____________ July 28, 2015 ___________

Bowing into Martial Arts

For there is no respect of persons with God.  — Romans 2:11

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said,
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons – Acts 10:34

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord [Messiah Yeshua],
 the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.   
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin,
and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
  — James 2:1, 9

Since last September, I’ve had the family going to a ‘Christian’ Karate class at a church.  We chose this place because it was between Brian’s work and home, it was a good time for us to be able to attend, because it allows us all to go as a family, and it wasn’t rigid (aka, it’s forgiving enough to be both educational and fun).  Even so, I’m – as usual – a trial to the sensais of the class.  I’ve already talked to the man in charge and explained, and he’s already said that I am welcome to keep my convictions, but he apparently didn’t pass the memo on, because I’m still having trouble… so as a way of talking out some frustration I’m feeling, and also for posterity’s sake, I feel like I should write about it.  In case anyone else runs into this kind of thing.


At the beginning of class, the first thing that happens is that we all are told to ‘bow in’.  We line up, seven in a row, shoulder to shoulder.  Then we get down on our knees, and are told to bow down to the sensais.  This happens twice… each time, the rows sitting up as a wave, one person after the other.

Naturally, it kind of ruins the effect to have my entire family NOT bowing.
But in case I haven’t mentioned this already, I will not bow to anyone.

The leadership patiently explained to me that the Christian Reformed Church of America has weighed the issue heavily, and agreed that it was not against scripture to bow in.  I’m sorry, but I’m not Christian Reformed, and what they agree on has absolutely NO bearing on my life.  Scripture does.  And I never take anyone’s word on it – I look up the verses for myself.

It was explained to me that it’s okay to bow in, because we’re not worshipping the sensais.  It’s a show of respect for authority.  Again, I point to scriptures.  You can see them, above.  It’s more than abudantly clear that it is a sin to be a respecter of persons.  Three different scriptural books, three different writers, they ALL say the same thing.  And it goes deeper than that.

In the book of Esther is clear that Haman wanted Mordecai to bow to him, to show respect for his authority.  He wasn’t telling Mordecai to worship him, just to put himself in a lesser position.  Mordecai refused, for the same reasons I do, today.  God is not respecter of persons.  There is no authority under heaven that should EVER be bowed to.  Mordecai – and I – will only ever prostrate ourselves before Yehovah Elohim.  And because of Modecai’s faithfulness, his family was chosen to be the vehicle for the salvation of the Chosen People.  The same happened with Nebuchadnezzar and his massive bunny statue.  Those three servants of God were delivered in an amazing way for standing up to ‘authority’ and not bowing as a respecter of persons.

I do often have admiration for people, and look up to them as someone I will follow the example of, or learn from.  But it will never be about rank or achievement to me. It’s more a matter of how one is towards others. Grace, mercy and kindness matter far more than stripes on a shoulder, badges earned, or level of accomplishment.  I respond to a person’s character, not their ‘time in’.  I’m sorry if that offends.  Who you are and what you do matters more to me than what title you have.  Amazingly?  That’s what scripture condones, too.

Now I will bow at the waist before doing things in class.  It’s – to me – an acknowledgment of what I’ve agreed to do.  Like a nod, or a handshake.  It’s not the same thing as bowing down, by a long shot.  So I really don’t have a problem with that.

But I am going to put Yehovah’s authority before any here on earth, and if He said not to be a respecter of persons, if He blesses those who bow down only to Him, who resist the command to bow down to a lesser authority?  That tells me this is important, and something that should not be compromised on.

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  1. It is true that bowing is not thought of in Japanese culture as anything to do with worshipping, but a form of being polite and showing one’s… I dunno hard to find the word for it actually… showing one’s relinquishment of complete and utter trust in the sensei. BUT, ‘Christian’ karate teachers, should do well to remember that its an art mostly infused with Confucianism – a pseudo religious and philosophical system. Bowing is rei in kanji a symbol of altar praying. Though the symbol for the word doesn’t mean that in this context (the rei has multiple meanings). IT DOES indeed refer to a strong class and caste system. In which students were unequal from their teachers. Rich better than poor. Lowly less enlightened. Bowing is thought of to show humility and to humble oneself before the enlightened party. Submission to the teaching authority. The average Japanese may bow at the waist as a greeting of hello, acknowledgement, and general mutual respect (not in a worship sense but in a ‘hey I like you, you have been kind to me and I will be kind to you. stay awesome friend!’) The kneeling bow with head on the floor is not a typical thing these days, and I find it odd they have chosen that to do. How do they handle you not bowing? Are they rather snooty about it?

    • We have issues. There are several sensais. The first one is okay with it, after having a talk. The second has never said anything, just seems to ignore it. The third…? Is not happy. Brian’s thinking of asking if we can join in AFTER the bow in thing, since we’re irritating the sensais by messing up the bow-in ritual’s groove. We’ll see.


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