The spirit towel in the LaBounty lineage of American Kenpo is both traditional and functional. Beginning in the 60's, the motto of LaBounty's lineage has been "Spirit, Honor, Discipline", taken from three Japanese words: "Seishin, Meiyo, Kiritsu". When worn, the Kanji for "Spirit" is displayed and visible, thus earning it the name of 'Spirit Towel'.
Ancient warriors used towels for many things such as the cleaning of tools, weapons, and utensils. One of these towels, the Spirit Towel, was a special towel used for their battles. It was held in high esteem and accompanied them everywhere. Traditionally, towels like this were used to bind wounds and protect injuries, though its most common usage was to wipe the sweat from one's eyes.
When worn today, the 'Spirit Towel' should not cover the knot of the rank belt. It is customary to have the towel on the left side for men and the right side for women, but not mandatory. The towel should always be worn to the front or to the side. The towel may be used freely as it was intended, but any blood should be washed out immediately.
The proper way to fold the spirit towel is to place it kanji down. The side now facing up without markings is know as the "Honor" side. Take the left hand side and fold that third of the towel towards the center. Next, fold the right hand third of the towel to the center. Once this is done, the towel is folded in half. This puts the kanji for "Discipline" on one side and the kanji for "Spirit" on the other. The respective Kanji represents the Physical and Spiritual aspects of the Art. Some have likened this to the "Tiger and Dragon" symbols so common in Kenpo. The towel is then placed on the belt so that the "Spirit" Kanji is visible.
Let the 'Spirit Towel' remind you that all details matter and should be done with as much spirit as possible, while conducting yourself in a disciplined way that will honor yourself, your teacher, and your system.
Relation To AIK:
It is common to see the Spirit Towel in use by members of The American Insititute of Kenpo. It is used most commonly used to wipe the sweat from one's eyes.