Kendo Question of the Day: What exactly is my role as senpai?

Last night before keiko, I had a conversation with two members of our club’s youngest batch. I was asking them about something and trying to remind them about the latest information shared about it. They were quick to tell me that their way was what they learned from the 2nd Dan senpai who visited us a couple of months back. This was the second time that someone from that same batch answered me in almost exactly the same way. I understand the attitude given that compared with a beginner senpai like me, a more experienced and Dan level senpai knows better.

But this somewhat confuses me. It puts me in a position when I begin to question the logic of making an effort to offer feedback. Because as this most recent experience showed me, some people are not as open to information and feedback if they believe that they already know better thanks to what they learned from higher-ranked senpais.

What adds to my confusion is that the same senpai said during his lectures that the seniors of the club have a responsibility to its younger members. That as senpais, we should guide them and teach them along the way. I actually find this a challenge since I am the type of person who balk at the idea of teaching anything that I know I have barely learned myself. I may be very vocal about certain things (i.e. etiquette in the dojo, etc.), but I only speak up (often only by posting links on the group’s page) after I have done my research and ensured that I choose my sources well. When it comes to techniques or drills though, I rarely correct others, especially if I know that I have trouble doing them correctly as well. However, since after the visits from the two Manila-based clubs, I am making more of an effort to provide feedback when I am motodachi during uchikomi-geiko.

By default though, I have always been that kind of person who observes first. I tend to share more with people who are receptive. And I appreciate those who offer feedback and share information to others. Because that means they care enough to help others develop as well.

Right now though, I am a bit confused on what is expected of me as “senpai”. I guess I will just have to keep doing what I do, which is to work on my kendo and hope to set a good example with my conduct in and out of the dojo. I think that sometimes, we just have to let others be. I will just have to look out for those who are more open to learn even from beginner senpais like me.

As for what I think about being influenced by senpais from other clubs:
-Of course, that is always a good thing. Because we can learn from them.
-I also believe in the value of listening. You do not have to agree with what the person is saying, but you do not have to immediately dismiss it by quickly invoking the name of a higher-ranked senpai or a sensei. Because for me, the message it sends is that, “I am following what someone who has a rank told me so you do not have to teach me anymore.”
-I also have questions myself when I am being corrected even by sensei. But I always remind myself to listen and accept what I am being told instead of offering excuses or reasoning out.
-And lastly, it is members of the same dojo who train together that have more opportunities to observe what each one is doing. It would be a waste of opportunity not to listen to what anyone has to say just because we only trust senpais who do not even see us train on a regular basis.

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