When And How To Bow In Karate

the true meaning of "rei"

"Rei Ni Hajimari, Rei Ni Owaru"

It is a saying in Japanese Budo. It means Budo starts and ends with a bow. Good manners, respect and etiquette are a very important issue taught in Karate training. Bowing is a part of these etiquette.

So what does Rei mean?

Give me 3.32 minutes. I'll explain exactly what the Kanji means and how that affects your understanding of the mentality in Karate.

For standard, there are two ways of bowing: Standing up and sitting down.

I will demonstrate both ways but first this:

Bowing a cultural thing and therefore attached to Budo.

It is a sign of respect.

Respect and cherish the opportunities, efforts and contribution of anything and anyone to all of your made and to be made accomplishments. 

Don't forget..

  • Without your sensei
  • Without your fellow students
  • Without the Dojo

...you would not be practicing Karate.

Is Karate training possible without bowing? For sure, you cannot understand Karate completely without the mannerism called Shigusa.

Shigusa can be translated to action, gesture and also mannerism. How do you conduct yourself as a human being?

With that said, let's study reasons why and when to bow next (after that, how to do a standing bow + seated bow).

7 reasons WHY you should bow

  1. To show respect for the Dojo. And thankfullness for the very fact you're able to use the Dojo.

  2. To show respect to your teacher. Because he invests his time in you. He sacrifices his time to educate you.

  3. To show respect to your fellow students. Because they help you persevere through hard times. And without them there would be no pairwork.

  4. To acknowledge past efforts that made it possible for you to practise.

  5. To show that you accept whatever is coming, even injury in case of accident. 

  6. Because it's custom in Karate, you're not a kickboxer.

  7. Almost in any Dojo there are some kind of rules or motto (Dojo Kun), setting the basic rules of conduct for students as well as visitors.

    It's like accepting the terms of use when you bow.

7 reasons WHEN you should bow

Seriously, it would be rude not to bow:

  1. When you enter and leave the Dojo.

  2. When you see your Sensei — also outside the Dojo.

  3. At the beginning and end of class.

  4. When you start practising with your partner and when you finish (but not before each and every repetition).

  5. When your Sensei finishes explaining and you continue training.

Want more? 👉 
Discover the free online course "karate principles & terminology"


Deepen your knowledge on Inasu, Noru, Chinshinho, Fushinho, Suki, Mikiri... and much more.

With 20+ Premium Articles jam-packed with Pro Videos containing important explanations and training methods you'll be well on your way to improve your techniques.

tachi rei (standing bow)

The way that I show is the most common. Some Dojo may practise variations that look like it and others may use ways that are completely different.

Tachi Rei - Ritsu Rei

When bowing, you should always keep a correct maai in order not to be surprised by a sudden attack. If the opponent is close, you shouldn’t bow deeper than being able to see the hands of the opponent. 

A standing bow is about 30 degrees. Look at the opponents belt in order to see him completely.

If you bow deeper, that's either because you made a mistake, or the other person has a very high rank.

za rei (seated bow)

Stand in Musubi Dachi.

Lower the body and touch the ground with the right knee.

Bring the left knee next to the right knee, the ball of the foot is still touching the ground.

Stretch your feet and sit down. Relax your arms, just let them hang naturally.

On command of Shomen or Shinzen Ni Rei, Sensei Ni Rei and Otagai Ni Rei, lower the left hand first.

Note: some skip this stage.

Followed by the right hand.

Note that some instructors lower both hands at the same time.


The way back and standing up is the exact reverse of this sequence.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related articles you might like