Technique of the Week (November 8th, 2009)
Sensei Lyle Kleusch Shihan, Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Club
Mentoring is a very important element of social interaction within our system of karate. Every new student that steps onto the deck should be taken under the wing of a senior student. It can have a profound impact on the student and their view of themselves within the social structure of the dojo family. It makes them feel accepted, like a valued family member. It also accelerates their understanding and application of the karate we teach.
In addition, mentoring provides the senior students with a chance to start developing teaching strategies and skills; their own teaching style. Mentoring benefits both the giver and the receiver.
Here is the example of Sensei Lai and myself. When I joined Kaplan Senseis club in Hawaii it was strictly for college sports credits. I had no intention of continuing after two semesters as I had been trained in military hand-to-hand combat and was already confident in my ability to defend myself. However, Sensei Lai took a personal interest in my training right from my very first day. He turned my dojo experience into much more than just a college sports course. We became like brothers, like family. Many evenings he would call me or I would call him and we would meet at Makiki Park for training and dinner afterwards. When Kaplan Sensei had to leave for a one year sabbatical Sensei Lai, then an Ii-kyu, continued my Yon-kyu training without hesitation. I still view him as my mentor to this day, and we still meet in the parks of Hong Kong for extra training. I am who I am and my karate is what it is as a direct result of Sensei Lais mentoring. He is a shining example of this concept.
I would encourage all senior deshi, especially color belts, to personally welcome a new white belt to your club or dojo and spend extra time with that person before or after class. In my view, every new white belt that steps onto our decks should be approached within the first few classes and taken under the wing of a more senior student.
Junior students, if you see a senior student whose karate-do seems especially appealing to you, seek them out. Ask them for tips and training before and after class. They might just become your mentor.
Naturally, the teachers and assistants in our dojos should continue to offer help, teaching and training all those who ask it of us. We should continue to be available and accessible to any and all members in our system.
However, in addition to this accessibility for all, be a mentor. Whether you are a San-dan reaching out to a Sho-dan, a Yon-dan reaching out to a San-kyu, a Ni-Kyu reaching out to a Ro-kyu, or a Yon-kyu reaching out to a new white belt, just do it. Be a mentor before and after class. Your dojo will retain more students, the students social bonds will strengthen and you will truly have the family spirit of Shorin Ryu karate on and off the deck.
Shihan, Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Club