The Making Of A Sensei

By EricComments Off on The Making Of A Sensei

A black belt doesn’t automatically make the wearer a teacher. Technically speaking, a Sensei is a martial artist who has achieved a rank of 3rd Dan (third degree black belt) although the term is generally used towards any black belt who teaches.

My Sensei, Sandy Tomeselli of Humble, Texas said something to me the day I earned my black belt, “Earning your black belt doesn’t mark the end of your learning, but the beginning.” At the time, I was of the “yeah, right” mentality but have since realized the wisdom of his words. In fact, he went out of his way to PROVE it to me.

Sandy’s other saying, “There are no bad students, only bad instructors,” held no true meaning to me. As far as students went, I was there to teach if they were there to learn. It wasn’t my business and I wasn’t concerned about Mom and Dad paying Junior’s tuition. By my way of thinking, he or she should be happy to learn and if not, then they shouldn’t be in class wasting my time.

While many readers may wonder why a student would be there if NOT to learn, others have probably run across the baby-sitting scenario. For $30-$50 a month, Mom and Dad can have three nights a week off while the child is dropped off and forgotten at the dojo (karate school).

The child isn’t interested in martial arts and even if he or she was, the endless repetition of stances, blocks and basic kicks creates the longest hour known to man. When their first session at learning a Kata comes around, the child is usually ready to duck out the back door or even beg Mom to LET him take the garbage out.

All too often, the parent will give in to the excuses for not going to class that day and eventually they stop trying. Once this has happened, the child has lost out on learning the arts and the teacher has lost out on the opportunity to learn from the child.

A true Sensei must not only want to teach, they must enjoy doing so. They aren’t in it for the money or the recognition. A Sensei needs to be patient, especially when teaching children. This not only was the hardest lesson for me to learn, it was one of the first my Sensei insisted on.

To do this, Sandy made arrangements for me to teach karate at a day care three days a week. The ages of my students were 7 to 12 and they weren’t like any students I had tried to teach before. Nor was I accustomed to the atmosphere.

At the daycare I had two choices, hold class in the great outdoors or in a large room that adjoined all the classrooms. While the indoor room had the advantage of air conditioning, level floors and such, it had the distractions of all the comings and goings of the center. The area where I could hold class outdoors was under some pine trees near the road.

The students were there regardless of whether they took karate, so class was a way of breaking up the boredom until come other interest would come along. Discipline and attention span both left a great deal to be desired.

Nothing in all the years of participating in martial arts ever tried my patience, ingenuity, self-discipline or determination, as did those few months. At the same time, I don’t think I ever learned as much either.

No two students were anything at all alike. None of them learned at the same pace but they did learn. Some had to be humored while others cajoled. I had one that simply wanted to stand in the ring and do nothing and another who was looking for an opportunity to hit someone.

While the summer eventually ended and my teaching days at the daycare ended, those months of learning have stood me in good stead while showing me all the different aspects of what makes up a true Sensei.

Just what does make up a true Sensei?

Patience, flexibility, consideration, moderation, self-control, self-discipline, patience, ingenuity, understanding, concern, respect, modification, patience, humor at self and the world at large, patience, training, open-mindedness, cajolery, diplomacy, tenacity that borders on stubbornness, a thick skin and a lack of ego. Oh, did I mention patience?

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