Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On September - 24 - 2017

Nakayama, Funakoshi, Okazaki

What makes a person a Sensei?

There are a lot of factors involved but what gives a person the ability to call themselves Sensei?

Ok, first what does the word mean? Sensei translates to “one who has gone before” or “one who has walked the path ahead”. It synonymous with the term “teacher” but in Japan even someone older than you can be called Sensei. It just means someone that has experienced more than you. In the Martial Arts, Sensei is considered the instructor at the dojo where you are training.

Now what allows a person to hold the title of Sensei? This depends on the martial art, dojo, organization, etc.

For example, if a martial artist opens their own dojo, they are considered the Sensei. Are they qualified, that is another issue and I will get to that.

In some styles/organizations/dojos, as soon as the student achieves their black belt (Shodan) they are given the title Sensei. I had a new student once that came to the dojo with a black belt (they received a Shodan at their former dojo) embroidered with their name preceded by the word “Sensei”. This new student insisted on being called Sensei. When I explained how it works in the IKD, the student left and never returned.

Other groups adorn their black belts with the title of Sensei at Nidan (2nd Black Belt), some not until Sandan (3rd Black Belt) and so on.

Since I started training, I have been part of the JKA, ISKF and now IKD. Each group has a program to prepare qualified instructors. The men and women enrolled in these programs are required to complete 40 or more special training courses with Qualified Masters. Then they have to write 40 or more research papers on specific karate related topics. Finally, they have to pass 4 separate exams, 8 to earn examiner qualifications. There are 4 levels to the program with each level requiring the student to be a certain rank to complete (3rd Dan and up). Upon completion of the program you should hold the rank of 7th Dan and be considered a Master.

But to be called a Sensei in a dojo this is not required. Martial arts is not regulated by any outside group. Therefore, anyone can start a dojo and teach. This can lead to a great deal of poorly trained people or people that have no idea about true martial arts. If you are looking for a dojo for yourself or your children, then be sure to question the instructor’s qualifications. Research the organization, instructor and dojo. Watch a few classes.

There are thousands of martial arts instructors out there, some that are highly qualified and others that should not be teaching at all. Make sure that you research. Just because you wear a black belt shouldn’t mean that you are a Sensei. I think that it is an honor that need to be earned.


Categories: Teaching/Training

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