There is a saying in the Japanese Martial arts ‘Rei Ni Hajimari Rei Ni Owaru’. This means that Japanese Martial Arts start and finish with a bow.
This etiquette is an integral part of Budo and without it Budo would be the same as street fighting. Another Budo saying is, ‘the more rice on the stalk the deeper it bows down’ – the more Budo training the more calm, dignified and humble the Karateka becomes. The beginner must practice etiquette in order to make himself or herself a better person.
The Dojo (training place) is the place where was learn both the spirit and the technique of Budo and is like a holy ground or a church. We must not enter the Dojo with malice or antagonism because this can lead to serious injuries or death. When we are in the Dojo we must feel purposeful and alert and the bow is the focal point of this feeling.
When we bow the first time a student is showing his/ her respect for their instructor and also a sort of request for good training from the instructor. (Sensei ni rei)
When we bow the second time, before the training starts, the student is promising to train hard with purpose. At the end of training the student’s bow is to say they are pleased, and that they have had enough training. (Otagai ni rei)
As well as the above bowing before starting and finishing training it is also important for the Karateka to bow before entering and leaving the Dojo, this is also out of respect.
Two kinds of bow: (Zarei, kneeling down, and Ritsurei, standing bow).
To bow in Zarei place both hands on the thighs, drop both hands to the floor together, move hands to front of your body with thumbs and index fingers touching. When you bow your eyes do not need to look at your opponent , but should be naturally down while maintaining awareness of everything with peripheral vision. Keep your weight off your hands so that you can move them if necessary. This is an important point and is a Samurai like bow, always ready.
In the standing bow (Ritsurei) the hands may be placed either on the side of the legs or in front on the thighs, either way is acceptable.