Various short articles and notes on the topic.
by Razali Hussein ∞
Razali Hussein, Instructor
[ 1 ] CI's Comment dated 080602 - A well perceived interpretation of insights often taken for granted in practice like a handshake
We bow to show respect and appreciation for the space we practice in the training hall [ 2 ] dojo, "training hall" , to the Founder of Ki-Aikido, our teachers, to our partners, including the arts of Ki-Aikido itself and what it does for us. A bow is performed upon entering or leaving the dojo, stepping onto or off the mat. The bow should always be done with sincere modesty and gratitude. A proper bow shows true presence. It reflects awareness both internally within oneself and externally of one's surroundings. It should be humble but not falsely so.
Aikido Begins & Ends With Respect, by Clement Choo ∞
Clement Choo, 3rd Kyu
The ceremonial bow in the style Zarei starts from the Seiza posture. The palms of the hands are placed on the tatami (training mat) at a distance of about 2.5 to 3 inches in front of your knees, fingers pointing inwards with both thumbs and index fingers forming a small triangle. The chest is bent forward, as in Ritsurei, at an angle of about 30 degrees, with the elbows slightly apart. The should not bend so as to touch the mat/floor, but should be kept in line with the trunk of the body, and the hips should not be raised from the mat, but should maintain their contact with the heels.
zarei used in the Ki Society comes from Zen Buddhism. Some of you may have seen the Martial Zarei in which the left hand slides forward and is followed by the right one. After bowing* [*CI's Comments - 080701, included below], the right hand is retracted first, followed by the left. This would allow the samurai to draw his sword if needed. On returning to seiza, one assumes a non-aggressive posture. Note the act of shaking hands in the West is done with the right hand to show one's peaceful intentions and that they weren't holding a weapon in that hand. Zarei is also a throwing technique, apart from being an act of etiquette.
Zarei also marks the start and close of every training session of all Ki Aikido Dojos. The instructor [ 3 ] sensei, "instructor" and students first sit in seiza facing the kamiza at the front of the dojo. The instructor usually sits in front of the class, and - turning his back so that he and the students are facing in the same direction (that of the kamiza). After a period of silence the instructor will signal, usually by clapping his hands. At the signal, the instructor and the whole class will perform the ceremonial bow from the sitting position. The instructor will then turn, face his students and repeat the zarei, which is returned by the class which will say "O-nai-gai-shi-mas". The instructor will usually then rise and begin the class.
Zarei originated from Japanese etiquette is familiar to those belonging to the Ki Society since there is a Ki test conducted for this posture in the Shokyu level. This is one of the many Ki test which students have to go through before taking their Aikido grading. Apart from helping us to rediscover our natural state, zarei has its roots in Japanese tradition and for self-defence. It is for practical reasons that zarei begins with the left side instead of the right. This isn't apparent because we don't go around with a Japanese sword strapped to our left side. In feudal Japan, assassinations were frequent and the Samurai had to be ready to defend himself at all times. By going down on his left knee and leaving his right knee up, he could still use his sword if he was suddenly attacked. From this position, he could also move forward easily. Note that by keeping your weight on the tip of your toes, your knees are relaxed to enable you to move quickly. You can try this out by yourself with a bokken [ 4 ] bokken, "Wooden Sword" .
Proper etiquette doesn't just mean mutual respect and consideration of others, it also means for yourselves. Proper zarei comes from the heart, and actions do have more value than words.
by CI ∞
As the body bows with utmost sincerity, the arms follow the body with both palms simultaneously resting lightly on the floor in front of the respective knees. The whole expression should be firmed and relaxed (immovable mind and body). It is executed with a calm alertness. Any response to external stimuli should be spontaneous only at that instant when the need arises. The mind should thus be fully engaged in displaying respect throughout the bow.
An imaginary sword can often excite anticipation of the mind. Placing the left palm first is already a participation of the mind for an eventuality.
Proximity to a weapon as safeguard is immaterial as long as the mind and body are well coordinated.