Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Saluting in the Martial Arts

Before beginning class, it is proper to sign in as a group, or if you are by yourself, as a student. Signing in is like saying grace before a meal or praying before sleep.

Soon it will become personal and you will learn the importance of this ceremony. When signing in with a group, you follow these steps for a common order and structure.

Mind, body, spirit position
Stand in horse stance, arms outstretched, hands in the form of the triangle. This is to symbolize your life, strong and sure. You do not focus on one thing but look through the triangle into the nothingness. You are stable and you endure. That is the way of the Total Warrior.

Come to a ready stance and raise the hands above the head, then lower them; as you do so, also lower your body into seiza, left knee first. The hands should rest in the lap with the palms up, one hand in the other, thumbs touching.

Lower the head and close the eyes. When signing in, the visualization stage is time for you to let go of all your troubles and start fresh here with your friends. You prepare yourself for class and decide what you want out of the lesson and who you have to be to get it. When signing out, it is time for you to mentally review the class, what you have learned and how you have improved.

After a while, the instructor will whisper softly "open your eyes." Do not open them immediately but let the eyelids rise slowly as your eyes begin to focus on the ground. Do not look up at the instructor but keep your focus low.

Mind, body, spirit bow
Place hands flat on the floor, first left then right. The thumb and the index finger of the right hand touch the thumb and the index finger of the left hand, forming a triangle. Bow over the triangle saying, "mind, body, spirit" with the instructor. When you bow you are pledging to be true to yourself, respect yourself, care for yourself, and to maintain a balance among the three points of the triangle in and out of class.

Raise the head slowly; follow the instructor’s lead and salute. The salute should be performed simultaneously with the instructor. Upon saluting, you are showing respect towards the instructor and stating that you will train hard and do your best to maintain group spirit.

This is performed in cat stance, arms parallel to the ground. An open left hand covers the knuckles of a clenched right fist.

To show greater sincerity, such as an apology, you bow your forehead to the knuckles of the left hand. Saluting is used in many ways and you will discover those in class as you begin training. It is important to understand the spirit behind your salute and the bond that brings you and other students together.

Always salute a higher rank when that person is entering the training area. You hold the salute until the highest rank returns the salute and enters the area. For example, a class of grey belts waits for class to begin and a red belt enters the floor. All present salute to the red belt as a sign of respect.

Always begin and end an exercise with a salute, done in unison. When you meet someone new or are about to begin a new exercise with a fellow member, you salute each other before training. This is a sign of courtesy.

When you wish to answer or ask a question, you salute; this is similar to the process of raising your hand. First, execute a salute until acknowledged. Maintain the salute while asking or answering the question. Begin sentence with "Sensei" (or "Sir"). Whenever a salute is returned with another salute, then you may speak. This is done when you have a question or know the answer to a question.

For example, the instructor may ask the group, “What is the honor code?” Those who know would then salute and hold the position until the instructor acknowledges and salutes back. At that time, the student would recite the honor code while holding the salute.

Saluting is also done before and after class to show signs of respect between the students and the instructor. When signing in, students are asking to be recognized so that they may learn and are willing to do their best.

The salute is the show of total respect for the instructor, saying they will honor his lessons and do their best to learn. When signing out, the salute is thanking the instructor for the sharing of secret knowledge.

The hand over a closed fist demonstrates you are skilled in the ways of a warrior and contain secret knowledge. With the hand over the knuckles, you come in peace and maintain control over your skill and do not wish to do harm.

Always bow first and follow with a salute before entering a place of training. This is also done when exiting the training area. If late for class, maintain a salute until you are noticed and permission to join the class is granted by the instructor.

Put your hands on the hips and come onto the balls of your feet. Lift your right knee, then your left knee. Stand up slowly and bow with your instructor. This is to show respect to your instructor and to thank him for sharing his knowledge with you.

At the end of class it is proper to sign out before leaving. In a group you will follow the same procedure as when signing in. Then the instructor will announce Class dismissed" followed with a “Thank you, sir" to the instructor from the students.

The purpose of signing in and out is to show respect and to adapt an attitude of thanks and discover strategies that allow you total focus during your training sessions.