Mary wrote: There is more involved in the relationship than simply seniority. There is an obligation, acceptance, service, and responsibility that go along with being a senior.
In my old karate dojo, we formally (or informally) would form a sempai/kohai relationship. Sempai was responsible for meeting with kohai outside of normal practice, before class, after class, and also working with them during class to ensure that they were "on track" and doing fine. Sempai had an obligation to ensure that kohai developed and progressed.
I think the same is true, if not formally, in spirit. There is much more than simply seniority.
I think it's this obligation, kind of like an older brother who cares for his siblings, which has been one of the more interesting elements of my own training. Personally, it's made my dojo feel more like a home than some remote location for learning things and I think that adds something pretty special. Both of the dojos I've spent any real time at had this feeling for me. I think this ties into what you were saying ealier about trust because it's often that kind of thing which has kept me training when I wasn't as motivated, which has hit me pretty hard at one time or another.
As a student, this has made me want to be more active in helping my
kohai (particularly after digesting so much of what has been expressed in this thread!). Having received so much from some pretty great folks instills in me a sense of that obligation to pay it forward. On a side note, dojos can be pretty facinating societal microcosms. It would be nice to see more of the kind of things we're talking about here expressed in the "regular" world. I've rarely been in a work environment where nurturing the development of a coworker was taken so seriously...the construction field being perhaps the exception. There's something about having a craft and passing it along to the newer generation.