There is an old saying that the stalk of rice that carries the most grain, bows his head the lowest. I think this concept is true in the martial arts as well. The best martial artists I have ever seen are the most humble of all.
It is said you must learn to give respect before you can earn respect. In the martial arts school, we teach the students to show respect by the way they address their seniors and bow to them. We also teach them to respect their junior students by accepting the responsibility of their growth and helping out.
Steeped in martial arts culture, a student should bow to the senior person when he enters the training hall and also when he leaves. This sign of respect is important in that the senior person is in charge of the floor, and needs to know who is still in the training hall and who has left. It is customary to bow to a teacher before and after asking a question, or if being used to demonstrate techniques with – a high honor in most schools.
Again this custom keeps order in a school, and teaches important lessons in respect, but it is also for self defense. There is an old saying to be close to your friends and be even closer to your enemies. By being respectful to all people at all times, you will definitely reduce the number of enemies and people that may want to harm you. Respect is the ultimate proactive self defense strategy.