This blog post is my opinion based on my experiences in a traditional dojo and my personal religious upbringing. I am a practicing Catholic who attends church on Sunday. My daughter attends parochial school. My husband was born to a Greek Orthodox father and Lutheran mother. The students in our dojo practice a wide range of religious traditions.
A new family, a father and two children, came to the dojo for their first class. My husband Tom taught class. I was not in the dojo because I took our daughter to the doctor for a sinus infection. When I arrived back home, I stopped by the dojo to inquire about the new students. I asked how class went and the black belts in the room shook their head and said, "Not good".
I was surprised to hear there was a problem because our dojo was referred by friends of the new family. During the course of the class, my husband explained basic dojo etiquette. We bow before entering and leaving the training area. At the beginning and end of class, we bow to the instructor and to the shinza.
The new student objected to bowing for religious reasons.
Bow - to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as in reverence, submission, salutation, recognition or acknowledgement.
My husband explained we bow as a sign of respect. The students bow to the instructors to thank them for teaching. The teacher will bow to the students to thank them for participating in class. We bow to the shinza to pay respect to those who have trained before us.
Everyone has the right to their beliefs. Sadly, I do not think the new family will be back.
After searching for articles regarding martial arts and religion, I share with you the following links In August 2007, John Vesia explained in his post Losing My Religion
...that while Taoism and Zen are the philosophical foundations that most Asian martial arts are built upon, they are not theistic religions as we understand them in the West. Bowing, meditation, and other forms of dojo etiquette could be missconstrued as paganism to an outsider, but they're just part of the stock ritual that exists at most schools.
The Accidental Aikidoist wrote a commentary reacting to this post which argues that Christians should not practice the martial arts. Accidental Aikidoist states:
I find this funny, funny that this man has gone to great lengths to try and prove that something is “evil” of which he has no knowledge or experience of the arts. I will speak for myself when I say that experience is a virtue that is prized by many.
Please feel free to comment and remember everyone has the right to their own religious beliefs. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, I have temporarily enabled comment moderation.