Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

After a recent class, a mom of one of our young students came up to me and asked to share a success story about her child. As teachers, if we are doing our job well, we will often hear stories about children taking what they learn in the dojo and out in to the world. Sometimes it manifests itself as more respect at home, or as better focus on school. This story however, was very powerful and it has been on my mind lately.

The mom explained how her son Eli showed an amazing level of both courage and composure during a bullying situation on the school playground. Any time that a parent begins telling me about a bullying incident at school, I get emotionally keyed in. I never want any of our students to have to suffer through bullying, but I am confident that they are getting the tools they need to handle it appropriately. Eli is no exception.

What was exceptional in this situation though, was that the child getting picked on wasn't Eli himself, but another young boy at school. Eli had recognized the bully as someone that even trained in the martial arts at another dojo in Sacramento. Eli saw an opportunity to be a real life hero and had the courage to take action and come to the defense of the victim.

"I don't think you should be pushing that kid. What would your Sensei say to you if he saw this happening?"

Wow. Those are powerful words right there. Spoken from a place of confidence and composure, we know that it both stopped the bullying and also redirected the conversational tone to be about the bully (and maybe Eli) but gave the victim a chance to get out of the bully's spotlight. Mom explained the boy's response as relayed to her as well.

"But I don't have a Sensei. We have lot's of instructors but no real Sensei."

I remain proud of Eli for doing what he did, and I think there is something to learn from his action in this situation. However, there is also something that we can learn from the bully's response. "I don't have a Sensei." I was disappointed to hear such a remark.

Don't misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with having more than one teacher at a large dojo. And it doesn't matter if you call them Sensei, Sempai, Hanshi, Master, Sah Bum Nim, or Grand Puh Bah--but this reminded me how important it is for students to see their instructor as a mentor.As teachers, mentors, parents, and coaches we have to develop a rapport with our students that goes beyond punching and kicking. We are the example of what it means to be a black-belt.

If we don't take the time (or make the time) to establish a real connection, a real mentor-student relationship with the young people that we work with, then they will just have "lot's of instructors" but "no real Sensei."

Mike Oliver
Zen Martial Arts Center

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Comment by Katrina Smalley on May 6, 2013 at 5:21pm

Great role model for others - thank you for sharing!

Comment by Collin Higgins on May 6, 2013 at 5:19pm

Wonderful story, thanks so much for sharing it!

Comment by Zachary Kain on May 6, 2013 at 2:24pm

Having others we want to live up to (whether they be a sensei, mom or dad, teammate, coworker or friend) is a major motivator for doing the right thing. I think we all want to do our best who those who depend on us and care about us. That said, I am very grateful to have a true sensei, even at this point of my life. Thanks for the story and thanks for being our Sensei. You bring the best out of all of us.

Comment by Shirley (Jack & Ella's Mom) on May 6, 2013 at 2:04pm

Thanks for sharing that inspiring and thought provoking story!

Comment by Chrissy Scott on May 6, 2013 at 1:48pm

Way to go, Eli! That was a great story and I'm glad it was shared.

I have to say, too, that having a real Sensei, is important to the adults as well. It's a bit different sure. But, at 32 I still appreciate having someone to look up to. I look to my practice of Karate for guidance in a lot of situations and it servers me well. But for me, having not just a sensei, but my Sensei, has become a real gift. An example that provides a foundation and I am very thankful for that. 

If I get to where I am half as effective as a teacher/mentor, I will consider my life a success. 

::Bow:: Thank you, Sensei.

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