What is a “Sensei”?
The Sensei or martial arts teacher is a symbol for one who embodies inspiration, wisdom and respect. The student – teacher relationship creates loyalty, respect and effectiveness. A good Sensei earns respect through example, by honoring the relationship of teacher and student, not merely by honorifics sake. The measure of an effective Sensei is not just in personal accomplishments, but more importantly in the accomplishments of his or her students.
A martial arts school or Dojo is most effective when leadership provides teaching, mentoring, coaching and motivation to empower every individual to perform effectively and ultimately learn to push through their self-imposed limitations. The techniques and traits of the Sensei can also be applied to increase effectiveness as a leader at work, home and in the community.
The fundamental reason that a Sensei enjoys the loyalty and dedication of his/her students can be found in their unique relationship with one another. I’ve found that effective leadership is accomplished through two major disciplines:
An effective teacher praises and supports the efforts of his/her students. This praise and support is recognition, a form of gratitude for the efforts and results produced by the student. At the same time the effective teacher should share his experience, knowledge and wisdom unconditionally. It’s the job of the teacher to share; it’s the responsibility of the student to learn. The gratitude is shown to the teacher by the student’s loyalty to his Sensei and his allegiance to his Dojo. A less desirable student seeks wisdom, knowledge, and skill only for himself with no loyalty to his Sensei. To accomplish effective teaching, the teacher must share unconditionally with only the student’s gratitude and loyalty in return. When this student has returned this exemplification of character, it’s the role of the teacher to provide recognition, acknowledgement and reinforcement. That’s the cycle that creates the student – teacher bond, which is a very important relationship within the martial arts.
Leadership is fundamentally teaching. A leader must communicate information and enthusiasm. A leader is even more effective when he or she can demonstrate experience and share the fruits of that experience by sharing their wisdom in such a way as to truly transmit it to the student. The more effective a leader is as a teacher, the more respect and loyalty he or she will earn.
This respect and loyalty from the student directly translates into increased productivity within their martial skill sets. Not everyone will feel comfortable teaching to large groups or motivating others, however these are skill sets which must be mastered in order to be an effective leader and Sensei. Every leader can teach effectively at some level and the most effective leaders will develop skills at all levels. This includes one-on-one coaching, training small groups or teams, and networking with peers.
One of the most valuable traits you can emulate from the Sensei is that of the “Beginner’s Mind.” In my opinion, this is the most pivotal trait as it teaches the student that one must continually be a student. The Sensei’s personal development is never finished. He approaches each day with a sense of wonder and curiosity and a longing for continual self-perfection. The greatest leaders are never those who rest on past accomplishments or current position. The greatest leaders are those who continually embrace the process of self-improvement. “Perfection is not a destination, but a never-ending process!”
Become a Sensei in your everyday life, whether at the workplace, at home, or in your community and you’ll enjoy a new level of effectiveness and power that will translate into greater success in all areas of your life, materially, emotionally and spiritually! There is no greater gift you can give another than continually improving you!
Allow this understanding to give you an opportunity to flourish as a human being and I encourage each and every one of you to embrace it. As a student myself I appreciate those people whom I call Sensei and actively show it with my loyalty and my determination to improve upon what they have taught me and continually look to make them proud. Are you this kind of student? Because if you’re not, you can never be that kind of Sensei!
Dedeuc D’Antonoli Sensei