women, with right over left. When sitting on knees, for men, the right foot should rest on the left foot, and women opposite.

    1. Very interesting! I'll remember "left hand over right" for visiting Korea someday.

  2. Very interesting, I always wondered why in martial arts one hand was placed on the floor before the other one.

    1. Yes, I've also wondered why. When I learned it, I was so delighted.