-By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
At the beginning and end of each class, you hear the senior student say, “Shomen ni rei.” Even the youngest students can learn these words, but do you know what they mean?
Shomen ni rei means face the front and show respect. When these words are spoken, it is a request to show respect to your dojo and those Karate masters, both past and present, who have dedicated their lives to Karate. Bowing is the way respect is typically shown in the dojo. When we bow in Karate, whether it is to another person, to the dojo (when entering or leaving), or to the shomen, it is a sign of respect and has nothing to do with religion.
The shomen is a special place in a dojo. Shomen is the side of the dojo where the head instructor typically stands or sits during class or testing. Fortunately we can accommodate having our shomen as the east wall of our dojo. Karate came from the east, from the land of the rising sun (Okinawa, Japan). Having our shomen on the east helps us remember to pay respect, in every class, to the history of our Karate. We also have the American and Okinawan flags on shomen, so we are reminded to show respect to those people who sacrificed their time and their lives to give us our country and our freedom, as well as those people who sacrificed their time and their lives to further Karate.