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Circle Bowing Part 2

This post is in response to a general question I received about Bowing In A Circle. It made me give the subject some more thought. The original post reflects what we do in my dojo, which I realize is not the norm in traditional Japanese dojo (my dojo is Okinawan based).

When we line up, we do so in no particular order. We just line up in a circle. There is no special place for the sensei or the seniors. The dojo members are dispersed pretty randomly. We do not do a separate bow to the sensei.

My sensei is very informal. He teaches at his home in Yonabaru, Okinawa. I like his attitude and approach. I have tried my best to create a relaxed, but focused, atmosphere in my dojo. I am not attached to any particular ritual. Perhaps one day we will bow in a square for a while so that we will not become attached to the circle.

I have a small dojo and am not part of a larger governing association. As such, I have a great deal of freedom with respect to my curriculum, methodologies, ranking structure, and protocols.

I respect each dojo's right to follow the protocols and rituals that they prefer. If I visited a dojo, I would respect its protocols.

In the past, when we did all bow together to the front of the dojo, I never thought that we were bowing to the Emperor or any such idea. If I thought that, I would not have done it (I have nothing against the Emperor, but I am an American). If that is how the practice originated, I do not think I would follow it, even if I replaced it with a different rationale (such as bowing to the spirit of the art or past masters). I would not bow to Okinawa's King either, nor would I make the students bow to God because I respect each student's right to believe or not believe what they want.

So we bow to each other as a sign of mutual respect.

This may seem off the subject, but in our parties here in Hawaii, we often do cheers by giving a "banzai!" At one party a few years ago, a person told me that his father (who was attending the party) did not like banzais because he had close friends who died in the Pacific during WWII. Since then, I have not done banzais, even though I am half-Japanese and used to like to yell "banzai" during parties. I can yell pretty loud. I know that our idea in Hawaii is to simply wish "long life" but I can respect how some people might be troubled by the practice.

My wife is Filipino, so we can always yell "mabuhay!"


Charles C. Goodin