Bowing as a sign of subservience isn’t usually carried out in western culture.
However, other cultures, particularly within Eastern Asia, view bowing as a sign of respect and gratitude.
This is part of the reason why bowing is so important within Taekwondo.
As part of taekwondo, one would bow to their seniors and teachers.
This indicates that you trust and respect the individual, but also that you are thankful for them teaching you the martial art.
We’ll look more at why bowing is so important in taekwondo etiquette below.
You’ll also learn how to bow correctly in taekwondo, including when you should and shouldn’t bow.
Why Is Bowing Important In Taekwondo?
Bowing is part of basic etiquette within several martial arts, as well as taekwondo.
Bowing is a display of respect to your teachers and seniors, but it also shows respect for your practicing arena, the Dojang, and the whole martial art form itself.
A teacher or senior may bow in return, which shows that they return this sentiment of respect and thanks.
The difference is that these individuals would respect that you could welcome their coaching, and thankfulness as you were able to train with them that session.
How To Bow Correctly In Taekwondo
Bowing might seem like a simple, basic movement, but if you’re new to Taekwondo, there’s a lot that can go wrong!
If you know that you’re not performing the movement right, try not to be frustrated with yourself.
People go to the Dojang to learn – you’re not going to get everything correct on the first go. A basic bow involves placing your hands against your sides.
Your fingers should be close together, though some deviations may involve clenching your hands in a fist. Make sure that your heels are together and touching.
This will make sure that your hips are facing directly forward instead of relaxed, which helps you bow correctly.
The bow itself is where it gets more complicated. You need to bend at the waist around a 30-40° angle.
Your body needs to be completely straight while you bend, but make sure that your neck doesn’t lean forwards while you bow.
Keep your shoulders pulled back slightly, all while maintaining a straight back.
Other forms of martial arts involve the students keeping eye contact while they bow. This is meant to prepare you if your partner attacks you during the bow.
However, this is different in taekwondo, as you need to break eye contact while you bow.
Breaking eye contact isn’t just a sign of respect, it also signifies trust in your partner.
You’ll show that you believe that your opponent is honorable enough not to carry out attacks while you bow.
Either look at the floor during your bow, or towards your senior/teacher’s feet.
After you have finished bowing down, straighten yourself up again, in a neat and orderly fashion.
There may be instances where you will greet someone during a bow, like “Good morning/evening sir”.
These greetings are often used when bowing to a chief instructor, or any instructors that are visiting your Dojang.
When And Who You Need To Bow To
If you’re a taekwondo beginner, it can be hard to understand when you should or shouldn’t bow.
This may also differ with each Dojang, some might be stricter with bowing etiquette, while others may be laxer with the rules.
If in doubt, look at when your teachers and seniors bow, using their mannerisms as a guide.
Simply bow when they bow, and you should pick it up soon enough.
Here’s a guide on when you need to bow during taekwondo:
You will need to bow to seniors that outrank you.
This indicates that you know you are in the presence of a senior, simultaneously showing them respect.
If you meet a senior for the first time during a session, you should get their attention and bow to them.
You don’t need to bow to each senior more than once during each class. Bowing to each one once is more than enough.
To A Master
You need to show respect to your Dojang’s master all the time.
This is why you will bow more towards the master compared to when bowing to seniors.
Bow to your master instructor when they enter your Dojang, as well as before you converse with them.
You should also bow to them before and after every training session.
Depending on the school you attend, you may need to bow lower than you would when bowing to seniors.
Before And After Sparring And Drills
You will need to bow to your training partner before and after every drill. This is also the case when sparring with an opponent.
Before you start competing or sparring, you should bow toward your opponent, judges, and referees. You might need to bow to your instructor too.
No matter if you win or lose, you’ll need to bow to your opponent after the fight.
To The Dojang
Bowing to the Dojang is necessary, as it shows respect and thanks to your hall of training.
As the Dojang is a symbol of the taekwondo martial arts, bowing to the Dojang shows that you also respect the martial art form itself.
Bow when you enter the Dojang and when you are about to leave it.
When You Shouldn’t Bow
Here are two examples of when bowing isn’t necessary for taekwondo:
To Instructors or Seniors Out Of The Dojang
You don’t need to bow to instructors or seniors if you see them out of the Dojang, unless you are both wearing your uniform.
However, if your instructor or senior does bow, you should return the bow as part of decorum.
When You Are A Senior
Seniors don’t have to initiate bows towards juniors, but if you see juniors not bowing towards any seniors, it’s part of your job to correct them.
The Bottom Line
Bowing is important in many martial art forms.
As part of taekwondo, bowing signifies respect and thankfulness towards your teachers, seniors, and the martial art itself.
Once you’ve learned the correct way to bow, it’s a good idea to learn when you should and shouldn’t bow.
Juniors should always initiate bows towards seniors and instructors, but everyone should bow before and after facing an opponent.
If you’re unsure, follow the example of your seniors and teachers, as this can help you learn bowing etiquette for the future.