It is an element which is an integral part of the attitude of a judoka, an element which cannot be dissociated from the practice of our sport and which makes it a separate activity thanks to the values that judo conveys. This element is the bow.

A judo session, randori and moreover a contest in competition cannot and must never begin or end without the bow. It is not a figure of speech, an artifact that we add or subtract because it looks pretty. Behind this simple gesture, the symbolism is strong and it is this simplicity which gives it all its value.

The bow in judo is first of all a convention inspired by the Japanese tradition from which our sport takes its origins. This is why it is compulsory and why it is the only thing that is obligatory at the beginning and end of the fight. The bow represents the respect that one has for the place of practice, the dojo or the field of play, the partner or the opponent, the coach or the referee, and for oneself. Bowing means telling each other that we are going to fight by fair means, while respecting the rules of sport ethics. It also means that we offer others the means to practise in the best possible security conditions.

Judo without bowing wouldn't be called judo and would lose its soul, but also and perhaps above all, a fantastic educational tool that is suitable for all practitioners without any form of discrimination.

Posing a respectful and perfectly identifiable bow, which does not simply resemble an obligation applied not by choice but because it is necessary, is also the most effective way to identify the period which opens and closes. Between the two bows, at the beginning and end, we do judo, we think judo, we live judo and the only possible language is by definition that of judo.

This approach promotes something extraordinary: the blossoming of freedom. During a demonstration, randori or a contest, the expression of freedom is crucial. Within the limits of the combat surface, it is possible to go in all directions: forward, backward, sideways. It is possible to apply a large number of techniques, standing and on the floor. There is no brake to freedom except when it could harm one's adversary or oneself. Between two bows uncertainty is expressed, in other words, between two bows the versatility of life is expressed in its noblest form.

It is sometimes said that a judo fight is symbolically a summary of life, with its moments of glory and defeat and ultimately it is an allegory of life and death. All this is obviously symbolic, but this is undoubtedly why symbolism is such an important character in our sport.

So judo etiquette is crucial, again, not because it looks pretty but because it means something. The referees bow, the coaches bow, the athletes bow, because they know that by doing so they are committing physically, mentally and spiritually to respecting judo for what it brings to society; forgetting it would be the end of judo. Fortunately, this is not the case, in fact quite the opposite. In a disrupted world, which has sometimes lost its humanist vision, preserving the bow and values of judo may seem anachronistic, yet that’s what makes all the difference. Holding an event like the Antalya Grand Slam perfectly illustrates this point. So whatever your level of practice, whatever your objectives, you must never forget to bow. It should be second nature.

See also