Order of bows at the beginning/end of training

by Olga

In your article “Normal Training Procedure” it is pointed that we bow to the shomen, sensei and each other at the beginning of training and bow to Sensei, Shomen and each other at the end of training.

Why at the end of training we bow to sensei first, but we bow to each other in the same order? (If we train without sensei we do not change order of bows, right? - “shomen ni rei” then “otagai ni rei”)

Answer: Thanks for your post. I am sure these are also different from dojo to dojo. What I introduce here is what I learned at my dojo in Japan.

If you do not have a sensei, you do not have to bow to sensei. If you want to bow to someone in charge, then there is nothing wrong with that. After all, you are paying respect to the person (sensei).

Bow to shōmen is to paying respect to the dojo. Now it is supposed to be shinzen (martial god) not shōmen.

In Japan, traditional dojos have shinzen because martial God helps to protect their dojo, to lead practitioners to improve martial arts skills and to become better persons.

However, there are not many traditional dojos in Japan and actually they practice at gym. So of course, they do not have shinzen there.

That is why we start using “shōmen” instead of shinzen.
Of course, there is a religious
reason too.

Now what you will read from here is my personal view. Since there are no explanations of the order of bowing that I can find at this very moment, I am writing what I think.

First, we bow to shinzen or shōmen to appreciate that we have a place to practice kendō. And we promise ourselves to improve ourselves to train hard.

Also in the old days, this was the mentality; “since we have the martial God watching us, we have to train hard fair and square. There should not be any rudeness and disrespectful behavior at the dojo”.

That is why we bow to the shinzen first. That is why senseis bow to the shinzen (shōmen) fist.

We bow to senseis because we would like to learn from them. They are the second highest at the dojo. The highest is the martial God.

Then we bow to each other at the last.

At the end of the training, we bow to senseis first because we just learned from them. We show appreciation to them first.

Then we show our appreciation to martial God or dojo because we trained well because of the god or dojo.

Then we bow to each other.

We don’t bow to each other first because we have more important things/people to bow.

If I find more appropriate answers, I will come back here and share them with you.

Hope this helps.

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