It is said that the study of marital arts begins and ends with a bow, ”礼”(rei). Dojo etiquette is an important part to studying martial arts; knowing when you should bow, knowing how to behave, and knowing what is expected of you as a martial artist is as important as the techniques themselves.
Before entering the dojo, we show our respect to the art, to the space, and to the tradition by bowing at the door of the dojo. We then bow again, facing the shomen (the front of the dojo) or the kamidana (spiritual shelf), before stepping on the tatami mats. We also face the shomen or kamidana and bow when leaving the tatami mats.
In Japanese culture bowing is important, even baseball players bow to the field when entering and leaving the ball diamond. Bowing demonstrates respect.
In the Bujinkan we also have a bow-in procedure before starting and closing our training session. The procedure is as follows:
Students line up based on rank from right to left; highest ranking students to lower ranking students facing the shomen or kamidana.
The teacher is in front of the students facing the Kamidana or shomen.
The teacher makes a plea in Japanese, then says: ”詞韻波羅密大光明”(shiken haramitsu daikomyo) students repeats after the teacher then in unison everyone claps twice and bows, then claps once more and bows.
Teacher turns to students, then the highest rank- ing student says: ”先生に礼”, (sensei ni rei). And, everyone says ”よろしくお願いします”(Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu)while bowing to each other.
Bowing out procedures basically repeats these steps with one exception at the end. Instead of saying (Yoroshiku Onegaishima- su you say,どうもありがとうございました (domo arigato gozaimashita).
Bowing procedures are sometimes different, depending on the dojo and teacher. However, this is generally how bowing in is done in the Bujinkan. The beginning and end of class has the most formality; bowing throughout class usually occurs, when changing trading partners and when the teacher finishes teaching something different. Bowing is only one of the means in which we demonstrate respect. There are various ways to bow, but your teacher should demonstrate them to you. Bowing is almost an art onto itself.