How we show respect in Tae Kwon-Do


Respect is one of the most important things we teach at Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do

There are many ways we show respect for each other and for this art. The three big ones are: a very specific handshake, bowing, and addressing each other in a very specific way.


The Handshake

Have you ever thought about the history of the handshake?

These days, we consider it to be a sign of mutual respect and trust. Originally, the handshake was actually born from a place of deep mistrust.

Most people are right-handed, so the tradition is to shake with your right hand. The reason being, though, is that by grabbing someone’s right hand, you are essentially taking control of their dominant hand. 

Initially, grabbing the hand was the entire gesture. The actual shaking of the hand, though, came as more people started to carry knives and other small weapons on them. So, shaking someone’s hand was a way to try and shake loose anything they might be carrying up their sleeve.

We use a special handshake at our dojang. It is more of a Roman Greco-style handshake where we actually grab the other person’s forearm as they grab yours. This is also used among firefighters and other, more fraternal organizations. It is a way to show a bond, a camaraderie, that we are brothers and sisters in Tae Kwon-Do. 


Naturally, during Covid, we had to suspend the handshake, but as things are opening back up, I am excited to see students using it again. I know it will have a meaningful impact on the dojang.


The gesture that is most associated with Tae Kwon-Do and martial arts in general is bowing. The bow is so much more than just a sign of respect. It is a way of saying thank you. It is also an acknowledgment of the other person, and who and what they mean to you. 

If I go to a tournament, when I bow and go into the ring, I am bowing to the judges. I am bowing to the martial art I love and have devoted my life to, Tae Kwon-Do. I’m also bowing to the host of the tournament. I then bow to the head table, which might have Grand Masters sitting at it. 

Then I bow to my opponent. The bow to my opponent is an agreement. As I am bowing, it is as if I am saying “I accept that we are about to step into this ring, and I accept everything that you are about to do to me. I am offering myself to you as your humble opponent.” If my opponent bows back, I know he is accepting what I am about to do to him. No malice. No angst.

The bow at the beginning of a match is all about acceptance. The bow after the match is over is all about gratitude and appreciation. It is to thank my opponent for allowing me to participate in this match. But also to say thank you for giving me your best and making me even better. 

The bow has become as much a part of the Asian culture as martial arts culture. It is a sign of respect and humility, but never submission.

“Yes Sir/Ma’am”

Respect and discipline are the two most important things we teach at this school. 

Saying “yes Sir” or “yes Ma’am” fosters a respectful attitude that works both ways when used. I am 65 years old, and I still say “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am” to my 7 and 8 year old students. This begins to elevate them to the level of respect that I expect from my students. We tell all of our students to extend this same respectful attitude outside of the dojang as well. It’s always “Yes Ma’am.” I don’t ever want to hear “yeah” or “uh huh” when a student is talking to their parents. 

When we’re saying “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” to our instructors, we are acknowledging their experience and superior rank. When I say it to a junior of mine, I am saying it because I truly respect them, but I am also trying to make them understand that if you give respect to me, I will give it right back to you. 

Signs of respect and appreciation like these establish the relationship between teacher and student going forward. So now, when I make you do push-ups, you know that it is coming from a place of respect. When we are sparring, you know it comes from a place of respect. Even when we’re actually throwing kicks and punches at one another, you know it comes from a place of respect. 



Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!



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