Membership in our dojo fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie. We are all learning together, and we are all traveling along a road – or a “lifelong marathon,” as a famous Japanese karate master called it. The word “sensei” in Japanese literally means “born earlier;” furthermore, one student who is senior in rank compared to a second student is known as a “senpai” to that (second) student, where “senpai” in Japanese means simply “earlier member or colleague.” Both of those terms, which are commonly heard in a Japanese karate dojo, connote a sense that teachers, senior students, and junior students are simply at different points along the same path.
The nature of these relationships among teachers and students of all ages and experience levels is explained and emphasized through our interactions in the dojo. In order to make all of this work, courtesy and respect towards others is taught and practiced.
Another social skill, or more correctly social virtue, that is emphasized is loyalty or fidelity. The sensei puts the safety, well-being, and development of each student above all other matters. For minor children, the sensei communicates with the parents to ensure that mutual expectations are being met by our training. And for all students, they are expected to show fidelity to their teachers by being serious and trying their best in class, and by practicing at home in between classes.
Finally, we expect and hope that most of our students, particularly the younger ones, will assume leadership roles in the dojo. To this end, we rely heavily on mentoring, whereby more experienced students are asked to assist or teach newer students. Beyond that, once a student progresses to an advanced level, at the high school age or above, they will be asked to lead classes or portions of classes. We want them to discover first-hand the great truth that to teach something is to learn about it in a whole new way.