WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A MARTIAL ART SENSEI?
What is the Sensei's role? All my life, I have thought that it was to teach, share-- to teach the techniques, share the experiences, applications, body dynamics, history, culture, and traditions of Martial Arts. I still believe that to be true, and it is a big part of teaching anywhere and any kind of Martial Arts.
However, I now believe that the more important role of the Sensei is to inspire and above all, be a role model to the student that is on his first steps into the Martial Arts Journey.
Understand, the students that have the desire to make martial arts their way of life, they want to emulate you, please you, therefore everything you do including bad deeds, someone is paying attention.
I do not mean that the Sensei should be a saint, but you have to understand that when you have the Sensei role, it is a huge weight of your shoulders. Lets let be clear when I say Sensei is directed to everybody that have a responsibility to teach, whatever title your organization gave you: Shihan, Renshi, Kioshi, unlike all these names, Sensei is a role not a title, first and foremost you are a teacher (SENSEI)
A Sensei could encourage a student many ways, by urging, by commanding, by shaming, by humiliating, by stroking and feeding the ego. Not all ways of encouraging a student are positive. What about role model? That is even worse because actions speak louder than words, here is some of the few negative role model behavior you see these days:
1. Do you get drunk with your students, do you drink and drive, have your students witness this nasty and dangerous behavior?
2. Does your GI look like was chewed by a cow when you wear it?
3. Do you find yourself wearing shorts and T-Shirts inside the your Dojo all the time?
4. Do you have a problem with discipline yourself?
5. Do you fart inside of your Dojo and ask your student to sit next to you so they can smell your ugliness?
Believe or not, that happens all the time, and if you found some of your behaviors on that list above, please take a serious inventory of yourself. I’m not saying you have to be a saint, but how you are going to teach people about moderation if you don’t understand the meaning of the word? To be expose to the ridicule is not only bad for your business but also for your reputation, if you care for it anyway.
If a student is motivated by negative factors, his martial arts will be negative. Period. Once negative, it is extremely difficult to change the student's outlook and motivation.
The Sensei must be very careful to positively motivate the student. The student must want to learn for the right reasons, better yet, the student have to see in you the leader they want to be in the future, I don’t know about you, but most people don’t want to send their sons and daughters to a martial school where the teacher is known to drink like a fish and walk around dressing like a homeless person.
Should the student want to be like his Sensei? If so, the Sensei’s behavior will direct his pursuit of the art?? Should the student want to be powerful like his Sensei? Should the student want to have a fine reputation like his Sensei? Whatever the student is motivated by will shape and color his pursuit of the art and his training.
"Students should been motivated by a combination of their Sensei's skill and character -- the combination that makes one a Bushi."
The Sensei must be very careful to make sure that he does not get in the student's way. The Sensei should inspire the student and provide the basics of the art so that the student will reach the point where he can independently pursue the art, but then again is that enough? Experience showed me over and over again that personal behavior speaks louder than the lessons inside of the Dojo, the way you conduct yourself morally and spiritually, worth more than many hours of talking, they may listen to you, but when are not around, they will talk behind your back.
The biggest lesson is taught when you are not around! Think about that for a moment and ask yourself: how my students talk about me when I’m not present?? I have listened to horror stories about Martial Arts instructors told by their own students, better yet, these students often joke about how their instructors behave inside and out of the dojo environment.
To say it again, the Sensei a guide that point the way, how can you guide someone if you are lost?
How can you teach how the student should, honor and respect you if you just don’t even care for your own teacher? I know many fine Martial arts instructors. I cannot think of any who got where they are by being taught each and every thing, but one thing they have in common: they have a Sensei with great morals.
They were not spoon fed Martial Artist. Once they reached a certain level, they became so inspired by their Sensei that their pursuit of Martial Arts could not be stopped. The tribulations of life, work, family, and a million other things, could not hold them back from pursuing their lifelong study of the art, because of the solid moral foundation they got from their first Sensei.
The Sensei inspires and the student strives. The best Sensei cannot teach a student who does not really want to learn that is also true. But once the student sees you as example of a Man or Woman they want to be than the fire of Martial Arts will burns in the student's heart, he can learn whether his Sensei is there or not, they respect you not because your Martial Arts ability, but because of a great human being you are.
The Sensei has done his job when the student becomes self-sustained. At that point, it does not matter whether the student pursues this particular style of that style. It does not matter. What matters is that the student has become one with the spirit of Martial Arts.
That is the role of the Sensei. This is your role if you run a Martial Arts school!
Teaching techniques is important, but remember any monkey can do that. Being a good role model and inspiring the student is the ultimate goal of the Sensei...