Being Sensei

I am on my way from the office to the dojo it’s December, cold and dark and I ride from the city of London to Wimbledon. It has been a frantic, stressful day in work and I have had little time to conjure up a class for the 2 hours of training that will shortly follow. If it was my own club, as I had back home, I would not have worried so much, but I was in fact standing in for my Sensei (Linda Marchant) who is world renowned and if I say so myself and awesome instructor. I see being a good instructor not only about what happens in the dojo for one class, but a homogenation of classes, budo thinking and lets face it, every day life with it’s myriad of challenges. I have rarely seen all of this manifest in one  Sensei, more often there is a less than clearly defined direction or an over focus on one i.e. sport karate, the result of all of this being transient students or, in the worst instance, arrogant omni skilled karateka. Now please don’t think that I am against sport karate, I am not and have spent years doing competitions etc.

Anyway, back to the evening at hand, I am stuck at the lights by Bank tube station in London, I have had a few near death experiences just to get to this point and one head shaking moment at the sheer idiocy of one scooter rider (had to be a scooter didn’t it J).  The cold evening has brought me from my previous desk bound lethargy and now my brain has kicked in, with, unfortunately apprehension of the evening ahead. Bugger. I’m teaching in the time it takes me to get to the dojo +/-15 minutes, depending on how fast I cycle. To add to my mental torture, it’s Wednesday which in this dojo is brown/black belt advanced training and I am a recent arrival to the world of Goju Ryu. Wonderful.

The lights change and I am funnelled towards London Bridge – my head has managed to fill the first 20 minutes of class- which in the Goju Ryu world is fairly straightforward. Jumbi Undo followed by a few push-ups…but what then. These guys are used to a serious level of tuition and well, I can’t help but feel a sense of responsibility to not only my Sensei but also the 30 or so eyes that will be looking expectantly at me for some sort of stewardship.

I had a pretty robust teaching plan when I had a dojo, which ran to a simple rhythm based around gradings and competitions. Now I have kumite classes coming out of my ears and loads that I want to try out but a technical Goju Ryu class… I can’t blag that… what if someone asks me a question I can’t answer… what if… I am hauled from my thoughts at the lower end of Clapham Common my body deciding to hit the brakes as an Aston Martin DB9 decides to turn left right across me, in London DB9s don’t need to indicate it seems.

Now adrenalin rich I quicken my cadence and all too quickly am heating my feet by the radiator in the dojo… from the sounds in the main hall the kids class is winding down… almost show time.  Friendly faces start to arrive and pre-class banter takes over, somehow my thoughts start to coalesce, this might just work… curtin up, and we are into Jumbi Undo. My brain starts to focus not on my class but onto me, the mistakes I am making, the areas I need to work on, I draw further inspiration from the eyes that have joined me on this journey,  our collective tempos merging and amplifying, in doing so squishing any apprehension I felt earlier. I can do this. I start to trust myself, much like my DB9 experience,  I allow the class to develop and ideas to flow some used some discarded for the next time. Curtin down.  A quick check, no injuries, a respectable amount of sweat and most importantly no jeering.  We’re good, I think Sensei Linda would have been pleased though I have a few questions for when she gets back.

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