A Matter of Compassion
June 22, 2003 · 4:00pm EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
The backbone of any dojo is the sempai-kohai structure. Indifference, reluctance or resentment on the part of the sempai for the duties inherent to his position are the expression of a poor attitude that does not correspond with the spirit of the art of Daito Ryu, and would make them undeserving of the privilege of instruction.

A sempai (senior student) or an uchideshi (live-in student) is given the responsibility to attend and to maintain the proper atmosphere in the dojo with the same or more diligence that he applies to its cleanliness and tidiness, and as dutifully as he cares for the development of his own techniques. There are some important basic points to remember:

1. Dojo atmosphere must be one of harmony, camaraderie, and mutual collaboration. Any disruption is a breach of etiquette and discipline of a serious nature. Any deshi who disrupts the dojo's harmony by causing division with rudeness to others, quarrelling, creating discontent, by indifference to others' needs, or any other behaviour or attitude, should be corrected by a senior student. If the error persists, the offending deshi should be expelled, regardless of seniority. Poor attitude toward others or towards technique is the outward expression of a weak spirit, and is inadmissible, for it becomes a form of attack to others. It robs all the deshi of their training, their progress and their strength.

2. The sempai is the bridge between the teacher and the kohai with the responsibility to convey technique plus spirit to the best of his ability, and the obligation to create a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for the kohai and any newcomers. Neglecting these duties is no less than a betrayal of the ryu, and his dojo-mates. A sempai should be well aware of his function, since his attitude toward other students is of utmost importance for the development of a dojo. The willingness to help in this development is important to the evaluation of a deshi, and even more relevant when evaluating a sempai or issuing a recommendation. His efforts, devotion and sacrifices made for the ryu or dojo, or for a teacher's sake, should be carefully recorded, as should his diligence in aiding others in technique, and/or contributing to other deshi's well-being while in the dojo, and being ready and willing to offer his wisdom about keeping in the proper path when his advice is required.

3. Dojo harmony is a main condition for proper training, and should be safeguarded by the senior students. It can be affected by a deshi complaining about his inability to perform a technique, or by the snobbish attitude of another. But a correction should be done with gentleness and respect. "Instructing", wrote Takuan, "is a matter of compassion."

For a sempai, it is also a matter of duty.

A sempai is a student in which a teacher can put his trust, and who will eventually carry on the style. These are but the first steps, but without them, a dojo cannot exist. We expect that every deshi will keep these words in mind, for they are also part of their training, and as important as any technique.


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