Sifu Cristina Prudencio-Brunello

Youth Student’s Corner

Bows. We use them so often in Kung Fu – in our forms, before we enter or exit the kwoon, and to begin our classes. Simple as they may appear, there are many layers of symbolism to bowing. For example, the closed hand may represent war or aggression, and the open hand peace. By covering aggression with peace, we tell someone that there is power within us, but we choose the path of nonviolence. In another way, we could use the bow to represent the opposites of yin (open, soft) and yang (closed, hard). There are many theories on what the bows could mean, and there is no one right answer. Even the three bows before class have their own individual meanings:

  1. Ancestors (or Masters):
    An ancestor is a person from whom we are descended, like a great-great grandparent. In Kung Fu, this term refers to many people, from the monks who created the martial art thousands of years ago, to their first students, all the way to Grand Master Pan and Sigung Bob who shaped the Kung Fu of our school. This first bow is a sign of respect to the past and to honour the work they did to keep Kung Fu going. Just think – without our ancestors to pass down the skills and knowledge of martial arts, there would be no Kung Fu to practice!
  2. Sigung:
    Our second bow is to Sigung, who is both owner and head instructor of our school. He teaches everyone at WKFA, from Little Ninjas all the way through Black Sash (the learning doesn’t stop once you become a Sifu!). Sigung also sets the tone for the school by honouring the traditions of our ancestors while still allowing our Kung Fu to evolve and grow. Bowing to Sigung before class is a sign of respect and thanks for all the hard work he does to make the Academy an awesome Kung Fu community.
  3. Everyone:
    Kung Fu teaches us to have respect for those around us, and the third bow is a sign that we will uphold that. It is a promise to your classmates, instructors, and yourself that you will try your best and work hard during class. The third bow honours the future of Kung Fu – you! As you continue to train and move forward in your Kung Fu journey, it will become your responsibility to teach the next generation of students how to be martial artists.

Everything we do in Kung Fu has purpose or meaning behind it, and the three bows before class are no exception. Our martial art is founded on a philosophy of respect and honour for the past, present, and future. Each bow is a way to acknowledge these aspects of Kung Fu, and every time we bow in for class, it is a promise to uphold these values while we train. So remember what you’re promising next time you bow!