Today I took the kids to the local education centre which runs a karate class. They're quite eager to learn, and I personally feel it is important for them to be able to defend themselves if they were ever in an awkward situation, we seek refuge with Allaah from that happening. Also masha'Allaah it instills confidence in them, and self discipline insha Allaah. Even myself I would love to learn insha Allaah, as a self defense and a way to keep fit.
I was going there to speak with the instructor and ask about the issue of the bowing, as I know this is common tradition in martial arts, as a form of mutual respect. But as muslims we don't bow to anyone or anything other than Allaah. I managed to speak with the instructor and he basically told me, in a nice way, that bowing is something which they have to do, they use it as respect, and it's not up to them to change it, it is the ones in Japan who have the authority. I mentioned that there is a friend of mine in Cardiff who takes her boys to Karate classes, and the instructors there allow them to replace the bow with some kind of arm gesture, I think they kind of put it to their chest or something like that, and that's 2 places now that they've been allowed to leave out the bowing. So I was really dissapointed, and so were the kids, but Qadr Allaah.
I have emailed a few other places, and asked the same question, so will wait to hear back from them.
But as I was doing my search earlier, I came across this website , masha'Allaah I was so excited when I started reading about a kung fu class for women and girls not far from me, with a female black belt instructor. I'm not sure if it's still running, but will try and get more info tomorrow insha Allaah. The website is run by a sister and her husband, and they set it up with the aim of providing sports activities just for women, whilst maintaining our islamic values. So insha Allaah the issue of not bowing I would think would not be a problem. Will update when i have more info.