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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 3:53 am 
I orginally posted this in the viewpoint area associated with Dojo Rituals. Sensei Mattson has encouraged me to post a copy over here were it should get greater exposure....

As a "new" student of Uechi-Ryu Karate, I sometimes wonder about the traditions and rituals of what I am learning. I think the part that is most significant to me is the giving of respect to the "founders" of our style. With the emphasis on oriental (non-native), languages and the bowing and giving of homage to a photograph of Kanbun Uechi, I wonder sometimes if this doesn't amount to, or border on ancestor worship? Is that one of the intents of bowing to a picture of Kanbun Uechi?

Respect for elders, both physically and positionally, is vital to any healthy society, and to the continuing growth of the individual. However, should we not jealously guard worship? Is not worship only correctly granted to God? And if you answer those questions in the affirative, and if Uechi-Ryu Karate intends to encourage people in the direction of ancestor worship (if that is indeed an intent), then isn't that a mistake? Aren't the ancestors all dead...still?

As you can tell this is a difficult topic for me. It is indeed something that my growth will need to deal with. I am sure I am not the only student having to deal with this...

I look forward to your insights.

Thank you.
Rick Liebespach
RickLiebespach@BigFoot.com


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 4:06 am 
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Here is a copy of Sensei Mattson's reply to my post in the Viewpoint area of Dojo Riuals (Rick Liebespach)...

By George Mattson on Sunday, February 14, 1999 - 06:00 am:
I posted an answer here yesterday, but for some reason or other, it disappeared!!

1. The ceremonial bow does relate to a Shinto (I believe) religious ritual.

2. Modern martial artist perform the ceremonial bow more as a symbol of respect than any kind of ancestor worshiping.

3. You, as a student of the martial arts, should not be made to do anything you feel uncomfortable about and certainly nothing that is against your religious beliefs.

4. Many dojo have modified their opening and closing ceremonies. Some form a circle and do a standing bow. Others do a standing bow while lined up facing the teacher.

5. Standing bows are not religious ritual. It is like the Western handshake. . . a symbol of mutual respect.

Hope you post your questions and comments to our more public "Dojo Roundtable" forums so others can present their opinions regarding the subject.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 11:33 am 
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I've always viewed the bowing as paying respect to the founders. As a tradition and an opening and closing ceremony/custom of the training. I never viewed it as a religion. Now, when someone asks you to "Pray" to the pictures or pray while bowing, then there is a problem.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 2:38 pm 
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I assume that your primary concern relates to commandment #1. Please correct me if I am wrong, but for this reply I will be operating under that assumption.

"I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me."

I am going to ask some questions below that only you can answer. But first we need some definitions.

1) worship. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.

2) sacred. Dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity. Made or declared holy.

3) deity. A god or goddess.

4) god (not God). A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshipped by people.

Okay done. Now the questions. But first, these questions are not intended to minimize your concerns or beliefs. They certainly aren't meant to be insulting (some people are touchier than others). The purpose is to get the neurons flowing and provide one way of looking at this. I agree with Sensei Matteson that ultimately if you are uncomfortable with something, then something has to be done about it ... maybe (and it is my hope) that these questions will help put your heart at ease.

1) Are the founders of the Uechi-Ryu styles being presented as deities, and hence being worshipped contrary to the first commandment? I don't think so. We as serious martial artists know that their ability has nothing supernatural about it, they were just men of great ability just like we have men of great ability here.

2) Are the founders pictures being presented in a way that makes them sacred? Well, that would depend on your instructor. But I think we established above that they are not presented as deities so the first definition is out, and I doubt they are presented as being holy either. Rather the pictures are used for two reasons. One, even if the founders were alive they couldn't be in every dojo. Two, they aren't alive and so a picture is used in its place.

3) Why do we shake hands? To show that we are unarmed and friendly. It is a matter of mutual trust and respect.

4) Why do we bow? Bowing was done for a few reasons. First, from a bowing position you are near helpless before the person to whom you are bowing. However, and ponder this. If two people are bowing to each other then you are mutually helpless before each other, and equal. A matter of trust and respect. The other reason for bowing was to show that you weren't carrying a weapon on your back. Keep in mind too that bowing is not an oriental thing ... bowing was very prevalent even upto the late 1800's in Europe and to a limited degree in America, especially amongst higher classes.

5) Would the founders bow to you? If there wasn't a picture at the dojo and the founder was there, would he be bowing too? I think he would. I know for a fact that Sosai Oyama (founder of Kyokushin) did bow to his students before every class. The founders did not picture themselves as deities, just men teaching the martial way.

6) Why should we bow to the founders? The martial arts are oriental (primarily) in origin. Bowing is/was there custom. So what, right? This is the USA. Well, I don't see the martial arts as just being a bunch of punches and kicks. The teaching of the martial arts is a way. It is so much more, and really is giving a part of yourself away (again in my view). I have great admiration for Sosai Oyama because he developed a system of study and living that has had a tremendous influence on my life. Bowing was his custom and I respect it. Oyama is not my deity, he was simply a great man who (indirectly) has given me a great gift, it is the least I can do in return.

I hope this helps you on your journey.

Osu!
Jason


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 2:57 pm 
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I put all that and forgot my patented ... well at least customary Summary (tm).

Summary (tm).

I think that Christian martial artists would be in violation of the first commandment if one of the following is true:

1) The founder(s) or instructors of a style were presented in a fashion in which they are perceived as deities.

2) The pictures of the founder(s) were presented in a fashion which suggests that they are sacred.

3) Bowing itself were an act contrary to Christian beliefs.

I do not think that any of these statements are true.

End of Summary (tm).

Osu!
Jason


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 1999 3:47 pm 
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Rick,

I think these are important questions. Just as we are reminded to remember and keep the spirit we had as a white belt, it is helpful to remember our initial reactions to all the newness of the karate/dojo phenom. So it is to acknowledge your first impressions that many of us may have had, but over time have may have glossed over.

Bowing out of respect to our teachers seems more understandable to us as Americans than the bowing to a cluster of photographs of ancient masters. The photograph in our dojo of O'sensei Ueshiba is large and perched on a pedestal. Is this an altar? In the Aikido classes they clap their hands to awaken the spirit of their great teacher(s).

We try and explain all of this away, but the essence of religion runs throughout many dojo practices and customs. The bowing to the front(altar) from Shinto customs, the focus on blending the spirit as well as the body and mind and the zazen meditation from Zen buddidism. Walk into the local tai chi center and there is a real altar with fruit and other offerings.

These things were uncomfortable for me at first, but as I grew into the practice of the martial arts, it seemed more of a cultural thing, like speaking in the native tongue of the art you practice than truly celebrating some actual religious ceremony.
But, these issues are intriguing and complex.

Fortunately, in our dojo, these issues are discussed freely and the customs are balanced with an American atmosphere of mutual respect and commaradery.

I would love to hear more of this from someone with an extensive background in world religions, such as Lori-san.


JohnC


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 1999 12:17 am 
If someone has religion in mind when they "Honor the gods," I respect them for it.

I love my Flag and do certain ceremonious things 'religiously' but that is not a religion.

I give honor to the great masters of Uechi-ryu and when young ticked my imagination with second-hand folklore. I say Japanese words and bow (although I think of myself as Christian). etc.

I feel strongly to the above, bit is it a religion? Naw! It's tradition and respect.

What's tradition? Someone started something and I follow in their footsteps with my ideals and to some extent a physical expression thereof.

What's religion? That's a hell of a tough one to define.

I think of my Uechi-ryu and all the rituals involved as a serious gesture of what I know as tradition. for the religion I go to church.

------------------
Allen at [email]uechi@ici.net">uechi@ici.net</A> on <A HREF="http://www.uechi-ryu.org[/email]


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 1999 2:40 am 
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http://www.xpres.net/~gmattson/ubbs/Forum11/HTML/000032.html

I just want to refer you to an archive of a discussion from October 98 where some of the same brilliant and sensitive minds have had a similar discussion... I find david's insight's therein particularily helpful and timely..

Anthony, this search feature is great, thanks for all your hard work.

joseph


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 1999 1:53 am 
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It seems that my post stirred up some discussion. I guess that this really is a relevant topic.

I want to thank you for your input. Most of it was personally relevant to me and therefore it helped. I especially want to give thanks to:
George Mattson
Doctor X
Jason Bernard
JohnC
Moulton
Joseph


There are a couple of things I would like to restate so as to not be mis-understood. And I also want to mention that where I learn, we meet in the facilities of a local park. As a result we are probably a bit more casual than the average dojo. I’ve studied and visited elsewhere over the years and have seen places that make me very uncomfortable. Our dojo, and it’s people make me feel very comfortable…What spurred this discussion, for me, was the possibility that our sensei may bring in some photographs and ask us to bow. As I mentioned, I sometimes wonder about the traditions and rituals that I am learning. I think the part that is most significant to me is the giving of respect to the "founders" of our style. Respect for elders, both physically and positionally, is vital to any healthy society, and to the continuing growth of the individual. As Sensei Mattson points out, “Standing bows are not religious ritual. It is like the Western handshake. . . a symbol of mutual respect.” I do not have a problem with this and practice it as appropriate. I have no problem showing respect to Kanbun Uechi, as I would to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, the Apostle Paul, or Moses. To none of these men would I erect a shrine, or bow the knee….but to each, I would show respect. I would do this as is culturally correct, as long as the act does not imitate worship. The word imitate is also very important. If someone who does not understand sees my behavior, and it causes them to stumble in their faith or walk, then I have committed a wrong against that bother or sister.

As Doctor X mentioned, religion is a touchy subject, and although I brought up the question, I have no desire to make this a “religious issue”. Those things frequently reach such a pitch that bodies are left behind…that would not be right. Not only should the religious not shoot their wounded…they shouldn’t shoot anyone else’s wounded either.

My questions were for my growth. If someone else benefits from the dialog – great! I was content to just receive an answer from a sensei.
<SMALL>(FWIW - I was more comfortable asking someone who didn't know me. I was concerned that if I presented it poorly to my immediate sensei, that it may color our future interactions. I did not want to chance that...I want our relationship to grow strong...sometimes I damage relationships without even realizing what I'm doing and I didn't want that to happen.)</SMALL>
Sensei Mattson also thought others could benefit and suggested I re-post my questions here…I guess he was right.

My Thanks to the following:
<U>Doctor X</U> has made some good points, and while nothing has fundamentally changed for me, I will go on sharpened as a result. Sharpened from his questions and comforted from the answers here and in several other echoes.

<U>Jason Bernard</U>
For Raising and answering his own questions…sometimes the best way to present a point is to show you’ve given it some thought and a good way to do that is to present both sides, as you did.

<U>JohnC</U>
I agree, Bowing out of respect to our teachers seems more understandable to us as Americans than the bowing to a cluster of photographs of ancient masters. I don’t have a problem with the origins of our rituals…The bowing to the front(altar) from Shinto customs, the focus on blending the spirit as well as the body and mind and the zazen meditation from Zen Buddhism…My main problem is the perceived act of worship…which these messages have done well in addressing.

<U>Anthony</U>
Personally, I suspect you either have not really addressed this completely in your own life…or you didn’t feel like being serious at this time. Resting on a grammatical accident of the English language, is not a safe place to lay a foundation for your life.

<U>Moulton</U>
Thank you for addressing the topic of religion. It helped me to recognize and remember that just because I see a religious activity, does not mean it is actually a religion. My definition of religion would be “man’s attempts to reach God.” My life as a Christian is somewhat the opposite…”God’s attempts to reach me….The living of a relationship with the creator of all that is…and all that implies.”

<U>Joseph</U>
Thanks for the referral…it helped a lot.

Thank you, one and all,
Rick Liebespach


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 1999 5:04 am 
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Hi Doc,

You quoted me (If someone who does not understand sees my behavior, and it causes them to stumble in their faith or walk, then I have committed a wrong against that bother or sister.), and asked, "Have you?"

To this I'd have to say yes. In saying this I am not relieving anyone else of their responsibility...indeed I could give you the long explaination, but I think I hear moderator foot-steps. :-)
The short answer is that everyone is responsible for their own actions and the intents of their heart. That includes actions and intents that result in another person's harm. Especially if it is not unintentional.

Also, while I may not be knowledgable in the details of the martial arts (in general), and of Uechi-Ryu (in particular), I know something of the Bible, and have resources beyond that...You speak in picturesque language and present things of the Bible with little supporting evidence. Spefically: you say "Indeed, when you see "sin" in your English NT, the word is "stumble." "
I can't tell or discover where you get that. Your wording implies that the original language for the English word "sin" would be reasonably translated as "stumble".

The English NT was written in Kione Greek, and has 4 words that it uses for "sin", and 10 synonyms for "sin".
The 4 words are:
amartanw (hamartano),
1) to be without a share in
2) to miss the mark
3) to err, be mistaken
4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong
5) to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin

amarthma (hamartema),
1) sin, evil deed

amartia (hamartia)
1) equivalent to amartanw (hamartano)
1a) to be without a share in
1b) to miss the mark
1c) to err, be mistaken
1d) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong
1e) to wander from the law of God, violate God's law, sin
2) that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act
3) collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many
, and

anamarthtov (anamartetos)
1) sinless
1a) of one who has not sinned
1b) of one who cannot sin


The synonyms sin are:
amartia, amarthma, asebeia, parakoh, anomia, paranomia, parabasiv, paraptwma, agnohma, and htthma.

amartia meant originally the missing of a mark. When applied to moral things the idea is similar, it is missing the true end of life, and so it is used as a general term for sin. It means both the act of sinning and the result, the sin itself.

amarthma means only the sin itself, not the act, in its particular manifestations as separate deeds of disobedience to a divine law.

asebeia is ungodliness, positive and active irreligion, a condition of direct opposition to God.

parakoh is strictly failing to hear, or hearing carelessly and inattentively. The sin is in this failure to hear when God speaks, and also in the active disobedience which ordinarily follows.

anomia is lawlessness, contempt of law, a condition or action not simply without law, as the etymology might indicate, but contrary to law. The law is usually by implication the Mosaic law.

paranomia occurs only once, in 2Peter 2:16, and is practically equivalent to anomia.

parabasiv is transgression, the passing beyond some assigned limit. It is the breaking of a distinctly recognized commandment. It consequently means more than amartia.

paraptwma is used in different senses, sometimes in a milder sense, denoting an error, a mistake, a fault; and sometimes meaning a trespass, a willful sin.

agnohma occurs only once, in Hebrews 9:7. It indicates error, sin which to a certain extent is the result of ignorance.

htthma denotes being worsted, defeated. In an ethical sense it means a failure in duty, a fault.

All these different words may occasionally but not usually be used simply to describe the same act from different points of view. The fundamental meanings of these words may well be summed up in the language of Trench:

Sin "may be regarded as the missing of a mark or aim: it is then amartia or amarthma; the overpassing or transgressing of a line: it is then parabasiv; the disobedience to a voice: in which case it is parakoh; the falling where one should have stood upright: this will be paraptwma; ignorance of what one ought to have known: this will be agnohma; diminishing of that which should have been rendered in full measure, which is htthma; non-observance of a law, which is anomia or paranomia."


I respect your knowledge and wisdom where it is strongest, and will ask questions in order to grow...but I am also willing to share from my strengths...primarily as requested, but I generally will also feel it ok to correct error where I see the appropriate occassion...
Please feel free to take those same liberties with me.

Rick


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 1999 5:00 am 
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Greetings J.D.
Yes, this thread was getting side tracked, and I did help it more along that way than I intended.

Concerning my concerns about the bowing to photographs (especially in a "shrine" setting) and religious over-tones...
My concerns were in part from ignorance, which was one of the things that prompted my initial posting. That ignorance has now been alieved (sp?), probably adequately for me to decide my position on it...which I will postpone until the need arises. (as I mentioned somewhere, we're informal by necessity of meeting in a county park rec hall)
All of the surrounding material has also helped - perspective and what-not. We are a broad bunch and our diversity has enriched my life.

BTW - FWIW, I stand by my previous post. I examined those passages before I sent the post. I didn't include them because I was dealing with the word "sin" and not the application of the concept of enticing to sin. The Greek word there is "skandalizo" and typically refers to a stumbling block or impediment...an enticement to sin...to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey...etc.
It does have application to "sin" but from a third party perspective.

I think we've probably taken this as far (further than) it should go in this thread.

It may be appropriate to deal with some of these concepts else-where...if not here then there's always private email. (I may be reached at RickLiebespach@BigFoot.com)

BTW - I had my first test tonight! I must have done something right ... I'm still here. The group I'm a apart of is collectively (and individually), one of the finest collections of people I've had the pleasure of knowing!

Rick


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 1999 4:33 am 
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cattle prod grumble.
Ouch! That must have hurt!

Test:

Congratulations. Art thou now guppy, minnow, or small fry?

--J.D.


Thank you...I guess what I still am is "ignorant" :-)
I should know better/more on Friday.

Rick


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