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100% Sensei

Sometimes I hear comments from students about their Sensei. "My Sensei is a great instructor except for...."

You can fill in the ellipses with any number of character faults or weaknesses. For example, a Sensei might have a bad temper, be unreliable, drink too much in public, etc. It is a case of a person who good at Karate but...

I am certainly not a perfect person -- far from it. But I understand that students will not judge me solely on the level of my technical skill or how well I teach Karate. I teach that Karate helps to develop your character. My students will certainly look at how well I am doing (or trying to do) in that regard.

I never tell students that they should leave a Sensei or go to a certain Sensei. That decision is up to them. However, I do say that I would not train with a Sensei who I respect 80% or 90%. If I did not respect a Sensei 100%, I would not train with him.

Let's say I respect a Sensei 90%. If I learn from him for many years, wouldn't I also learn the 10% I do not respect? In fact, I think it is more likely that at least some students would get more than the negative 10%.

If a Sensei has a really bad temper, for example, I would expect that his students would "catch" that and teach the same way. Even if the Sensei was great at Karate, a mediocre student would probably learn to be angry, even if he never learns to be good at Karate.

I wonder how many students have gone out drinking after Karate training or events? I don't mean a drink or two -- I mean hardcore drinking. What a waste or time (in my opinion), especially if the student feels pressured to do so.

I wonder how many students had egotistical Sensei, and then spent the rest of their lives demanding respect from their own peers and students. What another waste of time!

A Sensei is a little bit like a medicine or a vitamin -- you wouldn't want to take one that is only 80% good for you.

I am not perfect. No one is perfect. But we can work to become the best we can be in Karate, and to become the best we can be in terms of our character. I expect my students to expect this of me, and I would expect the same of any Sensei with whom I would train -- and certainly of any Sensei with whom my children would train.

I want to add that most Sensei I meet are truly admirable and respectable people. They are people I look up to. I'm sure that you know many fine Sensei yourself. At the same time, you might have met or heard about some Sensei who are good but.


Charles C. Goodin