The Role of Sensei

April 20, 2018 sensei

      Sensei roughly translates to “One who has come before”, this does not suggest that we know all there is to know about our art.  Instead, the meaning points at the truth. We are just a little farther down the pathand are here to help you navigate it.  We, a Sensei, cannot and do not want to just give you the answers. Our goal is to guide you to the revelations you are ready to understand.  Parents do not choose how their children act, they can only provide example and guidance. This is what the Sensei does for the student.

     Imagine learning a Martial Art as a path through the woods.  This path has many entrances, exits, splits, cliffs, and dead ends.  You know where you want to end but are not sure how to get there.  The Sensei is your guide, showing you where to turn, letting you go the wrong way every once and a while to learn an important lesson, but always around to bring you back to the right path.  Your Sensei provides a light when you can’t see the way ahead and keeps you grounded. We slow you down when needed. Push you harder when you’re being lazy. We show you new material, introduce different concepts and remind how much you still have to learn when your ego gets ahead of you.  Over time your Sensei becomes a role model, a symbol of what you hope to become, and we hope you become better than we are.

     At some of the splits on your path, there are cliffs, steep walls of intimidating height looming up in front of you.  They are climbable, but just barely and you are more likely to fall and have to go backward than you are to make it to the top.  Your Sensei can guide you past these dangerous cliffs, walk you to the top to enjoy the same view without the same danger. We could show you how to catch a punch and roll it into an arm lock on your first day but you certainly get punched in the face many times and probably never figure out how to do it well.  So instead we teach you to move out of the way and block the first day.  Then you learn to circle our arms. We show you the easiest way to catch the punch next.  Over time you learn to flow from move to move until, finally, you are able to roll their punch into the arm lock.

      Martial Arts movies have enjoyed a long history of turning the Sensei, Sifu, or mast into something mystical, a person with knowledge and power beyond that of normal humans. Mr. Myagi from the Karate Kid, healed his student’s leg, IP Mann from any of the various IP Mann movies fought what seemed like hundreds of foes without breaking a sweat, and Oogway from Kung Fu Panda hand an impressive control over chi.  Sensei’s have a high standard to be measured against but we accept the challenge gratefully because our role is an important one.  We are not mystical, just PRACTICED.