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"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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What, if any, is the difference between someone who is a blackbelt and someone who is a sensei?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Welllll, as one professional likes to state, “It depends.” You have to know, universally speaking as to fundamentals regarding black belt and sensei, what defines a black belt, a sensei and add in there what defines the levels of black belt. Like Marc MacYoung says about things like self-defense, it depends. 

Since there are absolutely no verifiable, acceptable and understood universal definitions to either black belt and sensei as they may or may not relate to qualifications, etc. we will have to answer this question from only my personal theories, perceptions and beliefs. 

First, what is a black belt? A black belt is that symbol that is worn around the waist of practitioners of certain martial arts and practitioners of karate. It often represents, inappropriately, a level of mastery in the discipline. In truth it does denote a certain level of proficiency toward master (how ever that is defined as well) but that also depends, i.e., is it a black belt at the first level or is it a black belt at a higher level of say 6th through 8th, etc.? 

A first level of black belt, from where I sit, means the person has shown the discipline, dedication and determination to become a “Student.” The kyu levels are all about being a novice and only when they reach the first level black belt do they actually become a student or practitioner. It means they know, understand and can apply the basics, the principles, the methodologies, the kata, etc., that make up the foundation of a system or style. They have achieved a certain level of things like “Shu-ha-ri and Shin-gi-tai, etc.” 

Being a first level black belt is not about being a sensei or teacher or instructor or mentor but it does represent a certain maturity that if a practitioner/student desires to one day become a sensei they are then allowed to pursue that knowledge then gain experience toward that goal secondary to what is necessary to achieve a higher level of black belt before assuming a role as a sensei. Even when assuming a role of sensei at the level of third dan, in the dan-i system, they are still tied to a more experienced mentor and sensei until a much higher level is achieved. This is necessary to maintain the integrity of the system being taught while passing down all the necessary knowledge and experience to maintain the very essence and integrity of said system or style. 

Sensei, teacher and/or instructor is a discipline all their own and when tied with the martial arts and karate take on an awesome level of responsibility that many may not actually have the ability to undertake. Way to may folks make the incorrect assumption that donning a first level black belt means they have the knowledge, ability, understanding and expertise to assume the role of sensei. This assumption leads to the diminishing of the system or style until it becomes something else rather than that martial art or karate. 

The differences most obvious under this model are, “a technical application of the discipline vs. the inherent ability to convey a physical, mental and philosophical mentoring driven model that adequately conveys the very essence of the discipline to a wide range of perceptions, socially driven attributes and individual belief systems allowing such conveying of knowledge, experiences and most important of all “Understandings” that transcends all the human obstacles that hinder proper teaching, training, practice and applications necessary to be a sensei. 

As can be determined by this very simplistic and inadequate explanation and answer this is not a cut and dry thing but a complex discipline that transcends easy answers where dependency is driven my a myriad set of uncontrollable factors that tend to evade adequate explanation and understanding and so on. 

So, blackbelt vs. sensei, the only true answer is, “IT DEPENDS!” Look at achieving black belt as a pre-requisite to gaining entrance into a whole new discipline of teaching, etc. where an additional set of years along with degree are required before teaching the subject, etc. You don’t just get to graduate from high school and then get to assume you can now teach high school to students. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

p.s. If you wish to see more details as to what makes a sensei, teacher and instructor by all means do a search on the blogs I write and take a read, it is as I state a very complex and most difficult discipline this sensei thing. 

p.s.s. I have trained and practiced karate for a good many years, I even taught in my own dojo and I even taught self-defense but I have come to understand so many more things in the last decade that I now, even at the level I achieved, do not consider myself a sensei of karate for self-defense no matter how solid I feel my more academic knowledge and understanding is cause there is just so much more to applying and/or teaching martial arts and karate for self-defense. If you don’t believe me, simply begin to read my bibliography especially those geared toward self-defense.

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