For love of the art
There exists in every dojo a unique relationship.
It exists between the students, and the teacher, who is referred to in a dojo as, "sensei".
For a great many reasons this relationship is often difficult to explain, especially to anyone "on the outside of the dojo looking in" since for the most part these people only tend to "see what they think they see".
To some of these onlookers the sensei may simply be seen as the person who stands at the head of the class and gives instructions to the students, which they then follow until the class is over.
To others, the sensei may simply be seen as someone they can entrust their three children to, so they can then happily go off shopping for an hour or two.
To still others, the sensei may simply be seen as someone they pay money to each month, in the hope that the children they drive to the dojo will finally find the manners, courtesy, and respect that they are so often lacking both at school, and at home.
Few things in life, however, are what they seem to be on the surface, and a sensei is no exception.
So just what is a sensei?
That is a question that few people will ever really find the answer to, and for one very simple reason.
To truly find the answer to the question, "what is a sensei", what you really need to do is, sign up for karate, put on a gi, then step inside a good dojo, and then train under the watchful eye of a very dedicated and reputable sensei for the next twenty years.
Even then there is no guarantee that you will have the answer that you seek, but, by the end of the twenty years I can assure you that you will at least be walking in the right direction in your search for the answer.
If, however, you are like many people in our fast paced, fast food world, and you want the answer "now" rather than later, then perhaps you might start by asking some of those students who enter a dojo each day and willingly leave their sweat on the floor in payment for all that they will learn.
The knowledge they seek is not free of course, it must be earned.
Their payment is the minutes, hours, days, months, and years, spend in proper repetitive practice under the sensei's constant gaze and in a dojo where the sensei plays no favourites. At each level of their progress the student will find that the intensity, and the work load, will constantly be increased in keeping with any new rank that they achieve.
To newer students, the sensei will be patient and understanding, gently giving over the basic building blocks of the art Shotokan karate while at the same time making it quite clear that there is no room for improvisation.
To the middle kyu ranks the sensei will be more demanding, seeking more accuracy, and even greater effort, leaving no doubt in the minds of these students that the effort that got them to where they are, is not nearly enough to take them where they want to go, still more practice is needed.
To the senior kyu ranks on the other hand, the sensei will be a hard task master, seemingly never satisfied with their technique or the effort they put out. Instead the sound of, "mo ichi do" will constantly ring in their ears, especially as they draw ever closer to their Sho Dan exam, and its tightly held promise of a black belt, and the title of sempai.
To the senior Yudansha, or senior black belts in the dojo, their relationship with the sensei will only now be at the point where this unique student - teacher bond will be on the verge of taking it's first early steps. Built up over their many years of loyalty and hard training under the sensei's guidance, these particular students might, if asked, categorized their sensei as, a mentor, a father figure, a confident, an inspiration, or even a friend.
Yet in truth a sensei can be all of these things at once, or none of these things at all.
But one thing is certain, as a teacher, and the students main source of information on the why, the when, and the how of karate-do, a sensei usually will see a student and their problems in a way that they rarely see themselves.
As a result of an unbiased viewpoint and years or teaching and training the sensei will always know what to impart to each individual student, and when they will need the knowledge. For the primary goal of the sensei, above all else, is to take those students in their care as far down the karate-do road as possible, this means the goal is "for life".
Because of this goal it is not uncommon for a sensei's teaching and ideals to extend beyond the walls of the dojo, spilling over into other areas of a students life at home, at work, or into the company of friends, and family.
Although they can adapt at will, a true Sensei does not change even though outsiders may, their inward ideals and principles will remain firmly intact at all times. They will persist when there is no apparent reason, they will give while others take, and they will ask for no reward, save that of loyalty, and proficiency in mind, body, and spirit.
That is why they are Sensei.
So seek one for yourself and when you find what you are looking for hold on tight, never let go, respect them, follow their lead, and in time if the fates are kind, you too may one day find yourself, standing at the head of the class, all for the love of the art.
Understanding what you think you know,
is the hardest part of learning.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay