I am exercising at Kung Fu's dojo and wonder whether kneeling and bowing down is an idolatry (Avodah Zarah)? The floor has soft mats. The reason explained to me is that it's done as a form of greeting to a person. In general, the gesture recognizes that you are submitting and giving respect to the person to whom you are bowing, as at that moment they could cut your head off!

Another explanation:

Bowing in Kung-Fu will take various different forms; not surprising as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of individual styles from various families and various regions all throughout China.

In China, bowing (especially the traditional kowtow) serves as a sign of reverence. Modernly (following Imperialisms decline in China), the kowtow has been replaced by the standing bow in many formal situations. Bowing is also common under Buddhist traditions, especially when honoring both the student-teacher relationship, as well as in honoring ancestors and memories of predecessors.

Finally, bows may be used in apology. As @BenCole said in one of his comments to the original question, this may be a way of bearing the neck in a sign of supplication, but is commonly used by political and celebrity figures to show remorse for a perceived fault.

Bows in Chinese martial arts tend not to be as strict as bows in Japanese martial arts, as bowing is not such a formalized practice in China any longer. The core ties are, however, to both Buddhist and Confucian traditions.

  • 2
    Roman Kagan, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! I look forward to seeing you around.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:01
  • 1
    to the OP: why/to what are you bowing? R' Akiva Tatz discusses bowing in some depth in Letters to a Buddhist Jew.
    – yitznewton
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


Generally a Dojo has a soft mat on which you kneel, and the bowing is done as a form of greeting to a person.

As long as you are not kneeling on a stone floor, it's not strictly a problem. (Halacha commentary 14)

As for fears of Avodah Zarah in regards to Kung Fu, you should in general not be exposed to anything. If you are exposed to concepts and teachings which smell of Avodah Zarah to you, then you should switch Dojos, as most Kung Fu teachers and practitioners do not incorporate any avodah Zarah teachings into their lessons. As you mention in your question there are hundreds of variants, so if you hear things which seem fishy to you, switch Dojos.

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    As always, a source for the halachic aspects of your answer would greatly improve it.
    – msh210
    Feb 8, 2012 at 19:57

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