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Joining My Dojo

This is a hypothetical. Assume that you are an active yudansha (black belt holder) in another Karate dojo here in Hawaii and you would like to jon my dojo. What should you do?

Think about it. Think about it very hard. If you were in this situation, it could determine your future in Karate.

You should speak to your Sensei and ask him or her to contact me about your desire to join my dojo. I would discuss the situation with your Sensei, and then make a decision about discussing it further with you. I might even go to lunch with your Sensei.

Suppose that you do not want to discuss this with your Sensei and just want to join my dojo. What do you take me for? Do you think that your Sensei will not find out that you have joined my dojo? Do you think that I would not discuss it with him or her? How would it look if I accepted you as a student without showing the proper courtesies to your Sensei? What kind of Sensei would I be?

You may not know it but your Sensei might be my friend. I may know your Sensei very well. Your Sensei may be my senior. I might look up to and respect your Sensei. Your Sensei might know my Sensei!

Even if I do not know your Sensei, even if he or she is my junior, I would show respect. As a Sensei, he or she deserves this.

The saying that Karate begins and ends with courtesy is not just a saying. It is not something that we do only when people are looking. Courtesy is the root of Karate. It guides all of our actions. Courtesy comes first, second, third, and last.

I do not look for new students. I do not seek out experienced Karate yudansha to join my dojo. Actually, just the opposite it true. I would rather have a student who knows no Karate at all! But the most important factor is the student's attitude. Showing the proper courtesies to your current Sensei will show me a lot about your attitude and your understanding of Karate.

If you would join my dojo without showing the proper courtesies to your Sensei, I would expect you to do the same thing to me one day.

Now it may be that you have a horrible Sensei, a tyrant, someone that no one can talk to. I would consider this to be a rare situtation. In the overwhelming number of cases, I would recommend the procedure I have outlined above. In this very rare case, another approach might be appropriate.

I should also add that the above applies to active yudansha. A student who has discontinued training with a Sensei for a sufficient time period can usually begin training with another Sensei more easily. But even here, I would err on the side of being courteous to your former Sensei.

Be very careful -- and polite -- when you seek to train in a new dojo. One day you may have your own students who will learn by your example.


Charles C. Goodin