Etiquette is of the utmost importance in a karate dojo. Having the proper mindset toward your training, both inside and outside of the dojo, is imperative to becoming a true martial artist. One important aspect of etiquette is referring to your instructor as Sensei, and to your senior students as Senpai. This seemingly small gesture will help you tremendously to approach the proper attitude toward training.
When you enter a dojo and ask to be allowed to train with that instructor, there is an understanding that both student and Sensei are entering into. The Sensei who accepts you as their student will take the responsibility to guide your training as a martial artist. This involves knowing you, your motivations, your limitations, and putting in the time and effort to develop your karate technique and guide the development of your character. For the student, to show your respect and appreciation for your Sensei, there are a few things that you need to do. First, you need to come to training and to always give your best effort. Second, you need to trust in your Sensei that he or she knows what is best for your training and is always acting to help you develop as a martial artist. Third, you need to follow the instructions of your Sensei, both inside and outside the dojo, to show your trust and respect. This relationship is not easy, but for both the Sensei and the student, having the proper understanding of respect and responsibility that comes along with karate training is required for development as a martial artist.
In addition to your relationship with your Sensei, your Senpai are there to help guide your training. The relationship between Senpai (senior) and Kohai (junior) is important to your karate training. This relationship again centers on respect and responsibility, and is similar to a relationship of mentor and protege. The Kohai must always approach their Senpai with respect, and should look to their Senpai for an example of how to behave. The Senpai take responsibility for assisting Sensei with the development of the students. Senpai are expected to always strive to set the perfect example of how students behave in and out of the dojo. Senpai are often charged with making sure that their Kohai are following the proper etiquette, as well as helping to push students just a little farther than they are comfortable to help their development.
In all of these relationships, it is important to understand that the respect and responsibility is a two-way street. Everyone in the karate dojo must treat everyone with respect, and must take responsibility for their own training and their actions. You must understand that when your Sensei or Senpai correct you in or out of training, it is always with best intentions, with humility, and with the purpose of helping you to develop as a martial artist. By addressing your Sensei and Senpai with the proper titles, it puts you in the proper mindset and helps you to approach the situation with the proper respect. It also reminds your Sensei and Senpai of the responsibility that they have for your development, and shows the seriousness of your training through adoption of the proper etiquette.
Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan