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Bowing to the Flag: Why We Do It

Bowing to the Flag: Why We Do It


We hear it from Sensei every class, every lesson: “Bow to the flag…”

Many of us do it simply because Sensei instructs us to, followed by a few others to whom we must bow. But why the American flag?

Bowing to the Grandmasters, Senseis, and fellow students is understandable. But, in an age where saying the Pledge of Allegiance can be controversial, why bow to this object before and after our martial arts training?

Fresh off the heels of our nation’s Independence Day weekend, we have no doubt seen Old Glory just about everywhere we turn. From painted faces to themed clothing, we’re reminded of our country’s history, and we celebrate our American pride. But it’s not our 4th of July fireworks, patriotism, or history that brings us to bow to the flag. It’s simply this:


We bow to the flag to show our respect to our country, our home. It’s not just simply martial arts etiquette, ancient tradition, or a rule here at the dojo, and it certainly does not speak to inferiority or servitude. In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite.

It levels the ground between dignity and gratitude.

It acknowledges all the things around us that are worthy of our respect, and how we must continue to be aware of and appreciate these things. The dojo is a place that helps to remind us, and the flag serves as our symbol.



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