Hello and Osu, internet! I’m Sempai Matt, assistant instructor at the Forge and our resident jovial curmudgeon, and I’m here today with a question.
Do you want to be a Black Belt, or do you want to be a Sempai?
If you answered Black Belt, then I have good news! Getting a Black Belt is CRAZY easy. Open a new tab, and type “www.amazon.com” into your browser. Search for like, I don’t know, “karate black belt,” and BOOM. They’re like 10 bucks. You’re welcome.
We don’t train “black belts” at the Forge. We train Sempai.
“But what does that mean?” you ask, in a grating mewl. Slow your roll, hypothetical-question-asker. I was just getting to that.
Sempai (or senpai) is a Japanese word that means “senior.” If you were a first-year at a Japanese high school, any second- or third-year student would be your sempai, and you would be their kohai, or “junior.” You would be expected to show deference and respect to them at all times, and even sometimes run errands or perform menial tasks. These relationships exist at all levels of schooling and in the workplace as well.
Being a sempai sounds pretty sweet, right? But it’s not all fun and games. As a sempai, you’re expected to care for your kohai. You’re responsible for guiding them and setting a good example. If your kohai screw up, it’s you who are held accountable. You’d even be expected to treat them to food or drinks every now and then (assuming a personal relationship of course).
This type of give-and-take relationship is what we strive to cultivate in the dojo. Becoming a Sempai and earning your black belt isn’t just a free ticket to yell at kohai and make them do push ups (although that part is pretty fun). It’s a responsibility to be an example to your kohai. To teach, lead, and support them.
“How can I do that?” Excellent question, hypothetical-question-asker - I like that you’re catching on. There are any number of ways to be a good Sempai. You can, of course, strive to be a better teacher in the dojo. But if teaching directly isn’t your thing, you can still teach by example. You can strive to be an excellent fighter. You can make sure you know every stance and technique. You can be a pillar of courtesy, respect, and discipline. You can be a voice of encouragement during a grueling conditioning session (but please don’t, everyone hates that guy). My point is that anyone can be a Sempai, as long as they put in the work. And I can personally say that if you do, your new give-and-take relationship with your kohai will be well worth it.
If that sounds like something you’re interested in, our dojo is the place for you. We’ll do everything we can to help you get to that level.
If you just want a black belt? Well, there’s always Amazon.