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Ryu, Juku, or What?

I have written a little about whether the art I am very lucky to practice is a ryu (style) or a juku (private training group). Generally, we say that we are the latter.

However, if you were to ask me, even that is overly formal. I do not really consider myself to be part of a ryu or a juku or of anything. I consider myself to be a student. My relationship with my Sensei is what counts and what defines me in terms of my Karate life.

If my Sensei says that we practice a ryu, I would agree. If he says that we practice a juku, I would agree. If he says that we are just playing and having a good time, I would agree with that too. The words and titles don't matter.

When most people think about their Sensei, they might focus on his technical skill. You might hear that a Sensei is a master or a great technician.

When I think about my Sensei, I do not think about his technical skill first. My first thought is of how kind he was to allow me to become his student.

Some people might think: "but you are the head of the Hawaii Karate Museum and a Karate writer." I would say, yes, despite that my Sensei allowed me to become a student! How kind he was.

There is no Karate per se. There is only the relationship between Sensei and students. Karate is a result of that relationship.

I hope that you are fortunate enough to have a kind Sensei, one you can respect and learn from without reservations. If you do, the name of your system -- whether it is a ryu, a juku, or whatever -- will not matter.


Charles C. Goodin