In my Hapkido class, we stand in a circle at the beginning and end of class, and bow to each other. There is no separate bow for the instructor, nor for any shrine.
Standing in a circle is an acknowledgment that we are all equal as human beings. I may be more skilled at Hapkido than my students, but they are certainly more skilled than me at other things. Hapkido is only one thing in life, and not the most important thing – except on that day when you need it to save your life. Some other day, it might be an emergency doctor who saves your life. In a sense, a farmer is saving your life every time you sit down to a meal.
Sometimes there are only three or four of us in class, so that our circle looks more like a triangle or a square. That’s alright. The circle is conceptual. It is an attitude of mutual respect, whether we know each other well or not.
One day recently I had ten students. We made a large circle. If we had fifty, perhaps we’d make a circle in the parking lot.
Charles Goodin, the Hawaiian Karate instructor and author of the Karate Jutsu blog, follows this same practice. He points out that a three-dimensional circle is a sphere, like the earth. So in a sense, all human beings on earth are standing in a vast circle. We are all equal. All that remains is for us to acknowledge and understand this fact.
If you looked down at a city from a thousand feet in the air, the people would be tiny dots. There would be no kings or peasants, no nationalities or races, no male or female. This is one of those instances in which perspective reveals the truth.
Wael Abdelgawad, Founder