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East Meets West: “Bowing”

by Midori Yamamoto

Aiki News #30 (August 1978)

Ted Morris is an American who recently came to Japan as an exchange student. One day Ted happened to see an Aikido demonstration and found himself fascinated by the beautiful movements of this martial art and sensed something mysteriously Japanese in it. He decided to study Aikido.

It was his first day of practice. When the Sensei and the students lined up sitting in seiza (formal Japanese sitting posture) , Ted was surprised and became upset. “My God! They are bowing to a picture on the wall!” he said to himself. “It’s really strange. I wonder why they do it.” He felt extremely uncomfortable. Then the teacher and students bowed to each other and began their practice. His wonder grew as the class went on. Students bowed before and after training with their partners. Also, each time the Sensei gave some instruction the students bowed to him. And when the class was over, the teacher and students bowed once again to the picture on the wall and to each other. Nor did it end there. After training, whenever someone left the mat, they bowed one last time. “They’re bowing all the time! This is ridiculous!” thought Ted.

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