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Old 12-02-2009, 03:44 AM   #1
"Intimidated"
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Question How to deal with my sempai?

Recently a sempai of mine suddenly showed up at our dojo, after disappearing from aikido for several years. Apparently he moved to another country and did other martial arts and sports. He was a shodan when he left the art and I think I was 2nd kyu back then.

Anyway, last week he joined the class which I was leading - I'm a nidan now - and he didn't seem to mind that I am now higher ranking than him. He did give a few pointers to his partners during the class but more or less he just trained like any member of the class. He performed excellently, like he never stopped practicing. He says he didn't do any aikido since he left our dojo and I guess he's just one of those freaks who are athletically gifted. He was always a very good aikidoka, known in our organization for his technical skill.

How do I handle this rather strange sempai-kohai relationship? He is my sempai when I was his student but now I am higher ranking than him.

He says he will be attending every Tuesday, which happens to be my scheduled class. Do I let him teach the class? Frankly, his skills are still far better than mine and I feel intimidated to be teaching a class with him in it. I'm kinda hoping he attends the classes taught by the head of our dojo (who's a godan), but then I do enjoy training with him. It's always a learning experience practicing with him.

Should I "enforce" my rank? So far he's been very respectful to me and defers to me on the mat.

How should I go about this?
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:52 AM   #2
Abasan
Dojo: Aiki Shoshinkan, Aiki Kenkyukai
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Re: how to deal with my sempai

With regards to 'enforcing rank' I think you know the answer to this question. The real question however is are you honest enough to accept it.

As for teaching class, ultimately its your dojocho who decides. You can bring it up to him if you think it'll break protocol to make your own plans. All things aside, you should ask your sempai on what he thinks of this.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:10 PM   #3
Russ Q
Dojo: Shohei Juku Aikido Gibsons
Location: Gibsons BC
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Re: how to deal with my sempai

Hi Anon,

Your dojo cho should be making the teaching decisions......if he has got you teaching Tuesday nights then YOU should be teaching. Your sempai sounds like he "knows his role" during class and, if he's not undermining your role as instructor that night, I don't think you have a problem. Again, if he is respectful and defers to you on the mat there is no problem - aside from your feelings......which only you can remedy.

I was at a business seminar the other day and the keynote speaker was talking about how our "small voices" can get in the way of seeing the reality before us.....she said "You are not the voice in your head but your are the one listening". Do you think that maybe you are having more of an internal "battle" deciding what your role should be now that this technically gifted shodan is back at your dojo.....?

Hope that's helpful...,

Russ
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:20 PM   #4
dave9nine
Dojo: Aikido Institute - Oakland
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Re: how to deal with my sempai

as a shodan i have recently been given chances to lead classes here and there, and i find it exceptionally rewarding.

I too find myself in similar positions sometimes.
i think it is clear that this feeling is caused by the unspoken but present etiquette regarding rank, clashing with the reality of differences in skill and ability.

i think the best thing is disclosure, a casual disclosre that, as a communicative act, can free you from those 'unspoken' contradictions.

Next time your leading and that person is there, call him up to take ukemi and tell the class something like "Mr/Mrs. X here is better at this then me....let's see how this works when i do it against someone with his/her ukemi skills"
or
"Mr/Mrs X, onegaishimasu....class, ill take ukemi here...watch how X executes this...."

In either case, i think addressing the difference in skill is useful as a) a teachable moment b) a chance to show the class that skill does not have to coincide with rank, and c) a chance to work on your own ego, and show the class that you are humble enough to accept the skill difference between you, and not let it stop you from sharing your own level of knowledge with everyone.

-dave
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:08 PM   #5
ninjaqutie
 
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

Seems to me that this is more of an internal conflict with you. This other person seems to be allowing you to maintain your teaching role and they aren't stepping on your toes. In my current dojo, there are lower ranked yudansha who teach, but the higher ranked yudansha are more then willing to help if asked upon. Usually you see them off to the side chatting for a sec or two when we pair up.

In my last dojo, it wasn't uncommon for lower ranked students to teach. Brown belts often ran the class because in order to get your black belt, you had to be proficient at teaching. It was a way of being able to learn to teach, but you still had help there if you needed it.

Look at this person as a valuable tool to use if you think you need it.

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:33 PM   #6
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

Seems like the person in question doesn't have a problem, so I think you should just let things be. Like others said, if you've been asked to teach that class then that decision is for your dojo cho to change or not change, not you. You might feel awkward, well tough. It's good for you.

Try to put yourself in the other persons shoes - he's been away for quite some time and probably just happy to have a chance to train for himself for now! he's already shown by his actions that there's no problem wth you teaching the class.

We have a group of five shodan and nidan in our dojo that alternate teaching the classes our head teacher isn't available. That means that on some particular evenings if I want to train I'm (nidan) going to outrank the person teaching. I keep my mouth shut and train. Actually I tend to talk less to my partners in those classes because I want to be extra supportive of the person teaching. The last thing I would want on an evening like that is to take over the class, since I'm there for my own training.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 12-02-2009, 02:50 PM   #7
Ellis Amdur
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

Shirata Rinjiro sensei who started in the early 1930's, used to travel to Iwama to train in the classes of Saito Morihito, who started in 1946.

Unless I missed something, your sempai is paying you respect.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 12-02-2009, 06:19 PM   #8
SeiserL
 
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

No need to enforce anything.
Teach the class.

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 12-02-2009, 11:49 PM   #9
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

I agree with others -- it doesn't seem like there should be a problem. You're the teacher, he accepts it and defers to you.

In Japan, in an adult dojo, sempai/kohai relationships would be fairly tenuous in the first place, superceded by rank in most on-the-mat situations, and all the more so when one person has a long blank in training like in this case. The kohai's respect for the sempai would be demonstrated in particular speech patterns and other incidental ritualized interactions, none of which are present in Western society and can be safely ignored. By no means would the higher ranked kohai be submissive and deferential in a class he was teaching.

And by all means keep an open mind and learn from him, but don't sell yourself short. You may have picked up somethings that he never did, or that he has lost. It sounds almost like Aikido Accomodation Syndrome (thanks to Ellis for this term!) in that in your head he's your sempai, and thus, you can never reach his level.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:45 AM   #10
Maarten De Queecker
Dojo: Aikikai Gent, Brugse Aikido Vereniging
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
Recently a sempai of mine suddenly showed up at our dojo, after disappearing from aikido for several years. Apparently he moved to another country and did other martial arts and sports. He was a shodan when he left the art and I think I was 2nd kyu back then.

Anyway, last week he joined the class which I was leading - I'm a nidan now - and he didn't seem to mind that I am now higher ranking than him. He did give a few pointers to his partners during the class but more or less he just trained like any member of the class. He performed excellently, like he never stopped practicing. He says he didn't do any aikido since he left our dojo and I guess he's just one of those freaks who are athletically gifted. He was always a very good aikidoka, known in our organization for his technical skill.

How do I handle this rather strange sempai-kohai relationship? He is my sempai when I was his student but now I am higher ranking than him.

He says he will be attending every Tuesday, which happens to be my scheduled class. Do I let him teach the class? Frankly, his skills are still far better than mine and I feel intimidated to be teaching a class with him in it. I'm kinda hoping he attends the classes taught by the head of our dojo (who's a godan), but then I do enjoy training with him. It's always a learning experience practicing with him.

Should I "enforce" my rank? So far he's been very respectful to me and defers to me on the mat.

How should I go about this?
Since he is apparently ok with you teaching class, just go along with it. Don't be intimidated; just teach!
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Old 12-04-2009, 06:08 PM   #11
heathererandolph
Dojo: Kokikai Aikido Boston
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

I can understand your attitude that you're a little nervous with hm in the class. I wouldn't give up my teaching spot if I were you. His presence could inspire you to raise the bar for yourself knowing he is watching!

I think you should look at the bright side. He's attending your classes, which shows he respects your accomplishments. You never know, he may prefer for someone else to lead the class and to just train. A teacher doesn't necessarily have to be the most qualified person. I'm sure whoever he works with appreciates him as a training partner with his knowledge and experience.

Someone is needed to lead class or it is not a class. You could call him as uke frequently, to show your respect. I wouldn't be afraid to ask his advice if you are unsure about something. People generally love being asked for advice and it shows that you are able to handle different points of view in Aikido. The students will appreciate your example of how to behave in such a situation. If you think he'd enjoy teaching a class, you could ask him about it. If he wants to do that you can find out if that is permissable.
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Old 12-11-2009, 10:47 AM   #12
Daniel Wilson
Dojo: Jaguar Aikido/ University of South Alabama
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

I also do not see where the conflict lies here. While it is true that he started before you, would that make him your sempai if he were less skilled than you? I tend to consider sempai not as a term of time - but rather, an assessment of training time and progression.

Your sempai are those who have trained longer than you, progressed farther than you, and who have a responsibility to teach you. He began as your sempai, however you have gone on to train in Aikido longer than him. Surely you have learned some things that he did not know and he undoubtedly has a little catching up to do. Since you have essentially "passed" him (even if not in skill, but perhaps in knowledge) then you are now his sempai.

Thus - no conflict.

All things meet in the middle.
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Old 12-11-2009, 11:38 AM   #13
Garth Jones
Dojo: Allegheny Aikido
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

I've had a similar experience with somebody in my dojo. I started training before he did, but he got to shodan before me. Then he took several years off and I kept going. He came back to training when my wife and I opened our dojo - we're both sandan and he's still shodan. Like Anonymous's sempai, the person in my dojo came in with a great attitude - he just wanted to train. While I have 'passed' him, it hasn't mattered at all. I teach him more than he teaches me these days, but the important thing is that are all still training. I have great respect for his aikido and when we work together it is much more as collaborators than as student/teacher. He teaches classes from time to time and is a big asset in the dojo.

So I will echo what others have said - relax and enjoy having such a skilled person show up for your class each week. Train with him, learn from him (as we should all learn from our students) and don't worry about it. Also, if your sensei has assigned you that class, you shouldn't hand it over without asking.

Cheers,
Garth
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:22 PM   #14
RED
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

Mutual respect?
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Old 12-15-2009, 05:30 PM   #15
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

I recall one dojo I trained in where the instructor assigned us teaching when he was out of town. There was a sandan in the area of a different background. Our instructor made sure we knew that it was our class and the sandan was not to teach even though we were first kyu. He made the teaching decision. I also saw him throw a rokudan visiting from Japan off the mat who was being abusive to students and he was only a sandan. In fact, he was told in a very direct manner he was not welcome back.

Teaching ability does not necessarily correlate with rank. I have yudansha that I won't let teach despite wanting to do so badly. When they can communicate what I want them to communicate that situation might change. I chose who I want to recognize to teach, not the student.
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Old 12-16-2009, 03:43 AM   #16
dalen7
 
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Re: How to deal with my sempai?

If your given the task to teach... teach.

This past Tuesday a 2nd kyu was told by the instructor to lead the class as the 1st kyu was late.

I was wondering if it would switch once the 1st kyu showed up, but didnt.

During training the 1st kyu did pointers with who he trained with, but no big deal, I gave pointers even to 3rd kyus when I was 6th kyu. [basically I saw something the teacher did and relayed it back - though that can still throw someone off if there is the ego at play]

I guess the point is you do what you can do, and if the arrangement is for you to teach, and he is fine with that... no real problem.

The only problem exist due to the line of authority we believe to exist. We grew up with linear thinking. A baby can teach us about life just the same as a wise-man. [a lesson is to be learned everywhere.]

Sure sounds nice, but its easy to blow off as we truly are conditioned to this linear way of thinking.

If hes better than you, no shame in taking some advice when he trains with you, and people should not be discouraged to see this take place either - but it should encourage them to see what they have learned and gotten out of it where they can share part of their aspect of learning with others when they train as well.

I understand the feeling your talking about, but its all good.

Peace

dAlen

dAlen [day•lynn]
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