Why do we put our hand under our right elbow when you give or receive something?

By: Douglas G. Nowling, Director-Kido Kwan™

You have seen it so often, and you have imitated so much, but do you know why? I personally asked two 9th Dans, five 8th Dans, four 7th Dans, eight 6th Dans, and three 5th

GM An, Dae-sup

GM An, Dae-sup

Dans. And for the most part, I got “Because it’s tradition in Korean Society to hand things that way.” Or my favorite “Because General Choi said so.”  Which isn’t wrong, but, it still doesn’t explain the WHY.

So, why do we do it? The answer is not all that hard to understand, however, this practice comes from the peculiar arm position that originated from the practice of holding back the sleeve of the hanbok so that it wouldn’t touch the table or the food. Basically, while a junior is serving a senior a drink or food for that matter. It was and is considered rude for your sleeves to touch the food, table or drinks.

Now, traditional hanbok have changed over the years. But they use to have sleeves that were more like Japanese Kimono, or even like Manchu court dress. The Japanese would regularly tie back their kimono while serving to expose their arms, so those sitting in front of them would see no hidden weapons, and the basic custom was true in Korea society as well.  In Korean culture, using two hands to offer and accept items is considered an act of respect.





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