Bowing is a sign of respect and gratitude. Bowing is handled differently in various disciplines of martial arts, but the overall meaning is the same. Bowing as you enter the training area (academy, do-jo, etc.) allows your brain to clear and to remind yourself of the privilege you have to enter with and engage being present for all you will learn.
In my martial arts form, we also start and end every class with a bowing ceremony. I love this aspect as it helps me “book-end” the class by clearing my head to prepare at the beginning, and reflecting on all I have experienced at the end of class.
I work in a profession that is busy all day, every day. Technology problems don’t just pop up from 9:00-5:00, and I can get called at all hours of the day and all days of the week for a crisis that needs to be addressed. The five hours I spend in my martial arts class each week are the only time I truly shut off all other thoughts and concentrate on listening and learning and progressing. There is something about training with others, applying myself to the discipline, and framing the time with the bowing ceremony that takes over my brain completely.
At the beginning and end of class, we kneel, lean forward, place our hands deliberately on the ground, and bow our head.
Our ceremony has three parts, and the same phrase is repeated each time:
- The class instructor expresses the phrase to the academy to show respect for our blessing of having a place to train and his/her readiness to lead the class.
- The highest belt in the class expresses the phrase to the instructor to show respect for his/her skill and readiness to take a leadership role in the class.
- The second highest belt in the class expresses the phrase to the highest belt in the class to show respect for his/her achievement and readiness of the class to participate.
The phrase we use is Charyot Kyongrye. (see explanation below).
I love the bowing ceremony. I am also thrilled to hear the way each person expresses the phrase. We have class instructors who use a deep, authoritative voice and the Charyot sounds like “CHO”. It’s exhilarating and inspiring to hear the different ways the syllables are accentuated and the power of each voice. I am blessed to be the highest belt or second highest belt in class on most occasions these days and I take my moment seriously when expressing the phrase during the bowing ceremony. After all, I am in this position to demonstrate my leadership, commitment to the class, and respect for our joint achievements.
I hope all students in the class who hear me during the bowing ceremony feel some small part of the positive feeling that I’ve always felt from those who inspired me during bowing ceremonies along the way.
Our phrase explained:
- Charyot (pronounced char-ee-ot). Means get into attention position.
- Kyongrye (pronounced kun-yeah). Means to bow.