The Proper Care & Feeding of Shihans

by Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Have you ever heard the saying, “when Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”?  The same is true of Shihans just as it is of Mama.  Except unlike some mamas, your Shihans really do try to be happy.  You must remember though, we are only human.

When you have a Shihan or  Shihans, you see that they are different from other people in your life.  They want you to grow and be safe, and they are committed to your best interest, but they are not your parents.  Their main aim is to teach you and help you learn, but they are not like other teachers.  They help you achieve your goals and be your best, but they are not coaches.  Because a relationship with a Shihan is unique it can be hard to know how to care for your Shihan.  I’m here to help.

Understand that your Shihans are professional experts in martial arts with over a decade of experience.  They are passionate about what they do.  They have invested immeasurable energy, time and money into being karateka and instructors.

When you have a problem or a question about your training or about the dojo, seek your Shihan directly.  And don’t just blast your Shihan with complaints.  Think about your real issue and speak to your Shihan respectfully.  They will be happy to return the favor.  If you need to speak in private, let us know and be patient – this may have to be done over the phone or in a special appointment.  (Parents, this may need to be done without your karate child present; if they think you have a problem with their Shihan, their training will suffer.)

When you see your Shihan, such as when going to class, the proper thing to do is to seek them out, say hello, and bow.  As you leave the dojo also say goodbye (and thank you if they taught you) and bow.  This basic etiquette, even when carried over into other parts of your life, will make you stand out as a champion.  Also, be sure to call your Shihan Shihan, not by their first name.

Especially when you are in class, always do your best.  We notice and we can tell if you are trying hard or if you are just getting by.  Do your best for you, and your Shihans will appreciate you for every drop of sweat.

At our dojo, your Shihans make every effort to keep your dues affordable because they want as many people as possible to benefit from being a part of the dojo.  Consequently we have no advertising budget.  To make your Shihans happy, refer people to the dojo – go the extra mile and give them a card and brochure, tell them what a great place we have.  We get a lot of new students from the web.  If you e-mail your positive feedback (for our website referral page), you (and we) can encourage anyone who goes online to give our dojo a try.

As for feeding your Shihans, we head instructors at East Valley Martial Arts Kenshin Kan have made a solid financial commitment to pay the bills every month to keep the dojo open.  We are required to pay those bills whether our students have paid us or not, whether they are still training, or have quit.  Make sure you keep your commitment to your training agreement.  Without the financial support of the students, we may be eating bread and water for a while.

When you take good care of your Shihans, they will take good care of you.   They will also help you learn to take good care of yourself in multiple areas of life, and thus to help others so that the chain of care can continue.

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