As we advance in rank, we accept additional responsibility in the dojo. It is important to understand our role in class, and what can be done to help our fellow karateka. Junior members naturally look to their seniors as an example of technique and behavior in class. It is everyone’s job to set a good example by demonstrating their best technique and etiquette. This benefits not only your own karate training, but also lifts the training level of other students. Accepting this responsibility not just to ourselves, but also to act as a good example to others, adds motivation to perform well in class.
During training, unless specifically told otherwise by Sensei, it is not our responsibility to tell other students what they should be doing, particularly in terms of technique. Rather, we should be showing them through our actions so that others can look to us as a role model. In kihon and kata, this is easy - it simply means that we should always be doing our best in training and giving our full effort at every moment.
In kumite training, both partners should learn something from every exchange. So we should go into training with every partner both ready to defend ourselves and ready and willing to learn and improve. We have respect for every opponent, which implies always giving our best effort in the exchange. In partner training, our role as seniors is subtle but very important. Our responsibility is to control our technique to the level of our opponent. This way we learn to go at full speed and in control of our movement, which is necessary as we advance in rank. We also learn subtleties of kumite strategy by adapting to each opponent that we face. Thus, it is helpful to the training of both partners if we develop an understanding of our opponent and adjust accordingly.
When paired with our juniors, we must understand their abilities so that we can push them just beyond their comfort level to motivate their progress. We teach not by telling people what they should be doing, but rather by exposing strengths and weaknesses in their technique so they can feel what is right or wrong. It is the difference between telling someone “you would have been hit” versus making controlled contact to demonstrate that their technique was insufficient. And this will help our training as well, since we learn to identify openings in our opponents’ techniques, learn to recognize them when they occur, and learn to react in the moment to take advantage of those openings within the rules of the engagement. It’s a subtle but very important distinction in the approach to partner training. Instead of looking for mistakes to tell our partner what is wrong, we are giving our best effort in training and looking for opportunities to improve ourselves. This improves our skills while allowing our partner to learn from the exchange as well. Having the right attitude and approach to training, both partners can benefit from every encounter, and we should thank each partner that we train with for teaching us something.
Remember, junior members will look up to their seniors and respect them more for being able to set the example and for being able to demonstrate what is right. It is easy for anyone to tell someone what they should be doing, but showing them and leading by example requires more restraint and more skill, and will ultimately command more respect. Always keep in mind that in training, actions speak louder than words.
Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan