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Q: Why Do Martial Artists Bow All the Time?

A: Life is Rich … In the State of Appreciation

As you may know, bowing is common in the culture of an authentic martial arts practice.  Practitioners bow when they first enter the space of practice.  They bow to each other upon greeting and parting.  They bow to the flags, one representing their country of residence and the other representing the country of their art’s origin.  Students bow to their instructors and instructors, in turn bow back to their students.  They bow again upon stepping onto and then again upon exiting the official practice area (“dojang” for Korean arts, dojo for Japanese arts, etc.,.).  Then during practice, they bow again, to each new partner they engage with for part of class.  They seem to be bowing all the time!

So what’s with all the bowing?  On the surface, it would appear to be a simple mechanic of etiquette, – a gesture of respect – that seemingly occurs at every turn in a martial arts setting.  Sometimes, the gesture is misinterpreted – or even actually misused – as some sort of a power trip intended to create an atmosphere of servitude.  The true purpose however, runs deep and is powerfully effective in its original intent.  The true purpose of bowing is to facilitate appreciation – in the form of both 1) “dignified respect” and 2) “gratitude”.

The idea is to remind ourselves of all that is around us that is worthy of respect and for which we are fortunate – and therefore thankful – to be able to experience.  Through engaging the body and dedicating a moment for punctuation, the act of bowing helps the martial artist to “land” all of these moments of awareness.  In accumulating these many moments of appreciation, the martial artist experiences a profound sense of fulfillment and well-being and sense of connection to everything.  This sense of well-being is nurturing and strengthening and creates an inner stability and positive perspective that dwarfs the negativity in the world.

So how will your life be different if you practice appreciating throughout the day?  And while bowing is not part of our western culture, you may substitute whatever mechanic or gesture you are comfortable with.  A gentle nod, a knowing smile, a touch to the shoulder or an extra moment of eye-contact are just a few of the ways we can punctuate a moment of appreciation in our everyday lives.

It has been said by many leaders that we “become what we think about most of the time”.  What if we take that a step further – “we become what we experience most of the time”.  And we experience what we practice.  And we choose what we practice.  It’s all framing!  And we are the framers!  So look for — and then frame — all that is worthy of respect and gratitude.  BE appreciative and you’ll discover a world that is rich in resources and opportunity and all that is necessary to nourish the soul.  And in the process, you’ll discover the martial artist in you…

Consequential Sequence: Capability, Humility and Respect

Life is rich with relationships. Give and take, cause and effect and consequential sequencing are among the most prominent relationship models between things, people, factors and entities. Consequential sequencing—the effect or consequence one thing has on another, and the resulting sequence—is the most fascinating.

One of life’s more powerful consequential sequences is the relationship between the qualities of capability, humility and respect. These states of being are often misunderstood individually, collectively, and in their respective relationship to each other. An authentic martial arts practice provides a rich opportunity for them to be experienced, explored, understood and, ultimately, powerfully employed.

The Sequence of Capability, Humility and Respect

Capability relates to developing and then possessing an ability for particular skills or knowledge. As we develop an ability, we begin appreciating our capability and feel compelled to explore ourselves, and life, more deeply. This exploration leads us to realize how vast the universe is, how relatively small as individual entities we are in comparison, and how much more there is to learn and to live—a humbling process. The resulting humility allows us to share our capabilities and benefit others, ultimately earning their appreciative esteem and respect. Capability invites humility, which in turn creates respect.

This sequence can work in reverse, as well. When we are respected by others without using force, our resulting appreciation for that respect creates humility. The sharing and accessible state of humility keeps us engaged in our area of accomplishment/knowledge, thereby sustaining capability. The flow of this sequence, in one direction and then the other, is one of the more powerful and pleasurable oscillations of life.

Although an authentic martial arts practice can provide a rich environment in which to experience and develop and accelerate this consequential sequence, we can start right now with where we are in this moment. . So start today, by practicing and experiencing capability, humility and respect… and discover the martial artist in you!