[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]If you came this way in may-time, it would be the same. – T.S. Elliot[/box]
The Formal bow-in is similar to the informal bow-in , with a little more oomph.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]eiza is always the beginning.
Two Bows for Unity – the self and the work of the self
Four Claps to Invoke the World – often the Four Directions (NESW) or Heaven/Earth/Center/Life.
One Bow in Gratitude for What Has Gone Before. Sensei at this point will often pause to call in the memory and presence of O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido.
The rest is the same.
Find your chushin, your center line, with your hands, one to the sky, one to the earth. Extend yourself upward and downward, draw in the 2 great extremities of the world and cup them together, like a contradiction between your hands.
Connect to your center, shaking that contradiction as you shake yourself.
Polish your center, by which I mean, shake off the accumulation of crud that happens by being in the world. Connect to the light that is your core, and open up to it, recognize your center as the true heart of you.
The traditional Japanese answer is: [highlight] because our teachers did it, and out of respect, we adopt their form to hold our practice.[/highlight]
Well, okay. But I’m not Japanese, and if you are reading this, you probably aren’t either. As an American, as a philosopher, as a poet, that isn’t enough for me. I bow in and bow out because I find it helpful. I feel like it brings the class together, it unites all the participants in a single movement, a single physical set of acts – and rituals have great power in the human psyche. If we can bow together, we can probably work together, we can begin to let go of our separation, we can turn and look out to the horizon of Aikido, searching for peace.
On a personal level, bowing in calms me quickly, allows me to let go of the day that was behind me. As the sensei, it reminds me of my job, that I am taking responsibility for what happens over the next hour in a formal way (where my tendency might be to just play for an hour – although there’s nothing wrong with that). Bowing out gives me energy to face the evening, reminds me what I want to carry out with me from Aikido into the world.
The japanese word for a bow is shomen-rei, literally meaning “face-respect”. You’re paying respect to another person by bowing to them, acknowledging their fundamental worthiness to participate in the system of human kindnesses.