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.


6 Responses to Kata begins and ends with a bow

  1. Well stated, if one were to “poke fun” then they don’t Understand Martial Arts – Karate Shotokan in particular.
    On a side note, I say Karate – Shotokan because its was always Gichin Funakoshi always consider what he did – Karate. (Karate period).
    Others were naming their “styles” and were like those guys who train in the “House of Shoto” need a name to. So it was other styles who started to call practitioners of Master Sensi Funakosi – Shotokan – those who train in the House of Shoto (pine tress by the waves, or pine waves).

    During the late 1930’s, Funakoshi’s students built a rather large Dojo for their teacher. Over the front door, one of them mounted a wooden plaque that said “Shotokan.” In Japanese, the word “Kan” means house or building, so “Shotokan” is literally “Shoto’s House,” or “Shoto’s Place” (or basically, the Funakoshi Building).

    Funakoshi’s students never referred to the karate that they practiced as “Shotokan”. Instead, they only used the word “Karate” or “Karate-Do” to refer to their art. It was Japanese people outside of Funakoshi’s circle who referred to his system as Shotokan.

  2. Since other instructors were naming their styles of karate things like Shito-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, or Goju-Ryu, it must have seemed strange that the other major style was just “Karate,” so they started referring to it as “Shotokan Karate”. This basically amounts to “The karate they do in the Shotokan.” This came to represent Funakoshi’s system of martial arts as we practice it.

    Today, people who practice Shotokan in the West typically refer to it by that name, but the Japanese Shotokan practitioners usually do not use the word, and instead call it merely Karate even today.

  3. Thanks , I’ve just been searching for info approximately this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you positive in regards to the source?

  4. WHy do we bow before entering the ring for a kata outside the line then inside before getting ready for mukso?

  5. Why do we bow outside the line of the ring before entering to do kata and again inside the line before getting ready for mukso>

Leave a reply