What is a Sensei? What does it mean to be a Sensei?

Almost immediately one visions Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies. Or perhaps an individual that is larger than life with special almost magical powers. A master who can levitate or run across the tops of trees. They envision an ancient wise one who holds in his hands the keys to living, life, and the universe or a powerful mystic warrior who can launch fireballs from the palms of his hands.

With the exception of some of the Mr. Miyagi persona if you think these things you are deluded and have seen way too many movies or played way too many video games. A Sensei is none of these things. Yet in some ways he, or she, is all of them.

Sensei purely translated means teacher. Nothing more. Nothing less. In Japan there are many people who carry the title Sensei. A person who knows and can teach the Tea Ceremony is a sensei. Of course, teachers at schools are sensei.

So in karate what is a Sensei?

Sensei is your teacher. He is there to teach you his art. You must understand that his art is something he takes very seriously. He not only teaches you lessons of proper technique in kata and self – defense but his actions, his non – actions, and his way of living, his life in itself, should be a lesson to his students. He is responsible to guide his students to the “Do” or the way of karate. An ancient Chines proverb reads: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself”. It is Sensei’s job and responsibility to open the door for his students.

Sensei should attempt to live his life in the “way”. He, or she, should demonstrate the importance of training by setting an example for the students. A Sensei should train regularly and maintain a good physical condition.

Most important a Sensei should always help his students. It’s not enough to teach a punch, a block, or a kick. It doesn’t suffice to simply teach the moves of a kata. Sensei should ensure that the student knows the basic fundamentals behind those things. He should stress the basic things and help the student strive to perfect those basics. Sensei should never criticize a student or berate them in front of other students. He should quietly explain to them where they have made a mistake and also give them something positive to reinforce them.

If students have questions, Sensei should be ready to answer them. Answering questions is part of teaching. There are no dumb questions. If a student asks it is because the student doesn’t know. Even if the question is very simplistic Sensei must remember that it may not be to the student.

Sensei is there to help students realize their fullest potential. There can be no ego in this. The student is there to learn. Sensei is there to teach. It is that simple. If Sensei is doing things already mentioned in this writing, he does not have to prove himself to anyone. Ego is destroyed and replaced by responsibility. Many instructors have told me that they refuse to get involved in their student’s personal lives. To an extent I agree with this. However, you cannot expect to interact with people on a regular, often day to day, basis and not care about them to a degree. You have a great responsibility to them in the dojo. If for no other reason than respect for your dojo and your art that responsibility must extend past the door of the dojo and out into the student’s life just as the lessons they learn in the dojo should be carried with them when they leave. You must keep in mind that you are not their psychologist , doctor, parent, or domestic partner. There are lines that you cannot cross. You are Sensei and in being that you are their teacher. The lessons you teach are not just meant for the dojo . You must find a balance between these things and be Sensei.

To be Sensei:

Teach. Wisely and gently

Listen: Honestly

Set the example Reflect the Spirit of Humility in all things

Be a role model Train regularly

Care but set boundaries

Destroy ego. Let your life and character speak for you.

There are thousands of other things you will learn on your own. Even though you may be a Sensei your journey has not ended. You learn every day. Sometimes your wisdom may come from the most unexpected of places. If you stop learning, you stop growing. You must strive to grow for it is you that is setting the example for others to follow.

  1. May 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    The title of your post caught my eye… Sensei. I’m a huge anime/manga fan, so I ‘ve actually gotten familiar with this word. So, yes, you’re right. Sensei means teacher, nothing more, nothing less.

  2. May 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Thank you very much for your comment. i hope you may find other things on the blog that interest you.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: