WHAT IS A SENSEI?
In your study of Karate, no one will be more important than your teacher, your sensei. The word is made up of two ideograms, sen, which means “ahead” or “precede,” and sei, which means “life.” Put together, they create a new word that means “one who is ahead of you in life.” Your sensei, your teacher, is your elder and is deserving of your respect.
In Japan, teachers are considered to be more than just instructors of a particular subject. They are regarded as role models for their students in all aspects of life. Japanese teachers of math or social studies, for example, are expected not only to know about their subjects but also to lead exemplary personal lives, so that their students may look up to them. This is doubly true for a sensei of martial art such as Karate.
You should respect your sensei and behave accordingly, listening carefully to his or her instructions and teachings. Your sensei is someone who has learned much from many years of intense training. They also have your best interest at heart as you pursue your own studies of Karate.
Although they can adapt at will, the Sensei does not change even though outsiders may, as inward ideals and principles remain intact at all times. They persist when there is no apparent reason, give while others take, and ask for no rewards save that of proficiency of mind and body. They forever hold to the way that is their life. That is why they are Sensei. Typically, it takes the experience of teaching many students to produce a worthwhile Sensei. Having one is worth taking care of.
What is a Sempai?
A Sempai is senior and precedes you only in relation to a particular discipline; in this case, it is karate. In the dojo, a Sempai may very well still be a student themselves but, will not hesitate to help you in your learning and the instruction you receive from your Sensei. Since the Sempai is a student, like yourself, he or she is often in a good position to understand your frustrations and you’re learning needs.
Sempai should be recognized in the same manner you would honour your Sensei. Just as you respect their knowledge, they respect their responsibility toward you as a Kohai (student) and yourself discovery.
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