Lifting Up the Junior

We were drilling defense against haymakers. Rather than have him block bone-on-bone, I turned my forearm at the last second so that he’d be blocking bone-on-meat.

The other day I looked at the bruises on my forearms from a low-ranked person repeatedly blocking me in a drill and as I did so I looked a little deeper.  I remembered a few weeks ago a black belt allowed me to work him into an incredibly vulnerable position – I slowly mimed the fatal blow I could’ve dealt.  When one is Sempai or Sensei, one often makes oneself vulnerable to a lower-ranked student.  We take risks so that others can learn.  In a way, we give up our bodies.

Yes, we threw haymakers both left-handed and right-handed.  I really wonder what the junior student’s forearms look like along the bone…

A few months ago, a black belt told me about one of my many responsibilities that I will have for the rest of my Karate career.  If I get hurt, I’m in trouble.  If my lower-ranked partner gets hurt, I’m in trouble.  The responsibility for our safety lies more on me as the senior.  In essence, the junior’s safety is more important than the senior’s safety.  We are diminished so that they are protected.

Those of us who are senior in rank even sort of give up our names because most often in the dojo we are called only by our titles, “Sempai,” or “Sensei.”  Thus the students become more important than ourselves.  Yes, the title is held in high regard.  Nonetheless, giving up one’s own name and calling one’s students by their names is humbling (in a good way of course).

I believe this mix of honor and humility is balanced.  Yes, I can assign pushups, I can do a bit of leading and teaching, I have a title and the authority that comes with that title, and  I am a role model.  But at the same time, I am expected to risk my body so that others may learn.  Sometimes it takes awhile for new students to learn my name because it isn’t spoken often in class.  I am both honored by the juniors and humbled from lifting them up in turn.  I find it interesting that this realization came not from peaceful meditation but from a somewhat painful classroom experience.

Author: Joelle White

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

8 thoughts on “Lifting Up the Junior”

  1. Nice achievement marks you have there :)…..I am enjoying working with lower ranked students for several reasons (other than testing the effectiveness of my conditioning). One is that it reminds me of where I have been, one is that it means I can work slower so can focus on my accuracy and control, one is that I can give little pointers having been given them myself not that long ago. Keep up the good work Senpai Mummy 😉 Osu.

    1. Hi, Rach, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yes indeed, I am also preaching to myself when I teach the lower ranks 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement and the new labels – I know you like collecting vocabulary, so here’s mine:

      Bruises = Battle wounds (Affiliate YMCA Dojo style) and now achievement marks (Aussie style)
      Me at College Dojo = Sempai Mommy, Mama Sempai (Afro-American style) and now Senpai Mummy (Aussie style)

      1. I went to a International Budo Federation Seminar today (may post on it soon)…..I tried all sorts of new things including Kosen Judo, JuJitsu, TKD and some Bruce Lee style nan chaku drills (I actually got to do some target practise on a balloon which was kind of cool…..Anyway I came home after a very interesting day with some very interesting “love marks” on my biceps (c/o randouri) and some ASS’s (anterior shin shiners) from my ptr being too enthusiastic about blocking my TKD kicks rather than evading / retaliating like we were meant too….I think I will heal. 🙂 I also learned a few new terms for things I think since there was Chinese and Korean used rather than Japanese in some of the sessions. Osu.

      2. OH BOY does that ever sound like FUN!!! I can’t wait to read all about it on your blog 🙂 Feel free to post pictures of your ASS (LOL).

  2. Your point about names (or lack of) is interesting Joelle. It makes me think of parenting – you know, when someone says: Hi I’m Jake’s mum, instead of introducing themselves by their own name; because that role is so much their identity . . .

  3. I wear leg and forearm-elbow guards as well as MMA gloves. I bruise very easily. I do not consider them a badge of honor, nor will my skin toughen up.

    1. My skin is so fair that everything shows – so I brag only about the most spectacular bruises, hee hee hee! 🙂 I don’t think my skin will ever toughen up either.

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