Q: Why is it that we bow so much in Aikido class? What does it mean?
A: I have been asked this question often. I think the simple answer is that it helps develop a correct attitude of respect in all things we do, both on the mat and off.
Aikido is not a sport. It is a discipline or an educational process for training the mind, body and spirit. A correct attitude of sincerity and a proper atmosphere are essential to the learning process of Aikido.
When we enter or leave the practice area of the Dojo, we always bow respectfully (either standing or kneeling) towards the front of the training space or Shomen. At the beginning and end of each class, we also bow to the Shomen and then to the Sensei. After receiving instruction from the Sensei, we bow to the Sensei and then again bow to our partner as we start to practice the demonstrated technique; and we bow again to our partner when the practice to the technique ends.
This may seem like an awful lot of bowing, but it is simply showing respect to the teachings of O-Sensei, to our Dojo, our Sensei and each other. It helps create a positive atmosphere of harmony and respect.
The words spoken at the beginning and end of class and at the beginning of practice between the students and the instructor also reinforce this respect. "Onegai shimasu", when spoken by the student loosely translates as, "Please give me your instruction." When spoken by the teacher it means, "Please do what is expected of you."
The words, "Domo arigato gozaimashita", spoken at the end of class by the students to the instructor loosely mean, "You have my respect and gratitude for what you have taught us." This is a most respectful way of saying thank you.Bowing helps create this essential attitude of respect which is necessary to properly practice and develop your Aikido. See you on the mat!