In a traditional japanese dojo like Mayfield Karate Club there is a special relationship of respect that exists known as the Senpai (Senior) and Kohai (Junior) system. When you begin your training in the club there are those who are above you in grade, these are your senpai. Those students that joined after you are your Kohai, your juniors. With this system the Junior has a certain debt which he owes this senior because of their willingness to pass on what they have learned.
The senior in turn has a duty to his Sensei and dojo to bring his junior up through the ranks as a big brother would a little brother. By being your senior, by helping you, by acting as an advisor, coach and confidant, the Senpai assumes a tremendous responsibility. The Kohai who has been tutored and taken care of by his Senpai becomes an ONJIN, a person under obligation, and as old Japanese adage goes, "Life and death are light as a feather, but obligation, obligation is heavy as a mountain.".
Based upon the deep respect for loyalty and obligation that characterised old Japan, the Senpai-Kohai relationship is one that often extends throughout the lives of those involved in it. It is a convention that allows a Kohai to begin to develop the attitudes of helpfulness and leadership that are necessary for mastery and so in a reciprocal way the lives of the Senpai and Kohai are bettered.
At times, the Senpai-Kohai system may seem difficult. For the junior it may seem that his movements are criticised. Even outside the dojo he finds his behaviour under the watchful eye of a senior who is quick to correct. In spite of its apparent drawbacks, it really works rather well.
If you are beginner in the martial arts, remember that and listen carefully to the advice of your Senpai. Their experience is hard won. If you are a more advanced student, keep in mind that training is only a part of your purpose in the dojo. There are Kohai in need of your guidance and it is up to you to set the example by training hard and helping one another.
You must at all times show respect to your Senpai. Always bow to your Sensei when you see him or her on arrival or leaving the dojo or around the dojo. If you are given advice you listen carefully and bow and say "OSS" as a sign of your understanding and sign of your character. If you do not understand, bow and say "OSS i do not understand Sensei".
The instructors of Mayfield Karate Club are here to teach you and there is nothing wrong with not understanding. We will happily explain it further so that you can better your Karate. If you need to ask a question about a technique or any aspect of Karate-Do feel free to approach any instructor of the club before or after training and they will be happy to answer your questions. But remember always to "Bow" when you approach an instructor.
The Senpai Kohai relationship does not only apply to Karate-Do, but life in general. Karate-Do is one family, and we are here to help. If something is on your mind and you need help you can always rely on your Senpai. If you are being bullied at school, work or college, talk to us we are there to advise you on what to do or any other problem you may face in life.
Your Sensei can give you advise on how to tackle it. "Personally as a business man running a web design company, I have to deal with 100s of companies on a week to week basis, and sometimes I have major decisions to make. I often run major business decisions passed my Senpai to get a second opinion, and that makes my decision alot clearer and easier to make."
Sensei Aaron Kenneally