Quiet (but not stillness)

It has been very quiet for a while now; I wonder if everybody is hanging out and waiting for my next words of wisdom. I hope not.

Still, I have been quiet as well; pondering a question that has arisen in my mind. The other day a Ju Dan in another style called me “Sensei” and this unlocked a lot of difficult feelings on my part: Concern, questioning (e.g., how could I deserve this title?), and not a little panic.

Why concern?

Perhaps because I feel as if I am just beginning to grasp the principles my Sensei taught me.

Perhaps because my body fails and I no longer feel capable of properly teaching anything or anyone. Not that it has been a bad body, but the things I have been through in my life have taken their toll.

Perhaps because the time and space that separates me from those I have taught and studied with prevents me from any sort of a regular training regime.

Why question?

Sensei ( 先生 ) literally means "born before" and implies one who teaches based on wisdom from age and experience. So why does a 10th degree Black Belt who is decades my senior feel the need to call me this (I think in part it was because of the way I reacted; apparently it is a bit fun to needle me about it)?

Why panic?

Perhaps because in 1987 a lot of things changed for me. I was injured and had to leave the military for good; all of my comrades in arms were gone; I was newly divorced (and bankrupt); I left Japan for probably the last time in my life; and Hirakawa Sensei passed on leaving me alone. In many ways I closed the door on that chapter of my life and relegated those things to my past. It is no coincidence that when I began studying martial arts again I chose a Korean style.

Now it seems as if that door is being forced open and all those things are coming around again. Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of "Zombie" by Dolores O'Riordan and the Cranberries?

Perhaps because I remember Hirakawa Sensei very well and realize it is doubtful I can live up to his legacy.

Perhaps because the term “Sensei” brings with it a sense of inescapable obligation; obligation I resent because I feel unable to properly fulfill it.

So, think before you call me Sensei. I do not know what it means to you but it opens up a whole new can of worms for me. If you do, be prepared for what goes along with it.