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Old 08-17-2009, 10:43 PM   #51
rdavid445
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
That whole "giri" (obligation - sort of; duty - sort of) thing, and culturally knowing what you can/can't do, should/shouldn't do. Ranges from which words to use in a conversation depending on the "status" of the person with whom you're speaking, through making sure you don't leave your hashi in the bowl and which sauce goes with which food, through everything else in general behaviour.

W
Actually, while I totally get what you mean, the more appropriate term for what you are talking bout is reigi (礼儀), which means etiquette or politeness. You essentially have to learn 3 ways of speaking to people in Japan - informal, the way you would talk to a friend, family member, inferior (kouhai!!!!!), someone younger than you, etc.; cordial, the way you would speak to a school teacher, someone else's parents, someone you don't know, etc.; and formal, the way you'd speak to your boss, martial arts teacher (though, after a while, you may be able to drop back to cordial), etc. It can get pretty hectic, especially because there is so much of a tendency for people to over use polite, formal speech by stacking honorific words on top of one another, that now, simply speaking correct formal Japanese is not enough in some situations. You have to speak nijuu keigo (二重敬語), double-stacked respectful speech.

The chopstick thing is actually kind of interesting. The way it was explained to me was that because in buddhism, when praying at a funeral, you light sticks of incense and stick them into a bowl of sand, sticking your chopsticks into your rice bowl makes an impolite suggestion about you praying after the death of the person across from you. It's not a straight line of logic on the insult side of things, but you get it. "I'm not dead, so don't act like it" sort of thing.
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Old 08-19-2009, 05:40 AM   #52
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Ron (oh, now *I'm* passive agressive?)
My favorate line so far
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Old 08-19-2009, 05:57 AM   #53
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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As to the idea that, because Ron doesn't want to use terms such as Senpai/kouhai because he doesn't care for the (frankly) intrinsic social implications of those words, he's picking and choosing how "Japanese" he wants his art to be, I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense. It may be Ryan's opinion (or maybe not) that the relationship is present at the heart of aikido in some form or fashion, but if we shouldn't pick and choose, then why isn't every single person practicing aikido fluent in Japanese? As supposedly intrinsic as the senpai/kouhai thing is to aikido, the Japanese language is certainly more so. Not just for techniques, either. If we are trying to transmit aikido exactly as it was and is taught in Japan, then we should all be speaking fluent Japanese. Not to do so would seem to be choosing to ignore the entire language based communication system developed for aikido, in Japan, by the founder and those who came before and after him.
My only point is that in French cooking one uses French terms to refer to the manner in which one cooks the food, regardless of the chef's ability to speak French or not. It is an accepted standard by which one "talks shop" to distinguish the art from others. In this manner the original context of the language is not what is important so much as what it means within the sub culture that uses the term (Beef meant the cow, cow meat, a live bull at one time, but changed to mean only the meat of a cow over the years because the people using the term Beef were the ones eating the cows in Saxon/Norman society). This is the manner in which languages evolve.
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Old 08-19-2009, 08:53 AM   #54
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Ryan Szesny wrote: View Post
My only point is that in French cooking one uses French terms to refer to the manner in which one cooks the food, regardless of the chef's ability to speak French or not.
...if, that is, one is talking about French cooking. I think Ron's point is more along the lines of "don't use the word 'souffle' if you're talking about scrambled eggs".
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Old 08-19-2009, 12:44 PM   #55
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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...if, that is, one is talking about French cooking. I think Ron's point is more along the lines of "don't use the word 'souffle' if you're talking about scrambled eggs".
My point is it is equally pretentious to call Ireminage, "entering throw" because you don't want to sound pretentious. In the example you put up, I am calling a souffle a souffle and I am being scolded because I should be calling it a "puff up" so I don't sound too French.
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Old 08-19-2009, 01:00 PM   #56
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

Being pretentious was never a part of any of my posts.

No one was ever scolded in any of my posts.

Best,
Ron (actually, never mind...now I understand the emotional involvement here)

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 08-19-2009 at 01:03 PM.

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Old 08-19-2009, 02:12 PM   #57
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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My point is it is equally pretentious to call Ireminage, "entering throw" because you don't want to sound pretentious.
Yes, and calling a souffle "scrambled eggs, sorta, only you separate the yolks and whites and you beat the whites until they're stiff and then you add some other stuff" is stupid, no matter what your reason for doing it. However, none of that has anything to do with what Ron is talking about. If what you have is a souffle, then you should call it a souffle, and if what you have is something else, then you should call it something else. Seems simple enough to me.
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Old 08-19-2009, 02:20 PM   #58
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Yes, and calling a souffle "scrambled eggs, sorta, only you separate the yolks and whites and you beat the whites until they're stiff and then you add some other stuff" is stupid, no matter what your reason for doing it. However, none of that has anything to do with what Ron is talking about. If what you have is a souffle, then you should call it a souffle, and if what you have is something else, then you should call it something else. Seems simple enough to me.
I believe that about sums it up. Thanks Mary.
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Old 08-19-2009, 04:47 PM   #59
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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...If what you have is a souffle, then you should call it a souffle, and if what you have is something else, then you should call it something else. Seems simple enough to me.
Nothing is ever that white and black I think I have a souffle and Ron thinks he has one. Disagreements are never simple, unfortunately.

I would like to point out that the start of this whole topic was when Red misspelled "Sempai" and some one had corrected her on its spelling and use, but he still had an almost perfect understanding of the context in which she meant it (socially speaking). This means that the term conveyed the meaning Red was trying to convey. I think it applies.
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Old 08-19-2009, 07:27 PM   #60
rdavid445
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Yes, and calling a souffle "scrambled eggs, sorta, only you separate the yolks and whites and you beat the whites until they're stiff and then you add some other stuff" is stupid, no matter what your reason for doing it. However, none of that has anything to do with what Ron is talking about. If what you have is a souffle, then you should call it a souffle, and if what you have is something else, then you should call it something else. Seems simple enough to me.
Very well said.

Ryan's not wrong for wanting to call students ahead of him senpai, and Ron isn't wrong for wanting to avoid taking on what he sees as a needless and extraneous hierarchy system. It's obvious that the argument won't stop, and it's silly to keep on using this topic as an excuse to be contentious.

Just drop it?
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Old 08-20-2009, 02:29 AM   #61
Walter Martindale
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Robert David wrote: View Post
Actually, while I totally get what you mean, the more appropriate term for what you are talking bout is reigi (礼儀), which means etiquette or politeness. You essentially have to learn 3 ways of speaking to people in Japan - informal, the way you would talk to a friend, family member, inferior (kouhai!!!!!), someone younger than you, etc.; cordial, the way you would speak to a school teacher, someone else's parents, someone you don't know, etc.; and formal, the way you'd speak to your boss, martial arts teacher (though, after a while, you may be able to drop back to cordial), etc. It can get pretty hectic, especially because there is so much of a tendency for people to over use polite, formal speech by stacking honorific words on top of one another, that now, simply speaking correct formal Japanese is not enough in some situations. You have to speak nijuu keigo (二重敬語), double-stacked respectful speech.

The chopstick thing is actually kind of interesting. The way it was explained to me was that because in buddhism, when praying at a funeral, you light sticks of incense and stick them into a bowl of sand, sticking your chopsticks into your rice bowl makes an impolite suggestion about you praying after the death of the person across from you. It's not a straight line of logic on the insult side of things, but you get it. "I'm not dead, so don't act like it" sort of thing.
Actually giri (and I don't have the kanji) is different from reigi - it's "obligations" rather than "general dojo manners" - sort of. Or "duty" or something like that. It's kinda like - hmm. My understanding of 'giri' is incomplete, but it carries a lot of weight, and it's a personal thing - like - if I start a dojo, it's MY responsibility to make sure it's up to the standards of the people who trained ME, or they'll get cranky because, since I was trained by them, and my dojo sucks, it's reflecting poorly on my senseis. But that's not quite it, either.. (and, I'm not starting a dojo any time soon...)

The chopsticks thing - as explained in a video I saw on a documentary TV program about funerals in Japan, the sticks left in a bowl resembles the post-cremation long bones in a large urn, that are passed around the family in some kind of ceremony, and the sticks in the bowl either remind, or are symbolic, of death...
That's how I understand it...

Cheers,
Walter
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Old 08-20-2009, 02:49 AM   #62
Charles Hill
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
The chopsticks thing - as explained in a video I saw on a documentary TV program about funerals in Japan, the sticks left in a bowl resembles the post-cremation long bones in a large urn, that are passed around the family in some kind of ceremony, and the sticks in the bowl either remind, or are symbolic, of death..
Hi Walter,

This is the explanation of why you don't pass food around with chopsticks. At the funeral, after the cremation, you line up and then with another person, pick up a piece of bone with chopsticks and stick it in the urn. The first time, I was so afraid I was going to drop it! And then what would I have done? Pick it up with my fingers?
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Old 08-20-2009, 02:49 AM   #63
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
Actually giri (and I don't have the kanji) is different from reigi - it's "obligations" rather than "general dojo manners" - sort of. Or "duty" or something like that. It's kinda like - hmm. My understanding of 'giri' is incomplete, but it carries a lot of weight, and it's a personal thing - like - if I start a dojo, it's MY responsibility to make sure it's up to the standards of the people who trained ME, or they'll get cranky because, since I was trained by them, and my dojo sucks, it's reflecting poorly on my senseis. But that's not quite it, either.. (and, I'm not starting a dojo any time soon...)

Cheers,
Walter
Very true. However, the previous examples you gave were things that are identifiable as being matters of manners, rather than fulfilling one's many duties in life. The word reigi in japanese just means "manners", not "manners in the dojo". People who are exceedingly polite are often referred to as 礼儀正しい人 reigi tadashii hito (informal speech), which means a person of correct manners. What is/ins't appropriate to do, how to talk to people, not putting your chopsticks into your rice, those are all issues of manners. Fulfilling your obligations to your martial arts teachers, parents, mafia bosses (far and away the medium that has the most to say about duty and honor in Japan are yakuza films), etc., are issues of 義理 Giri.

You've definitely got a good grasp of what the term means. The definition is a lot less complicated than people think. It's simply a deeply felt sense of duty. It's just that your previous examples didn't have much to do specifically with giri.

Last edited by rdavid445 : 08-20-2009 at 02:56 AM.
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Old 08-20-2009, 06:50 AM   #64
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

A good match for "reigi" is "propriety". And often, observing "reigi" is an important part of "giri".

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:22 AM   #65
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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A good match for "reigi" is "propriety". And often, observing "reigi" is an important part of "giri".
True.

What are you up to in Nagoya? I used to live in Kyoto for a while, always heard Nagoya was a really cool city.
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Old 08-20-2009, 01:08 PM   #66
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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What are you up to in Nagoya?
About 88 degrees with humidity!

Quote:
I used to live in Kyoto for a while, always heard Nagoya was a really cool city.
I like Nagoya. It fits me. Tokyo was way too big and hectic, and the countryside a little too boring. Nagoya is like Baby Bear's porridge.

Josh Reyer

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Old 08-20-2009, 03:51 PM   #67
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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About 88 degrees with humidity!
Yeah, Kyoto is in a basin, so all the hot, humid air just sits on top of it. I remember months at a time where I never felt dry. Used to carry around spare t-shirts because we had to bike everywhere in that heat.

Quote:
I like Nagoya. It fits me. Tokyo was way too big and hectic, and the countryside a little too boring. Nagoya is like Baby Bear's porridge.
I felt the same way about Kyoto. I love Osaka (Kansai in general, really), but it's way too hectic. I'm from a mid-size town in the states, so Kyoto fit me just perfect. Can't wait to get back there.
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Old 08-24-2009, 06:16 PM   #68
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

If you wish to get rid of the Sempai/Kohai relationship, then you also need to get rid of the idea of ranks, instructors, chief instructors, responsibility, obligations, manners, and dojo. A dojo is built on relationships. They are nothing without the people. A building or gym is not a dojo. It is the people and the relationships among them. If you wish to just practice aikido without the sempai/kohai relationship, then all you have is a club, not a dojo. And the person who should be instructing is the one who owns the club. Once you have that, all you have is another commercial venture (though I am not against commercial ventures - they are not dojos).

Rock
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Old 08-24-2009, 06:20 PM   #69
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

P.S.
Depending on the Sensei and the Dojo, the Sempai/Kohai relationship will differ. In some it will be very Westernized, others very Japanese. In some it will be abusive, and in others it will be very nurturing. It is the people of the Dojo who will determine what the relationships will be like and the Sensei who will determine the type of people that are attracted to the Dojo.

Rock
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Old 08-24-2009, 07:01 PM   #70
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

Hi Rock,

Can you explain the difference between a Westernized Sempai/Kohai relationship and a Japanese one?

Thanks,
Charles
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Old 08-25-2009, 06:23 AM   #71
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

Hey Rock! Good to see you posting! Thanks for contributing.

My comments in this thread have been mis-characterized several times. I have not said that the sempai/kohai relationship should be gotten rid of. What I've repeated is that I am not comfortable with certain abuses that are part of the tradition, and that I'm not sure that the practice translates well to societies outside of Japan. So I am cautious about applying the term here in the states.

Again, my own instructor is Japanese, and our tests invovle Japanese language from 3rd kyu on. But, I don't remember the terms sempai/kohai being used in his dojo. And I think (I can only guess, but maybe I'll specifically ask him sometime) the reasons may be the same reservations that I have mentioned here, at least in part.

So to be clear, I am *not* advocating getting rid of something. In fact, in terms of the cultural context that sempai/kohai exists in in Japan, once taken outside of that country, I'm not sure it really exists in any case, so I'm not sure that there *is* anything to "get rid of". Except for a weakened, mostly symbolic artifact, in many, if not most, cases.

This is one of those cases where I question the need for the Japanese terms, given how different the context is. But of course, as always, I reserve the right to be entirely wrong. I too would be interested in how you describe how the relationship works in the many dojo you've lead outside of Japan.

Best,
Ron

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Old 08-25-2009, 03:08 PM   #72
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

A couple articles of interest;
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-b...0040508td.html

What about the sempai (senior) and kohai (junior) system in martial arts?
These are other terms we donĄt really use in Shindo Yoshin-ryu. They are terms more common to modern martial arts. These concepts are actually more recent and used as a tool for the enforcement of discipline within a large group of conscripted military personnel. In karate dojos with military-like discipline, this system is often strictly enforced to the point of cruelty. I even see the sempai-kohai system enforced to an unhealthy level in some aikido dojos. In the military, it may be a positive thing to make the chain of command obvious and assure a cohesive group mentality, but remember that samurai were not a conscripted army. The group dynamic of a samurai clan was very different from that of a modern army. The same is true for a bujutsu dojo‹it is not the army. Do we need this sort of system in the dojo? Not my dojo! I do not need to bark, "Osu" at my students or wish them to respond with group shouts. This is not really useful in a true bujutsu dojo. The training and responsibility of students is much more personalized. Is there obvious seniority in the Takamura-ha bujutsu dojo? Yes and no. We have no rank and no specific uniform that demonstrates seniority. No one is asked to do any task that I or other teachers do not perform often ourselves. We do line up in the dojo according to experience and issue licenses. If you attend one of our dojos you will quickly figure out who is senior and who is junior without the instructor barking orders at anyone or watching who cleans the toilet. Barking orders at enlisted men in the military may serve some positive purpose, but I train students to be thinking leaders and not ardent followers.

Last edited by akiy : 08-25-2009 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 08-25-2009, 03:37 PM   #73
Janet Rosen
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

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Hiroaki Izumi wrote: View Post
A dojo is built on relationships. They are nothing without the people. A building or gym is not a dojo. It is the people and the relationships among them. If you wish to just practice aikido without the sempai/kohai relationship, then all you have is a club, not a dojo.
Thank you, that is so well said.

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Old 08-25-2009, 04:10 PM   #74
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

I might get into trouble for this one ....

When my senior does something and they know better then I call them 'sempai'. Otherwise I just use their name. It don't happen often.

When my juniors do the same I just smile, kohai don't know no better. Sometimes a minor correction is appropriate. Usually just shaking my head is sufficient.

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Old 08-25-2009, 07:26 PM   #75
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Sempai/Kohai Relationship in Aikido

There is no such thing as Western versus Eastern Sempai/Kohai relationship since each Sempai/Kohai relationship is individual and unique. I simply used the terms to point out that you make of the relationship that which you wish to make of it. However, there must be a personal relationship of some kind if there is to be a Dojo. Even in Japan, each Sempai/Kohai relationship differs. There are numerous books and films in Japan based on the storyline of a unique Sempai/Kohai relationship. Please don't make more of this than there is in Japanese mythology. All it means is that there is a hierarchical relationship between two people. That hierarchy may not even be fixed because one person might be Sempai in one situation, then Kohai in another. Learning to deal with this flexibly is one of the issues for study in the martial arts. For instance, how do you respond when the instructor assigned to you is just a teenager and you are a full grown adult. Do you fight the relationship because you Sempai is younger than you or do you pay attention and get what is offered because the Sempai knows more than you? I would often get one of the more advanced youth practitioners in my Dojos to teach the adult class to see how everyone would react. You should be willing to accept any source of training if that source is competent and not worry about things like rank or age. Sometimes a person of a lower rank may be much better at something than other higher ranked people.

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