What is all this bowing about?


Bowing in Judo is really important and yet hardly ever discussed in classes, this has often lead to misunderstandings and problems, especially in relation to religious beliefs. Hopefully this post will help you understand why we bow, what it means to bow, how we should bow and why we keep bowing in Judo.


To understand bowing in Judo you need to know a little about the history of Judo and the Japanese culture from which Judo was born.


Judo was “created” in 1882 by a Japanese man called Jigoro Kano. It was created/founded in the city of Tokyo in the country of Japan. It is and remains a Japanese sport/art and as such carries with it some of the culture, traditions and etiquette of it’s country of origin. Bowing in Judo is part of this Japanese origin.


The “REI” (ray) or bow is normally done at the start and end of the class, and at the start and end of fights in most Judo clubs. The start and finish bows are often done from a kneeling position, whilst the others are normally done standing.


The bow in Japanese culture is used much the same way as the handshake is used in western culture. It is used as a greeting (and farewell), it is used to shown respect between two people. In Judo it is the same, we bow as a sign of respect for the people/person we are training with.


In Judo their is no religious content to the bow, it is about respect and to a degree sof-control. At the end of every match in a Judo competition both competitors bow to one another, to show respect to the other person. It is arguably one of the reasons that Judo does not have the problems with fist fights breaking out that other sports have. Respect for others is “baked in” to Judo and shown physically through the bow.


A interesting phenomenon that I have observed occurring more and more is that after players bow, they will also shake hands. This is a great indicator of what the bow means to Judo people, and also of the great mixing of cultures in Judo. A bow is the Japanese (eastern) way of shaking hands and the handshake the western way of bowing. The fact that Judo people are now bowing and shaking hands is a sign perhaps that both cultural groups wish to show their respect in each others way.  That is to me the heart of the meaning of the Judo bow, showing respect.


This entry was posted by lancew on Thursday, September 6th, 2007 at 11:42 pm and is filed under Judo . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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