Respect is a cornerstone of the martial arts academy.
Before every training session, we bow to our partners as a way to honor them and show our concern for their safety. No matter the intensity of training, it is a commitment that our loyalty to one another supersedes the events of a roll. When we bow on and off the mat, we show respect for the art and those who came before us, to whom we are so indebted.
But for me, I have always bowed onto the mat for an additional reason: to show respect for myself.
This ritual reminds me of the sincerity of my training, that my time on the mat is to be used purposefully toward the crafting of my humanity. When I step on the mat, all worldly affairs are left behind, and my sole focus is to seek a higher version of myself through this discipline.
We honor ourselves, and our God-given potential, by purposefully seeking to be a steward of our latent potential and make it manifest in the world. We are all so malleable (regardless of age) and none of us have achieved our greatest good. Our growth lies on an infinite continuum, and it is our responsibility, to ourselves and our fellow man, to aspire toward our most actualized self.
Respect for others is important. Respect for yourself, and the latent powers within you, maybe even more so.
We show respect for ourselves through action: eating well, getting proper sleep, and exercise. We respect our potential when we become a steward of its manifestation, consuming good books and pursuing education.
And specific to our purposes, we practice self-respect when we devote a portion of our day to the study of this art, using Jiu Jitsu as a tool for personal development.
Respecting our Depths
Across disciplines, high achievers recognize that their greatest abilities come from somewhere deep within them.
The artists call this power “the muse.” Philosophers have labeled it “the will.” Psychologists prefer the term “the unconscious.” And the theologians across the globe have myriad names for this wellspring of power: the Tao, the Atman, the Buddha-nature, or as it has been described, “the kingdom of God is within man.”
I don’t know what to call it, but I know its something far greater than me, and that being alive is to inherit the opportunity and responsibility to be a steward of its development.
This is why I train so sincerely, striving to better understand this art. I am cultivating my being in a way which ensures my continued development and the fostering of my potential.
I bow to show respect to my teammates and to those who came before. But deep down, at my core, I bow on and off the mat out of sincerity and appreciation for this amazing gift we have all been given.