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Old 01-05-2008, 06:21 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Sempai kohai differences

Hi folks,
after training (small class, 3 of the 5 of us being pretty high ranking) today I was thinking about how much fun it was training with those super experienced sempai. Just 3 questions for y'all:
1. what do you find usefull about training with "noobs"?
2. what do you find most useful about training with "very" experienced sempai?
3. Do you have a preference between the two and why?

Take care, everyone (and happy new year..even if it's several days late),
Matt

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 01-05-2008, 06:37 PM   #2
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

No preference.

1. I like training noobs. They hold you accountable, and you must concentrate on the details. Also, I like the raw challenge and the complete innocence they bring into the situation.

2. I like training with experience sempai as well. They challenge you, help you find gaps and holes in what you are doing, exploiting those areas so the sensei can come around and fix it.

Both are necessary.

In order to improve you have to train with three types:

1. People that are not as good as you.
2. People on the same level as you.
3. People that are better than you.

All three are important.

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Old 01-05-2008, 07:14 PM   #3
Joseph Madden
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Training with an inexperienced student can be trying at times and even impossible. Some students don't care a wit about how you are supposed to perform a technique and will never grasp or want to grasp the technique. For these students some seniors choose to ignore them completely. This can be dangerous for the next junior unfortunate enough to train with this particular noob. The "technique" the noob feels they have grasped can be doubly dangerous for the next junior. These types of students quickly learn to leave the dojo before they get hurt by a senior not willing to put up with their level of training. Some people you just can't teach. This may be completely indicative of Western sensibilities although I'm sure it occurs in the East as well. Working with some senior students can be terrific if the senior student is not ego centric. If they are, learning from them can be a chore if you cannot place your own ego aside. My rule is work with anybody committed to building a relationship with you in the dojo who truly wants to learn. Learning how to tell the difference between those merely there to look cool and not caring about learning anything and those committed students is an art in itself, although you can usually tell the noobs from the boons.
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Old 01-05-2008, 07:51 PM   #4
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
1. what do you find usefull about training with "noobs"?
2. what do you find most useful about training with "very" experienced sempai?
3. Do you have a preference between the two and why?
1) I like training with new folks because it forces me to s.l..o....w down a bit. On some nights I can get a little too speedy which usually serves to "try" and cover up the flaws. By slowing down I also have to focus on getting the details correct.

2) I like training with more experienced folks because they point out the times I am too "nice." I guess a different way to say NICE is when I am not executing the technique with enough (of the right) energy behind it to actually take the center, unbalance and redirect the flow.

3) No big overarching preference really... on the nights where I have more energy I try to partner with the sempai and on nights where I have lower energy I try to get the kohai... Unfortunately, those nights where I have a preference are the nights where I may really benefit from the opposite oh well, such is life.
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Old 01-05-2008, 07:52 PM   #5
Laurel Seacord
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

In my dojo we have the saying, "If you can't teach it then you aren't doing it right". One of the best ways to master a technique is to teach it to someone else so that it really becomes a part of you.

I learn a lot simply by taking ukemi from my sempai, too, so I know how it's supposed to feel.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:09 PM   #6
Ryan Sanford
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

I've only been training for a year and 4 months now (and loved it entirely ) so I'm still in the category of kohai most of the time. I like training with the advanced sempai of the dojo because Sensei can't get around to correct everyone every time.

Oh, and being a kohai, I hope people find me at least a little useful.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:18 PM   #7
crbateman
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

I can't really generalize... I have trained with some very talented, engaging and fun "noobs" and with some really irritating or just plain BAD yudansha. And vice versa. It's more of a case-by-case thing. Of course, it helps to go with the flow, and train down a little or step up your game based on who you're training with. All a part of blending.
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:09 AM   #8
BilltheDestroyer
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Laurel Seacord wrote: View Post
I learn a lot simply by taking ukemi from my sempai, too, so I know how it's supposed to feel.
I have to agree with this strongly. In training with the higher ranks you can emphasize a more realistic attack. I find that when I provide a firm grip from a static position, I can really get a feel for how I'm being moved by most Yudansha. As far as I can tell, the best way to learn is to take ukemi from someone who knows, and to try to feel the technique. I have been trying to get into the habit off asking instructors to "please, let me feel it" whenever I can. Usually they're cool about it.

On the other hand, its usually the ‘noob' that can provide the least lenient of all attacks we can hope to receive; as we progress from mudansha to yudansha, I suspect we gain a certain expectation for uniform attack that simply won't exist on the street. Perhaps what we can learn the most from the new guy is that most people out on the street are going to throw a punch exactly the same way he does on his very first day.

Its probably also worth mentioning that when you have to explain something to someone you usually have to be able to make it work, so it'll keep you honest.
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Old 01-06-2008, 01:20 AM   #9
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Well to answer my own post now that I have a bit more time...

Like most folks, I like both for different reasons and overall don't have a preference most of the time. I tend to think a bit like Clark in that for me it's usually a case by case basis. Different personalities seem to be more beneficial than different proficiencies...AND I've found different people excel at different movements. I can't say as I've trained with any bad yudansha, but I'm not really very widely experienced. I've had some great pointers given by sempai and kohai alike, though I almost always learn more from my sempai...that is to say, my techniques get stronger training with them because they'll counter my movements more often, forcing me to keep my centerline and structure more alive and powerful. On the other hand, training with kohai gives me more opportunity to teach, which as was mentioned, can really help in considering what's happening. It wasn't until I began teaching a kids' class at our dojo that I feel my training really began to take off, for example. Newer students also have forced me to "catch" my partners' center more (not that I'm very consistant) and to take out the slack such as when shihonage turns into a ballroom dancer's double turn (I think that's what it's called). There have been a couple guys who took me too literally when I told them to try and hit me with their free hand, one in particular who kept trying to count coup on me and I gotta say it really gave me a good chance to practice my timing. His strikes weren't powerful, but they were fairly quick and sincere.

Does anyone have any good stories to relate of learning from kohai?
Cheers,
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 01-06-2008 at 01:22 AM.

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Old 01-06-2008, 07:58 AM   #10
Mark Uttech
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Training with new people, you get a fresh look at your ukemi and your expectations as nage. If you are paying attention, you get the same thing when training with seniors. I think that is why the art of aikido emphasizes training with many people, all different kinds. Hmmm, that makes it a life-long endeavor doesn't it? You only have to make the effort to keep going.

In gassho,

Mark

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Old 01-06-2008, 08:07 AM   #11
SeiserL
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

No preference.
Different energy.
Just train.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 01-06-2008, 02:39 PM   #12
Amir Krause
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hi folks,
after training (small class, 3 of the 5 of us being pretty high ranking) today I was thinking about how much fun it was training with those super experienced sempai. Just 3 questions for y'all:
1. what do you find usefull about training with "noobs"?
2. what do you find most useful about training with "very" experienced sempai?
3. Do you have a preference between the two and why?

Take care, everyone (and happy new year..even if it's several days late),
Matt
1. With "noobs" it is fun to train,since their reactions are natural and thus often surprising and unpredictable, unlike the typical trained reaction, "noobs" react in many strange ways. Including improbable resistence.
Some "noobs" must feel each echnique is real, and insist on feeling it fully. While many slightly more experianced people, have learned their lessons of pain, and give in too soon.

2. My Sempai are more sensitive and advanced then me (P.S. I practice for ~17 yrs by now, only a couple of sempai left for my sorrow, but the same is true for a few other B.B. who are around my level, and some of which have practiced other M.A. at high level too). Thus I can learn of my openings and of pointers to improve. I also work on improving the power of my techniques (utilizeng the "same technique" on a beginner is at time too dangerous and one must hold back).
It is also possible to take advantage of the sempai improved control to examine more chalenging situations (multiple attacks with resistence) in a controled and gradual way.

3. Who do I like best. Each has its own benefits. At times I like the more advanced stuff. Which is also humbling seing I still have lots to learn.
At times I feel like putting an hand with the beginners, and see if I can get a sense of their actions.

Amir
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:47 PM   #13
Larry John
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Matt,

You posed an interesting question, and got some very useful answers, so here's one that may be a bit provocative for all of us:

How much fun do the folks in each of the categories Matt listed think it is to train with each of us?

Larry

Larry
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:21 PM   #14
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Larry John wrote: View Post
Matt,

You posed an interesting question, and got some very useful answers, so here's one that may be a bit provocative for all of us:

How much fun do the folks in each of the categories Matt listed think it is to train with each of us?

Larry
Hi Larry,
hard to say I think. I know I'm in that dangerous middle ground where I know just enough to begin offering advice, but not enough to feel very confident about it. I know I personally tend to "tank" a little more often than most of the folks in my dojo and that can be frustrating to someone who's pretty earnest about getting strong feedback.
This saturday's training for me was certainly filled with the nice feeling of getting a lot of experienced help with my waza. At times I felt a bit self-conscious that when my sempai were training, they got to really work on making technique work with greater experience. When I trained with them, the flow was often interupted. I didn't get the impression they were bugged by it in the least, but I think I saw a different level of enjoyment when they got to train with each other. So in both cases I think it was fun...just a different kind of fun.
Take care,
Matt

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Old 01-06-2008, 05:26 PM   #15
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Here's a really nice article by Chiba sensei on this topic of training with partners of different levels:

http://www.aikidoonline.com/Archives..._tkc_1098.html

-- Jun

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Old 01-06-2008, 05:36 PM   #16
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Good question Larry!

Not hard for me to answer as Kevin refers to himself in the third person, and I can look at myself objectively and say I am a rather fun and enjoyable person to train with! Can't everyone do this?

Seriously,

I do wonder sometimes. Matt brings up the same issues that I have. I know I can be a pain in the ass for people sometimes! I hate bad aikido, bad ukemi, and bad attacks...life is too short to train poorly!

However, the catch is this...as Matt puts it...How do you walk that fine light between being a horses ass, and given a honest attack/response?

I try and be sensitive to this when working with people to give them what they "need". However sometimes what they need, and what they want, and what I want and need...don't line up! Then what do you do? Do you tank it? Do you continue to feed them the fluff? Do you push their buttons? What is honest? Right?

Sometimes I think it is difficult to tell.

Jim Mockus came up to me at the end of class the other night and said " I hope you don't think I am being a "...." . I said absolutely NOT! He was concerned because I was not being very successful, and he was working hard to ensure that I was not! Sure it is frustrating, but that is my issue, his stuff was spot on, and challenging...life is too short for bad training!

Not sure if "fun" and "enjoyable" are always the right things to be concerned with. After all, I don't think I have seen that these are the goals of aikido or budo. Fun and enjoyable don't always equate to happiness! (I am trying to explain this to my 8 year old!).

That said, I think we do need to be sensitive as sempai to the kohai in our organizations to ensure that they are being mentored and brought up properly, and not left out there hanging helplessly in a pool of self doubt and frustration. A little encouragement, and attention go along way to making the overall process "fun" and "enjoyable"..however, I think that this is not the goal.

Anyway...enough rambling on about this.

Good counter question Larry! See you this week sometime!

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Old 01-06-2008, 05:46 PM   #17
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

You know...I just got to thinking about this a little bit more.

I think it is important to go a little deeper into the relationship of sempai/kohai.

Trust.

Trust is what the process is all about.

We have to have a deep enough relationship in training with our fellow mates in the dojo and ensure that we take time to understand them...especially as senior sempai.

Everyone is different. Noobs (kohai) all come with a different set of emotions, abilties, situations, hangups, baggage, expectations etc.

Sempai have the responsibility to look deeper into them. That is, more than just the ma'ai and kamae prior to the interaction in the dojo.

If we take time to do this...we will develop a deeper understanding of them, and what the "need"...maybe not what they "want".

If we get their trust, then we can train with them accordingly and bring them along honestly.

In doing this, I think it makes for a good experience for them, and should help them look past the times when they are not enjoying the process of learning...when they cannot get that ikkyo on them. They have trust in you that you are doing good by them...even though they are not doing well.

So, when we do this...we don't have to "tank" the technique. We can be honest in our approach and work with them. Because we have invested more in them they can look past the moment of frustration...knowing that by trusting you, that you are doing what is best for them.

Anyway..easier said than done sometimes!

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Old 01-06-2008, 06:03 PM   #18
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
Here's a really nice article by Chiba sensei on this topic of training with partners of different levels:

http://www.aikidoonline.com/Archives..._tkc_1098.html

-- Jun
Thanks Jun. Chiba Sensei is one of my favorites to read and watch. Hopefully some day I'll get to have a more direct experience, but those indirect ones are pretty useful on their own.
Matt

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Old 01-06-2008, 10:49 PM   #19
crbateman
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Chiba Sensei is one of my favorites to read and watch.
I have found him to be very thoughtful, balanced and expressive. He is one of the cornerstones, and more of his thoughts should be on paper. I wish I knew him well enough to convince him to write at length. Maybe someone closer can prevail upon him? (Hijacking concludes... )
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Old 01-07-2008, 01:08 AM   #20
roadster
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Laurel Seacord wrote: View Post
In my dojo we have the saying, "If you can't teach it then you aren't doing it right". One of the best ways to master a technique is to teach it to someone else so that it really becomes a part of you.

I learn a lot simply by taking ukemi from my sempai, too, so I know how it's supposed to feel.
I feel the same way. Even as a beginner per-say, I have helped instruct during the "intro to Aikido" classes and find that I learn more about a specific technique when I try to teach it to kaohai. (Notice I said "try" )

As for the topic at hand.

I enjoy working with less experienced students because as mentioned before, it slows me down.

I also enjoy working with experienced Sempai because with each one, I get a different perspective to the technique as well as a take on how well I am learning it.

In addition, each Sempai at my dojo have completely different personalities so that helps learn with a different perspective in mind. It's kind of a crap-shoot as to how aggressive they will teach as well. Sometimes far within my limits and sometimes stretching that a bit which is refreshing actually. I thrive on it.
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Old 01-07-2008, 04:23 PM   #21
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Trust is what the process is all about...So, when we do this...we don't have to "tank" the technique. We can be honest in our approach and work with them. Because we have invested more in them they can look past the moment of frustration...knowing that by trusting you, that you are doing what is best for them.

Anyway..easier said than done sometimes!
Hi Kevin,
I really like that first part about the process of developing trust. I'm often a distrustful person (simply because I know "stuff" happens; intentions are moot to me in this regard). Sometimes of myself and sometimes of others...usually of others. On one hand I think it's really helped my study of ukemi...I recall an accomplished judoka tossing me and nearly tearing my arm off. It made me prepare more to move with a more powerful force. Events like that definately have led to my tendancy toward "tanking," though too. Where the process kicks in is my gradual shift away from that. As uke training with kohai I'm always trying to apply just enough pressure to create a demand for focus and proper mechanics while not being overwhealming. When training with sempai, usually this means I'm trying my hardest to attack powerfully. In both cases I'm developing something. With the kohai I think I'm learning sensitivity of my partners' limitations. Over time, hopefully the training process creates a sense in me to know when I can step it up a bit. Being that it creates a more energetically dynamic situation, it means my ukemi must be that much more spot on and thus also a greater need for trust since as uke I'm purposefully allowing myself to be in a compromised situation (being hyperextended in some portion of my body). Shihonage for example can be real scarey. I have to trust that my partner is skilled enough to NOT put the back of my skull two inches below the surface of the floor or land on my neck as they fall over, etc.
The other side of that, as I see it, is that trust you spoke of wherein the kohai understands an overwhealming "uke" isn't trying to be a jerk. One of the more senior students at our dojo is a bear of a man. When he performs kaeshiwaza, it's almost always with a bit of vigor. I always hit the mat a little harder than I normally experience. At first it was almost bothersome. I never sensed any malice, just a profoundly powerful force which made me feel a touch of inadequacy from how obviously easy it was to counter my best efforts. Over time, I began to see how precise his efforts were. I was never hurt or even close to it. Despite hitting the mat a little quicker and harder than I expected, I've come to trust him considerably...thus, I'm also more receptive to his lessons.

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Old 01-07-2008, 05:35 PM   #22
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

So here's a spinoff question: how many people think that sempai means "someone senior to me" and kohai means "someone junior to me", and how many people think they mean...something else?
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Old 01-07-2008, 06:19 PM   #23
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Excellent side question Mary. I've always believed that sempai and kohai are one in the same. There's a question of seniority, but its more of a parent/child child/parent relationship. Its important to keep in mind that both need to be aware that they are learning together. As parents and children we all know that we learn from one another. If the relationship comes off as one sided, no one is going to learn anything. As the child grows so does the parent. To quote Jor-El; "The father becomes the son, the son the father".
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:47 PM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Yes good question Mary.

We must be careful about the roles of junior and senior, that is delineating between authoritarian control and legitimate control.

What I mean by that is that simply because we are "senior" doesn't grant us "powers" simply based on that (authoritarian). What we do have to understand is that to be able to recognize within ourselves that we have more experience than others, that grants us legitmacy.

We have to take responsiblity I think, that is our obligation to share that experience properly with those that are junior to us. This is a leadership role within the organization that we must undertake. Thus we become sempai and those with less experience become kohai.

I think this is lacking much in aikido many times. I think that we tend to be "over humble" and think that we have nothing to offer and we are all on the same level and must allow the "instructors" or sensei have all the leadership.

This is wrong I think. Certainly we don't undermine the sensei or the teacher, but we do as experienced students have a responsibility to help in the development and to share our experience with Kohai.

It may be as simple as words of encouragement, sharing with them that you too still have trouble with ikkyo. Offering a suggestion about posture, relaxation, timing, breathing, or other things you notice that might help.

Again, it is about establishing trust through seeking to understand them a little deeper first prior to offering much unsolicited advice or opinion about what they are doing wrong.

I think this is the area in which sempai can be the most helpful. Taking time to listen to them, to watch them, and to simply offer words of encouragement or share with them things that seemed to help you. It might also be asking sensei to come over to help you out with a problem you guys are having, as kohai may not be comfortable doing that, not wanting to impose.

I think the relationship between sempai and kohai is much deeper than an authoritarian relationship based on seniority!

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Old 01-08-2008, 08:34 AM   #25
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Re: Sempai kohai differences

Hmm. Well, neither of you quite answered my question. What I was asking, simply, was: do you believe that anyone senior to you is "sempai" and anyone junior to you is "kohai"?
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