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This hand posture is also found associated with the sho chiku bai (pine, bamboo, plum) formations as seen at this link: http://www.skski.net/sho-chiku-bai-mon.html. More details about that can be found there, as well. In Morihei Ueshiba's book on aikido talks about the sho chiku bai throughout its pages, but doesn't discuss the hand postures: ...
The fist is symbolic of fighting or war, the open hand is covering it showing that we come in peace, but are ready for war if that is what the other person wants or brings. The open hand with the fingers straight is also similar to an extended open hand ready to be shaken. With the fingers outstretched towards the other person it's basically showing that we ...
I think this is being over analysed. This is simply a courteous symbol of respect. All martial art instruction emphasises that conflict should be avoided wherever possible. I must admit that I find the idea of different expressions of respect dependent on grade a little bizarre.
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