Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968

The Role of Respect in Martial Arts Training

by Sifu John Loupos

One of my students recently asked me about the correct way to bow, how exactly were the hands to be held. I answered the question he asked but went on to explain that the positioning of the hands was really a matter of little concern. The most important thing about bowing was to feel and express, even if only for a brief moment, a sense of respect from within.
I know for myself that bowing before the altar at the beginning of class or as I enter the school evokes, even after all these years, a recollection of where I have been (on my own journey), as well as a sense of connection to those who have gone before. It is this thread back to the past which better enables me to appreciate my own roots, to be in the immediate moment and to feel more inspired moving towards the future.
In Chinese medicine it is widely understood that the body's organs (more accurately the organ systems in a non-literal sense) house various energies, qualities both virtuous and dark. Apropos to this article, the heart is understood to house respect. This is a matter of particular significance for martial artists. Studies have confirmed that people tend to commit more reliably to memory those events or experiences which have some emotional impact associated with them. The memories of events eliciting stronger emotions actually become more durably hardwired into the body and the brain.
By way of illustration, it's probably a safe assumption that each of you readers, in reflecting back to your youth, can recall scenes from some classroom in which the teacher was uninspiring or the the curriculum itself boring. In such a scenario any learning was probably drudgery at best, often being forgotten as soon as the test was over. Conversely, if you can recall a teacher who really cared or who inspired you, or a curriculum that caught your imagination, you can probably still evoke vivid scenes from that classroom setting in your mind's eye even today. This is because the experience was not simply cognitive but emotional (good) as well, allowing you to learn with your heart and soul as well as your head.
So the respect one feels need not be just a transient and coincidental feeling but rather it can add an emotional element and by so doing catalyze an enhanced memorization/ recall of whatever learning is at hand. To take it a step further, the idea of respect is not limited to Kung Fu is something that can be felt at any time in any situation. We can all use/ feel a little more respect in our dealings with others. You don't have to agree with someone, or even like them, in order to respect them. A little bit of respect can go a long way. Think about that the next time you bow.

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