Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On March - 25 - 2013

senshinIn life we have to say goodbye all the time. It is a difficult thing to do. People become a part of our lives and when they leave, it can be a difficult time. It is the same in karate. We lose students all the time due to relocation, a job change, loss of interest, death and more.

Each year around this time, I have to say goodbye to my students. I teach karate at Mount Allison University is the sleepy little town of Sackville, New Brunswick. The University is pretty much the entire town. When the students leave for the summer the town resembles an old west ghost town. Sometimes, I can imagine a tumbleweed rolling down Main Street.

In the Fall, I get to see old students return and meet new students but when Spring arrives I am only saying farewell to new group of young friends. Over the past 10 years, I have had to say goodbye to so many students I can’t remember them all but there are some that stick out in my mind. Those students I will never forget.

We as instructors sometime do not sit and realize that we are touching the lives of the people that we teach karate to. We are not only karate instructors but mentors, advisers, and friends to our students.

Only having classes for about 8 months makes it difficult to get a student from white belt to black belt. So rarely does it happen for me, only one of my students has ever passed to Shodan. She came to Mount Allison with a brown belt and after her final year at the University she left to continue her education in the United States. I have also had students that came to study at Mount Allison from Japan. Teaching karate to someone from Japan is a huge honor to me. This year, I had a wonderful Japanese student that absorbed the skills like a sponge. She had never training in karate but had a Shodan in Kendo. It was great to watch her test and receive a double pass each time. She went from white belt to orange belt in  her first test and from orange to blue in her second.

This was a huge year for Mount Allison Shotokan Karate. We celebrated our 10th year. One of our students had the chance to go to Japan to study for a few months. We hosted our first grading in years in Sackville when Shihan Maureen Woon-A-Tai came to perform kyu and dan tests. For the first time in a while, Mt. A sent competitors to the Maritime Championship Tournament. Four students and I competed in different divisions and in total we came home with 9 individual medals and 1 team medal. During the Spring Clinic and Kyu exam, 9 students tested and 4 of them skipped belts. This was a huge surprise to me. Usually, you see one or two but to see almost half of your students skip a belt was amazing. I was so proud of them.

This year also saw low points. First a dear friend from the Amherst Shotokan Karate Academy lost her battle with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Our club president, who is graduating this Spring, stopped training due to her busy schedule. Our Japanese student, who was so skilled, will return to Japan in a few short weeks and will not be coming back to Mount Allison.

This time of year is bitter sweet. The Spring Clinic and grading marks the end of the year for us. We get to see our students demonstrate everything that we taught them. I watch like a proud parent. My oldest daughter is around the same age as my students. So sometimes I feel like these are my kids.

There are the students that will return in the fall and I can not wait to see them again. Hopefully, they will return to an instructor who has obtained his Yondan. Those that are leaving will be hard to forget. When I was their age there wasn’t all the technological advances we have today. Back then it was so hard to stay in contact with people. With Facebook and email, I hope to stay in touch with these young people. Even if they have only been part of my life for a brief time, I hope that I have influenced their lives for the better. I am their instructor and my job is to teach them the art of Karate but each year I realize that they teach me so much. I started this journey to Senshin and each year my students help me move further down that road.

Remember your students. They are so important to your development as an instructor.

Categories: Teaching/Training

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