Kata begins and ends with a bow

After many years of assisting Karate students, I have found one area that I often have the hardest time explaining to students of all levels. This particular issue is the bow (bending at the hips and lowering your head, not the bow and arrow) before the start and at the end of a kata.

The point that I try hard to get across to them is that the kata begins and ends with a bow.

Why do we bow

There is a great deal of information available about how to bow properly and the reasons why many people bow in Japan but I am going to limit this explanation to a simple word, respect.

Before we begin our kata, even before the ready stance, we bow to show respect.  By bowing we can show respect to our Sensei, our flag, ourselves, an opponent, a judge, an examiner or for almost any other reason but once we bow, our kata has begun.

Your kata has begun, don’t fix your hair, you look fine

I often see students bow and then fix their hair, their gi or move any or all body parts even though they are supposed to be prepared for battle.

After the bow is over, you are in a ready stance and prepared to fight.  From there you do your kata, when your kata is finished you move back to ready stance to make sure that there are no more attackers around you and then you bow to end your kata. At the end of your kata you do not fix your gi or anything else until you bow.

Bow to flip the switch

I know that many Martial Artists will poke fun at this tradition but in my mind, I feel that the bow is much like flipping a switch that allows me to change from calm and peaceful to strong and aggressive and then back to calm and peaceful again.

I often think of something similar that my Sensei shared with me.  Before the first bow, you are a tiger in a cage, after the bow, the cage is opened and the tiger does what is needed, after the final bow the tiger is back in the cage.

Please share your thoughts about bowing and kata

I would like hear any thoughts or comments that you have on bowing before kata.  Do you bow or do you skip it and just do your kata?  Why do you bow?

Please leave a comment below.