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What Makes a Sensei?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

The word sensei when translated means 'One Who Came Before' and it is often used interchangeably as a word that means teacher. I spent some time recently thinking about what it really means to be a sensei.

A Sensei is someone who has reached a level of knowledge that allows them to apply what they have learned in a practical way to their life; someone who has a deep understanding for karate and how it has played an important and formative role in their growth and success.

A sensei sees the value of their own karate training and wants to share that with others as they step into the role of accepting the responsibility that comes with leadership by example. They have come to appreciate the presence of their own sensei and want to be part of that process for someone else.

A sensei knows that they have not yet 'arrived' at the destination, but that they are still and always will be on a journey toward becoming better; better at karate, at interpersonal relationships, at goal achievement, at honing integrity and good character, and at recognizing the important role each and every person plays in the fabric of society. Because of this, a sensei knows that they are both a student and a teacher.

A sensei has the uniqe ability to speak encouragement and hope into a student's life, and they realize how enormous this responsiblity is. A sensei is always trying to bring students to and through life's hurdles with courage and integrity; they walk alongside each student not because it is their job but because they care deeply about that student and want to foster a long term positive result in each student's life that will hopefully extend far beyond the dojo walls.

A sensei understands that because they are in a leadership position they are called to serve and bring value to every interaction they have in their life. A sensei isn't just a sensei at the dojo, but takes seriously a 'belief in service' in all areas of life in order to strengthen the community.

A Sensei is someone who is able to help a student learn to redirect negative thoughts, emotions, or actions and will always be willing to bring guidance with integrity into their student's life. This also means that a Sensei will expect high levels of integrity from their students, and sometimes sees fit to give firm and honest feedback in order to help students live up to the karate excellence that is founded on respect, humility, and integrity.

Martial arts practitioners know that training in karate isn't just a sport, but an art. It goes far deeper than learning some moves; at it's heart it is about improvement of oneself in all aspects of life and being a sensei takes that knowledge to the next level in order to share the awesome benefit of karate with others. Being a Sensei is an extension of oneself and should be viewed as an extreme priveledge.

My Sensei is the one who helped me begin to understand that karate isn't just karate, and that a true leader isn't just a spectator in life but someone who takes an active role in the betterment of society. It is because of my sensei that I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a sensei.

~Sensei Jen Davenport

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