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Patient Sensei

One of the greatest virtues of a Sensei is patience. It takes a long time to teach the basics of Karate. Some students learn quickly but forget quickly too. Some students learn slowly, but retain the information. All students are different.

A Sensei only has a student for a few hours each week. A student may be having difficulties at work, school, or home. He may even be having medical problems. A Sensei has to deal with many problems that can distract or weaken a student.

Through it all, the Sensei must be patient and encouraging. Most students do not react well to anger and yelling. I always say that if you have to yell at the student, the student does not actually want to learn. If the student really wants to learn, you can just whisper.

Sometimes a student will come to my dojo when he or she is obviously exhausted from a long day of school or work. What can I do in this situation? My attitude is to be understanding. Perhaps the student will feel better the next class.

We teach best when we teach by our own example. If we are enthusiastic about training, our students will be inspired to try harder. If a student does five wrong things and only one right thing, we should find the time to praise that one right thing. Perhaps next week the student will do two right things! Little by little the student will improve until he is doing five right things and only one wrong thing. Who knows, he might even do six things right!

Young instructors are usually very enthusiastic but sometimes not very patient. Patience seems to come with age.

In my case, I was such a slow student and did so many things wrong, that I am very sympathetic to students who might find it difficult to learn. Actually, I feel very confident in my ability to deal with students' mistakes, because I have made many of the same ones myself!

My two Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Prof. Katsuhiko Shinzato and Rodney Shimabukuro, have been so patient and encouraging. In Shimabukuro Sensei's case, he has been that way with me for over thirty years. In all that time, he has never yelled or gotten angry at me, nor has Shinzato Sensei. I know that I have made the same mistakes countless times, and both Sensei have calmly shown me again (and again), urged me to try, and praised my microscopic progress.

When I improved a tiny bit when I visited Shinzato Sensei in Okinawa for the first time, he was so excited and happy that I wanted to improve even more! He was happy for me -- and that made me want to try even harder.

He could have said, "I'm afraid you are hopeless," and that would have been it. I would have probably given up. His encouragement gave me hope.

There are many times in life when we might want to give up. Thank goodness for patient and encouraging Sensei. I know that I am very thankful to my Sensei.


Charles C. Goodin