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Who Is The Senior?

Sometimes you will hear students argue about whose Sensei is the senior. This is something that only students would do, because their Sensei know who the senior is.

Students tend to argue about such matters because they think that the higher their Sensei is, the higher they too are. This, of course, is ridiculous.

I am the senior in my dojo (naturally). However, of my different Karate Sensei, I was not their senior student (not even close). But I have continued to practice when most of the other students have stopped, and have been determined enough to form and maintain a dojo. That is what it takes.

Did my Karate Sensei have other students who were senior to me? Certainly. Do those students continue to practice and teach? Generally not.

Let me ask you this question. Who is more senior, a junior student of Kentsu Yabu or the senior student of Chosin Chibana? Both Yabu and Chibana were students of Anko Itosu. Yabu was clearly the senior in age and in Itosu's group of students. I'm sure that Chibana Sensei would recognizae Yabu as his senior.

However, Chibana Sensei taught much longer and produced many more students. In that sense, Chibana was a far more successful teacher.

So whose student would be senior -- a junior student of Yabu or a senior student of Chibana?

I hope that you get the point. This is only something a student would argue or worry about. In fact, a good student would not -- a good student would simply train hard and respect all his seniors. I am not elevated by my Sensei's status. If anything, I get ahead by hard work and practice.

I respect my Sensei. I respect other Sensei. But that alone will not improve my skill.

I will say this. I feel extremely fortunate to have two fine Sensei of Shorin-Ryu (and a senior friend who coaches me like my own Sensei). When I move, I feel happy. I have the luxury of their experience and refinement -- and their exceptional ability to teach it. On my own, I could not have learned to move the way that I do now (that is an understatement -- on my own I moved like a brick!). But that is not an issue of seniority. They are not skilled because of seniority, but because of their own hard work and insight.

Seniority, rank, and titles are usually very poor measures of skill.


Charles C. Goodin