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History & Meaning of the Salutation

Ed Parker
Our SALUTATION is a combination of the “old and the new”. The initial part of our SALUTE honors the originators of our art, the Chinese. Prior to the establishment of Shao-lin, an open left hand resting on a clenched right fist was used as a salutation just before the commencement of a set or form.
There were several meanings to this gesture:
(1) Respect to the originator of this particular system, including all who had studied before him, with him, and presently study under him. (2) Respect to the audience. (3) Respect to both scholars and men of the Martial Arts alike, since the left hand (open) of this salutation represented the scholar and the right hand (clenched), the man practicing the Martial Arts.
During the period of the Shao-lin in the Ch’ing Dynasty, the meaning of the gesture changed when two additional movements were added. The change was that the left hand represented the sun, the right hand the moon. With this change, the combination of sun and moon represented the Chinese character Ming, thus meaning revolutionary defenders for the cause of the Ming restoration. The two additional movements which were added to the sun and the moon were formed by placing the back of the hands together with both palms out. The fingers at this point were in a claw-like-fashion and raised to the chest and heart. This gesture meant, “We are against foreign domination and our hearts are for the real China.” The last movement was to clench both hands and draw them to the sides of the waist. This pulling gesture meant, “By pulling and working together we can take our country back.” These movements were perpetuated by the Hungs, who were secret triad societies in China. In short, “Scholar and warrior, united together, back to back, pulling together, to defend against the foreign intruders”.
The first part of the salutation was preserved in recognition and respect to the traditions set forth by the Chinese. The concluding portion of the salutation was added to tie in the heritage of the “old” with the logic of the “new” and innovative fighting art. Thus, the second part of the SALUTATION interprets as:

1. I come to you with empty hands; I am friendly and unarmed — I
have no weapons. (Both hands are place together as they form
the shape of a triangle.)
2. I now cover my weapon, my fist which is my treasure, for I do
not wish to use it. (Your left open hand is used to conceal
your right clenched fist.)
3. Now that I am being forced to use my weapon, to momentarily
become an animal, I pray for forgiveness for what I am about
to do. (Both hands are placed together as if praying.)
4. The SALUTATION ends by outwardly circling the hands and arms
and coming to attention.

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