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Questions about Ranks

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Sometimes students will ask me several related questions: What’s the difference between a black belt sempai and a black belt sensei? Or, What is the difference between a shodan (1st degree black belt) and a judan (10th degree black belt) and all of the dans in between? Or, I’ve heard that a red belt is higher than the highest black belt, does Shotokan have a red belt? Understand, I do not claim to be the ultimate authority on rankings in karate, but these are my thoughts. First of all, a sempai (or senpai) could be someone senior to you in the dojo/ministry. Conversely, a kohai could be someone junior to you in the training hall. I say could be, because in Japan, the sempai/kohai relationship is one of mentorship, like taking someone under your wing. Normally, I call the brown belts and above, the sempais of the dojo or ministry because they have an informal responsibility to help teach the color and white belts and to serve as good examples for all members of the group. The question comes up then, how does a sempai become a sensei? I usually reserve that title for a black belt who has actually [...]

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Sports, Aerobics and Karate-Do

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I realize that everyone starts up in karate for their own particular reasons, the more common ones being: self-defense, exercise, martial arts movies, tournament trophies, cultural appreciation (really!), and one especially common in the secular dojo…”because my parents wanted me to learn some discipline.” For most adults, if they have the patience and drive to hang in with karate-do beyond a year, these early drivers fall off and they’re left with the unbelievable realization that…they just plain enjoy training. This should not be confused with the initial infatuation that many feel for the art, which so often, like in romantic relationships, fades and then karate becomes “something I tried for a little while.” A mature love of the art is a true interest in the bio-physics and dynamics of movement, force projection and speed. It is a real appreciation for the traditions, thought, effort, and sharing attitude of the experts that brought this modern, complex system, with its ancient roots, so freely to each of us who are fortunate enough to study and practice it. For those who survive the first year, therefore, who make it through the natural screening process of repetitive basics (what I like to call “Eternal [...]

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Council Meeting

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Earlier this year, we created the NHPC Karate Ministry Council, consisting of myself and four invited sempais (brown belts or higher) who are not only mature in wisdom (and age), but have consistently been with the ministry for several years, one of whom – Rodney – has been with the ministry since its inception. The council (sempais James, Doreen, Robert, Rodney and myself) discusses the health, direction and goals of the ministry informally, and in addition, conduct meetings every several months. Some highlights from the meeting: —Sempais James and Wes have agreed to give 1/2 hour seminars in the near future. James will talk about interesting correlations between aikido and karate-do (In addition to his shodan from NHPC, sempai owns a shodan from the JIKC and a sandan – 3rd degree black belt – in aikido). Wes will be talking about self-defense awareness (apart from NHPC, sempai studied karate at the KAH, Kajukembo, Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, was formerly a HPD officer and is currently a federal law enforcement officer). We also plan to invite Senseis Wayne and Peter to give unique seminars in the future. —At least once a month, we intend to do training that emphasizes maai…distance and focus training. [...]