It is customary to bow while practicing karate, and it is important for you to know when to do it, and why you should.
It is a matter of principle, tradition, and a way to show respect to those around you, whether they are your peers or your mentors.
In this article, we will teach you what you should say while bowing, plus when you should do it, and why.
So, let’s get into it.
Rei Ni Hajimari, Rei Ni Owaru
The phrase, ‘Rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru’, roughly translates into ‘Beginning and ending with bowing’ in English. This is a phrase used in Japanese Budo.
Why is this important?
Well, what the phrase is essentially expressing is how important it is to bow at certain points during your karate training. This is a part of karate etiquette, and should be followed out of respect.
During karate training, performing a bow – or, a rei – is a very important part of karate etiquette.
As a martial artist, you will need to know when, and how, to bow correctly, whether it be to your partner, sensei, or anyone else in the dojo.
It is a sign of respect, and it may be reciprocated, depending on who you bow to.
You should always bow to your sensei or instructor upon sight, alongside other factors.
What To Say When Bowing In Karate
Depending on the reason that you are bowing, you may need to say something to the person you are bowing to.
When entering or leaving the dojo, you bow, and you can say ‘Osu’.
This is a combination of the terms ‘oshi,’ meaning ‘to push,’ and ‘shinobu,’ meaning ‘to endure.’ When combined, the term means ‘to persevere despite being pushed.’
However, when used as a greeting, ‘osu’ is used in the place of ‘hello’, or ‘greetings’.
You can also say ‘onegaishimasu’, which approximately translates to ‘please’ when bowing to a sensei. In this case, you’re saying, ‘please help me’, or ‘please teach me’.
After bowing and saying ‘onegaishimasu,’ you wait for the instructor to signal you to get up. Then, you will be allowed to stand up and move on.
Why Do We Bow During Karate?
Bowing is a staple part of karate, and you will need to know when (and how) to do it properly. But, why do we need to do it? What is the reason?
Here are a handful of reasons why you should bow during your karate lessons.
A martial artist should bow to express respect to their peers and mentors in the dojo. When practicing with a partner, you should bow to show respect to them.
While karate could be considered a one-man sport in the sense that you fight alone in a match, while you are in the dojo, you are working as a team to learn from each other.
You should also bow to your sensei at the start and end of every class. They are teaching you and helping you become a better martial artist, and they deserve respect for that reason alone.
Another reason that you should bow during karate classes, especially when fighting with another student, is to show that you are accepting any harm that could potentially come your way.
For example, if the person you’re fighting with accidentally injuries you.
In a way, it is kind of the physical equivalent to signing a ‘Terms of Conditions’ form.
It is showing that you are aware of the fact that you could potentially get hurt, but you understand that it is part of the process.
Lastly, it has been tradition to bow, or rei, during karate practice since the birth of the sport. It is a part of the sport, and just the same as any of the other rules, this rule should be followed.
When Should You Bow During Karate?
You will need to know when to bow during karate, as there are many instances during a class in which you will be expected to do so.
Here are some examples of when you should bow while practicing karate.
Entering And Exiting The Dojo
You should always bow when you first enter the dojo, and when you are leaving the dojo, as a sign of respect for the venue and those inside it.
Upon Seeing Your Sensei
Your sensei is your mentor, and as we previously mentioned, they have earned the right to be bowed to due to the hard work and dedication that they are paying for you to improve as a martial artist.
Before And After Practicing With A Partner
Before a fight, you should bow to your partner out of respect. However, you do not need to bow to them after each repetition: only at the start of the fight, and at the end.
At The Start And End Of A Class
It is also customary to bow at the start and the end of a class, along with the other students in the dojo.
Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything while bowing; a simple bow is enough to show your respect for the sport, and the other fighter.
In other instances, you may say ‘osu’ or ‘onegaishimasu’.
If you are a beginner to karate, you shouldn’t panic if you can’t remember when you need to bow, or what to say when you do it.
It is important to remind yourself that every person in the doja, no matter how experienced they are, have been in your position at some point.
Everybody starts somewhere, and your mentors will help you if they know that you are struggling with any aspect of the sport.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for help at any point. It is better to speak up and learn, than to remain silent and learn nothing.
We hope you found this article helpful and informative.