What is a Karate Sensei Actually Trying to Do?


karate senseiNot many people know what a real Karate sensei is trying to do. Too often people enter a karate lesson, learn to bow and address the teacher as Sensei, and don’t even know what the word means. This is true not just of karate, but of other arts, such as Kenpo or Kung Fu, which have taken to using the term to indicate a martial arts instructor. To understand the word sensei, however, is to change one’s mind about what the martial arts are all about.

In Japan there is a three year sojourn for budding monks. During this time they must live by begging. They sit where people pass by and hold their cups out and silently beg.

One of the places they sit at is at crossroads. People pass by, toss a coin in the cup, and travel on. And, occasionally, people ask for instructions.

The monk, who after a time of living in such a manner actually looks like a bum, merely holds up his arm and points down the road. Thus, he points the way, and this is what the word sensei means: ‘He who points the way.’ And this term has been taken and used by people who are guiding others through a specific method to a specific destination.

Now, the unfortunate fact is that many martial arts instructors don’t point the way. Martial Arts have exploded across culture so fast that proper teachings have been left by the wayside. Thus, many karate sensei are in it solely so they can be bowed to.

Thus, real information is put aside, and the teaching method has slanted for the person who wishes to teach people. But a real martial arts teacher doesn’t teach people; he teaches martial arts. And there is a huge and vast difference to be understood here.

The fellow who teaches people is looking for a wage, to dominate, to make sure he is alpha dog. The fellow who teaches martial arts doesn’t care about being alpha dog, he just wants to present material that will lead the student down the path. The question is…the path to what?

A martial art teacher with no real knowledge will point to trophies, to domination, to winning no matter what the cost. A martial art instructor who has not traveled the way himself will push people, demand discipline, and make people monkey see monkey do what he doesn’t really understand himself. A true Karate sensei presents the material, then gets out of the way.

Fortunately, there is a course that is not monkey see monkey do, but actually works the way old time teachings are supposed to work. Karate sensei everywhere, if they want to be legitimate and true, should look to the Master Instructor Course at Monster Martial Arts.

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