It seems incomprehensible to contemplate the mind of the young man who killed his mother and 27 other innocent people in Connecticut on Friday. What type of tortured spirit must he have been to take such desperate action against other human beings? How can he not value the lives he took? There is no way we will ever know what went wrong for this young man or any of the other young men who have been responsible for the recent wave of attacks in schools, malls and movie theaters around the country. It seems these attackers do not respect other's lives, but beyond that, they do not value their own.
Rei: The situation makes me think about a saying we have in the dojo: karate starts and ends with respect. 'Rei' is Japanese for bow, but it also means respect. The real meaning is hidden from outside observers and from beginning martial artists. When we bow to another person, we are displaying an outward sign of respect towards that person. In reality we can not even begin to respect another human being until we have learned to respect ourself. Each one of us struggles with our internal conversation about our sense of value and worth. It is so easy to make an empty display of respect towards another but to truly value our own contributions to the world and hold ourself in high esteem is daunting.
In the dojo, we practice Reishiki-or school ettiquette. Bowing happens frequently in and out of the classroom. We bow when we enter our class, we bow to our teachers and we bow to eachother. Each bow is a practice to show our respect for the place we train and the people we train with. With each bow we are acknowledging this person or place's value in our minds. This acknowledgment circles back to us, and we are made aware of our own value, and our own contribution to the school.
The idea behind the bow or rei in Karate is to first deeply respect oneself to allow the possibility to respect another; to hold ourself in such high esteem and reverence that we have no choice to esteem and revere our fellow students and teachers. To respect is to value, and to value is to appreciate what and who we are. Only then can we respect, value and appreciate another person.