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Honoring a Sensei

Sometimes I am asked by students what the best way is to honor a Sensei who has passed away. Over the years, I have heard and seen different approaches.

One is to raise a monument to the Sensei.

Another is to promote him posthumously.

Another is to have a magnificent ceremony.

Another is to write books and articles about him.

But the way that I would recommend is to sincerely practice what he has taught. Monuments just take up space and birds will make a mess on them. Posthumous promotions are irrelevant. A ceremony is good, as long as it is a celebration of the Sensei's life and accomplishments rather than a political event. Books and articles may be good, again if they celebrate and document the Sensei's life and accomplishments.

Sometimes, students try to build up their Sensei in order to build up themselves. I have even been asked if the death of a Sensei automatically results in the promotion of all students by one level. Of course not!

When a Sensei dies, we should honor his life and memory by practicing what he taught, both in the dojo and in our daily lives. That is the greatest tribute.

Before he passed away in 1998, I had the privilege of meeting Sensei Tomu Arakawa only one time (at the Blaisedale Center during an Okinawan expo when Mr. Nakasone from Shureido was visiting). But today I get to meet him every time I meet and train with his senior students, such as Sensei Alan Lee and Sensei Kyle Nakasone. Because they carry on his teachings, I can meet Arakawa Sensei through them. They honor their Sensei each and every day by their actions. This makes me think that Arakawa Sensei was truly a great Sensei. His students are his monument!

One last thing, you certainly don't have to wait for your Sensei to die to do this. While he is living you can honor him through your sincere and dedicated practice.


Charles C. Goodin