February 2016 – Teaching Others 3

A new era is beginning in my Karate career…

graduation-hat-cap-md2/24/16 – College Dojo:  Really and Truly a Sempai

I’ve had a bit of practice being Sempai to this dojo – last quarter, the brown belt helper didn’t show up for about three weeks.  Then he was only present one class per week.  This quarter, until he moved, he was present for both classes each week, so I got to be a student.  So I feel like I’ve been a “substitute Sempai.”  Monday’s class we all had fun together, so it wasn’t until today that it hit me.  I. am. Sempai.

Today I did get a good bit of time to be a student.  But the last ten minutes of class I was handed a big chunk of responsibility.  Sensei needed me to supervise the colored belts as they sparred.

I started them off with ippon kumite (one-step sparring).  I gave the attacking side the freedom to choose one technique to throw, defenders blocked and counterattacked.  Then I had them fight one-minute rounds, different opponent each time.  I had to keep an eye on three pairs of fighters.  Not too bad.  Before long I realized not only do I have to make sure these kids don’t hurt each other, I have to give feedback!

So I started looking.  Wow.  Things that I’ve gone through and I’ve figured out jumped out at me, and I told them the same things I’ve been told myself.

“Watch your control.”

“Ease back a bit – she’s still learning how to spar.  Try working on defending.”

“Snap those kicks back if you don’t like being thrown to the mats.”

I guess some of what my Senseis have taught me has sunk in 🙂

So today – I really and truly feel like Sempai.  Not just a substitute but the real deal.

150115_Cottage2/25/16 -Home Dojo:  Substitute Sempai -or- Out of the Comfort Zone

Big Brother didn’t make it tonight, Sensei’s wife is planning on coming on Tuesdays unless something comes up.  I haven’t seen our other green belt since the seminars on the 13th, so that left me as Sempai tonight.

Sensei gave me a choice after warmups and a drill – did I want to lead the colored belts in moving basics or teach newbie white belts? My first impulse was to teach white belts.  But then I realized I wanted to run away from the other option.  I’ve never led moving basics for a group of colored belts and more experienced white belts.  I didn’t want to move outside my comfort zone.  So I put on my big girl panties and I told Sensei I’d like to lead moving basics.

Sensei asked for confirmation that I’d never done this before, gave me a little advice, and cheerfully split the class, moving off with the newbie white belts to the other end of the room.  As Sensei moved off, he gave me a smile and a nod – non-verbal communication that said he was proud of me and was confident in me.

It wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t without hiccups.  But I did it.  Not only that, I challenged everyone.  I also used the “scaffolding” method twice – once to tie kihon (basics) to kata (forms) and once to teach a drill that is almost but not quite a kata 🙂


I’ve had a little time now to get used to the concept that I am Sempai.  I’m sure I’ll continue to be challenged and grow as time goes by.

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

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