(Issue 5: Summer/Fall 1998)
Learning Environment in the Dojo
This issue of the technical page instead of being devoted to technical aspects is being used to discuss the creation of a proper learning environment in the dojo. If karate-do is a martial art (as everyone says it is) and a martial art means ''military arts", then to properly teach traditional karate-do an instructor's first priority should be to create a military mind set in their students. Karate taught otherwise becomes sport karate or worse: ballet and nothing else. One of the best methods to achieve this goal in the traditional dojo is for the Sensei, to enforce the Sensei, Sempai and Kohai system.
Sensei = A person to who you entrust yourself to who will cultivate your abilities, physical, mental and spiritual. More than an instructor a sensei is a teacher.
Sempai = One's seniors in a dojo (may be used as a form of address) helps the sensei in the dojo. Looks after the kohai, gives guidance, etc. It is possible for a seventh dan to have a sempai who might be an eighth or ninth dan;
Kohai = One's junior in a dojo (although "sempai'' may be used as a form of address "kohai" should not used as a form of address).
In a traditional karate dojo there are no equals. You either outrank the person you are talking to or they outrank you. This is the same with all traditional military (budo) organizations (dojo). The sensei (could be a sensei with the title Shihan, Renshi, Kyoshi or Hanshi) is there to teach, enforce discipline, and assist the students as they search for the truth in the martial arts. The Sempai are senior students (usually a brown belt) and assist with the teaching and supervising the dojo cleaning when requested to do so. They assure that new students know the rules, etc. The Kohai is the lower ranking student or newer student who should do the following: Suit up; Line up; Shut up, and learn.
William J. Dometrich, Kyoshi
Founder and Chief Instructor
United States Chito-ryu Karate Federation