Brian Kagen pick: “Sempai – Kohai Relationship: Week of July 19, 2009” by Marc Abrams

“The Sempai – Kohai relationship is an integral part of Japanese societal structure. The word “Sempai” can be understood to mean your senior (someone who is senior to you in rank, or if the same rank, senior to you in experience). The word “Kohai” can be understood to mean your junior. I speak about these two roles in terms of an important relationship that exists in a healthy dojo environment.

A person who is senior to another student has an obligation to pass on what he/she has learned to the person who is of junior status. This obligation is to see to it that the junior person learns about the dojo environment and it’s rules and expectations. This obligation extends to being there to as a support to that junior person in what ever manner available and appropriate. If you expect the junior person to be able to listen to your advice, learn from you and respect your role as a more senior student, then respect and caring must begin with how you treat the junior student. It would be ridiculous for you to expect that junior to look to you for advice when you are not respectful and considerate to this person. If you try and demonstrate your seniority through “superior” technique while not allowing the junior member to experience “success” in that person’s technique, then you are simply better than that person in technique at the present time. However, the lack of proper positive connection that is integral in Aikido, which is not being demonstrated, speaks volumes. The role of Sempai can be akin to one of being a mentor. This role of imparting wisdom and learning reflects the positive connection between people that manifests itself in true levels of growth in your Aikido. This is a role that people need time to grow into. There will be successes and failures along the way. Do not keep a score card of these irrelevant statistics. The relevance will become apparent in your relationships within the dojo community.”

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