Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Karate Do in Mainstream Education Continued

I would like to continue the thread from my previous post and look more deeply at the dynamics of the classroom, home, and the dojo. I think that the Karate Do Sensei holds a special place in our hearts and minds due to their very specific skill sets and life experiences but, why don't we feel the same way about our teachers in school? They also have interesting life experiences and possess specific skills sets depending on the grade level and subject that they teach.

In Japan the school teachers, especially in the early stages of education, kindergarten and elementary school levels, play a very significant role in childrens' emotional development. This is a role that, in my experience in Canada, is reserved for the family. Let me give you an example that will show how the lines of family responsibility and the responsibilities of the 'homeroom teacher' in Japan can be blurred or even crossed at times:

If a child were, for whatever reason, to run away from home or not come home one night, who would shoulder the burden or assume the responsibility of searching for them? In Canada, I can say with confidence that it would be the parents. However, I have witnessed numerous times while living here, the homeroom teacher assuming this responsibility. The parents appeared to almost not even get involved.

Another example would be if a child were to damage property, who would have to appologize on behalf of the the child and teach them what they did was wrong? Again, in Canada this would be the responsibility of the parents and again, I have witnessed this burden falling on the shoulders of the homeroom teacher in Japan.

These are examples of troubled children but, who are the children that usually find their way to the dojo? I would venture to say that a great deal if not the majority of children who begin practicing Karate Do could be considered 'troubled'. Through their training they learn the values we have discussed in the previous posts and grow into productive members of society.

Perhaps part of the cause of the difference in the dynamics comes from the specialized skill set, i.e. the children think the Sensei  is strong and respect his/her strength or perhaps it is the authority that they demand and the child initially respects them because everyone else does. I think the dynamic is affected by the teaching style and the process. Teacher - Student and Mentor - Apprentice relationships are very different in nature.
(A common mental image of a Classroom) 
I believe the Karate Dojo atmosphere promotes the mentor - apprentice dynamic over the teacher - student. Parents and children are usually too close, perhaps to some extent teachers and students are too close as well. Reflecting on this has brought up the thought that although the Dojo is an intricate part of the community it is still separate from the school and the education system in general. Perhaps in this point, community involvement but separate from the family and the school, is what gives the most appeal to struggling students once they realize the true power of the Sensei and Karate Do is not in the fighting at all but in the 余裕 Yoyu, the Balance, and freedom that comes from not forcing things.When we have it, things flow when we don't they appear to crash. In the end whether things flow or crash around us is dependant on our frame of mind and the amount of Yoyu we can possess even in crisis. This is the strength that good Sensei possess and this is why children who grow into young adults in the Karate Do Dojo take them on as mentors and end up living the lessons rather than regurgitating them on the test and forgetting them when they count.
(A common mental image of a Dojo?)
The Sensei who possesses those level of Yoyu is like a Jedai knight in the eyes of their students and for good reason. They possess knowledge and skills that are a result of their specific collection of experiences and, for the most part, they are Karate Do Sensei because the art had a profound affect on their own lives. In this respect they make perfect mentors and jump at the chance to give back to the community by helping children grow into the best self they can be. I realize this is the ideal role of a teacher as well but the Sensei is still more appealing to me. What do you think?
(A common mental image of a Sensei)

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