How many Sensei does it take to make a Karateka?
Your Sensei is your guide, your teacher, your font of wisdom and knowledge.
They contain all there is to know and possess all the skills to pass it on to you.
They have transcended the mere form of a human and now sit…. Alright I’ll stop.
You get the point.
This is what some feel their Sensei is to them. A person that needs no questioning and contains all the answers.
Sure, if you’re at the beginning of your Karate journey then why would you need to question or look outside of your current Dojo.
But you know they are human right? Flesh and blood, like you and me.
They may have put in more years of practice and know things you have not yet learned but they cannot contain all there is to know.
They ain’t superman - who also happens not to be infallible!
So if the answer is not One Sensei to make a Karateka, how many are needed?
In truth, as many as needed for any individual.
There are factors such as what goals the Karateka seeks, what they are looking to learn and discover and what stage of development they are currently in.
But let me make a distinction.
This it isn’t just a case of being taught at the odd class or seminar by different Sensei; perhaps of the same Style, association or culture.
This is where you embark on having a different Sensei for a longer period of time, because both of you need to learn how best to continue your journey. This cannot be done in a day.
There is a strong trend today to not deviate far, or at all, from the hand that has provided.
Dishonour and disrespect and other such feelings get planted with such ideas of learning from someone else.
And yet, historically, many of the famous and greatest Karateka have had at least 2 or more Sensei in their lifetime - even from different styles and schools of martial arts.
I am not even going to list them because it would take far too long and would require an interconnecting piece of string going all over the place to show it.
Plus, there are plenty of sources out there already doing that job.
What’s the benefit?
In a nutshell - different perspectives and ideas of how to implement the same principles. From this we not only gain some more knowledge, but also reinforce the knowledge from our previous Sensei.
Does it mean saying goodbye for good to your first Sensei? - not at all, unless of course their ego takes too much of a knock and they lock the door on you - because how could anyone else be able to teach and know Karate like them?
When is the right time to make a move?
It is hard to say. Perhaps after a period of time where you feel that your improvements are very incremental.
Usually this means that you know the basic movement and how to implement it to the best of your current ability, and your Sensei cannot help you much more in “perfecting” the technique.
This means that anything your new Sensei teaches you won’t destroy what you already know - it just might alter it slightly.
I never thought this way until I was forced to change Sensei due to moving out of my hometown, and then my home country.
A piece of advice my Sensei said to me when he heard I was leaving: “Do what Sensei says”.
I’m glad I have.