What Does it Mean to be a Martial Artist? Etiquette.

June 11, 2015

Two of the main things emphasised in my martial arts journey are etiquette and respect. Some of the first things you are taught to do in Kuk Sool Won are; bowing when you enter and exit the dojang; shaking your instructors' hands; referring to instructors and fellow practitioners as sir or ma'am (respective of their gender); and bowing to your partners in activity which requires partnering a fellow practitioner. This is all part of basic martial arts etiquette.
Many people in the western world find it humorously ridiculous how many times martial artists bow to each other and to things such as flags, etc. I believe this is down to a slight misunderstanding of what the bow represents. In martial arts and the Eastern world, the bow is the equivalent of what a hand shake is to the western world. It is representative of respect and greeting. It shows that you respect the other person and, in some cases, for example in sparring practise or self-defence technique training, it's a "sorry in advance" like gesture just in case you hurt the other person. The bow is also repeated after any any activity such as the ones mentioned above to show that the two people still respect each other.
The Kuk Sool Won website says:-
Kuk Sool Won is a Traditional Korean Martial Art, and, in Korea, people bow for the same reason as westerners shake hands. Bowing is a greeting, just like shaking hands: it is not an indication that one person is subservient to another. You cannot “not bow at all”. If you reach out to shake someone’s hand, it would be extremely impolite for that person not to take your hand.
Many also place the idea of calling instructors as well as fellow practitioners sir/ma'am into question of whether it's entirely necessary as it may seem extraordinary to be calling someone sir who doesn't possess the legal status of sir, especially in the Western world where it takes great achievement to gain this legal title. This, once again, boils down to the idea of respecting others. The Kuk Sool Won website says:-
As in any walk of life- calling someone Sir and Ma’am is a sign of respect and good manners. In Martial Art Training, good manners are paramount. Your fellow Students and Instructors will also demonstrate their respect for you, by addressing you as Sir or Ma’am.
There is a much larger spectrum of things done in martial arts to show respect and these are just a couple of the basic things. The list of respect oriented acts spanning from martial arts is endless and I'm sure my fellow martial artists reading this will agree with me. The gestures of respect performed my martial artists aren't just contained in the martial arts aspect of martial artists' lives, however. These gestures of respect are often reflected in who they are outside of martial arts and I've noticed that martial artists are a lot more patient and respectful than others who don't practise martial arts, this is quite obviously down to their martial arts training!

Apologies for this week's post not being as in-depth as the past few in the WDIMTBAMA series of posts; I've been quite caked in school work therefore have not had as much time available to devote to the planning and thinking through of this post. Be sure to check back next Thursday for another post!

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