From merely bowing when you enter the room, to the elabourate pre-match sumo display, many traditional warrior creeds and martial arts are steeped in ritual. From the layman's perspective, these can appear - at best a little strange, and at worse intimidating. But if you look past the ancient beliefs, these rituals all have a vital purpose.
When looking at the fundamental reason why we do any ritual, there is no variation. All rituals are physical activities that help people prepare their minds. Bowing in martial arts is all about teaching you respect for your teacher, opponents and friends. Forms and dances teach you to focus your mind for combat. Meditation teaches you to still your mind.
Modern sports psychiatrists and doctors would say that there is little place for rituals today. They utilise neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or hypnotism to instil the correct attitude in the modern athlete. There are new breeds of martial arts designed purely for success in the ring. They argue that ritual is a superfluous activity and a waste of a fighter's strength. Perhaps.......
But perhaps in the future, there may be an even better way of training our attitudes. We will look upon NLP and hypnotism as being rituals (which - in a way - they are).
Perhaps, it is not the rituals that are the problems, but the beliefs that need to change. For where would we be without some of our rituals? What would we do if we couldn't show friendship by shaking hands? How would we show our team how happy we are if we can't clap and cheer? How would we secure our future with our wives/husbands?
For better or worse, ritual is with us to stay. We must look with "open-minded scepticism" at our rituals and ask are they serving us well, or are they a crutch that we can do without?
I'm going to leave you with one of the greatest exponent of the pre-match ritual. Enjoy: