Senpai. 先輩

I’ve heard many people called the seniors students ‘senpai’ (先輩) which literally means ‘senior’. I’ve myself called some of my senior Karetekas senpai as well.

But when Aishah called me that , it dawned to me that I am that senpai in my fellow Aikdioka’s opinion. Its an uneasy reality for me, as i always see myself as just a short, funny fella who wears a skirt-like garment in class.

My relationship with my fellow Aikdiokas is very existentialistic, i should say. I am not a grade to them, even though i do possess a deeper technical knowledge than my juniors. and I never seriously thought that i am looked up upon in this manner. I am aware that the juniors are observing me and I have a certain ‘standards’ to uphold, but i’ve never seen myself as a ‘senpai.’ much less being called one.

What I know that my juniors don’t i always share with them, not to prove that i have superior knowledge, its just a spontaneous sharing. At times, although rarely, i chastised the newbies when they are not aware of the dojo protocol, but i can hardly consider myself a ‘senpai’.

When i was younger, i would reject such ‘labels’ outright, and straight talked ‘just call me Randy! that is already a label too heavy for me to bear!’ Now I reflect with curiosity. Well, sometimes, what people called you cannot be helped, i should be thankful that i am called a ‘senpai’ rather something else.


About Who is Randy Lim

This blog is about the journey and experiences in my life as an Aikidoka. With close to 20 years in the arts, I'll make comments and judgements based on 2 principles, E&E. Experimentation and Experiential reflection. please enjoy, and comment freely.
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3 Responses to Senpai. 先輩

  1. Drew says:

    In my dojo formalities were kept to a minimal – an example being any belt may wait in the line to bow in any order as they wished. This is along with there is no titles for anybody except for ‘Sensei’.

    I have not (yet) been called any formal titles, but I have had fellow practitioners (many of them twice my age) in the past ask me when I was going for my black belt (I’m a 1st kyu at the moment). I usually shrug and say”Whenever Sensei feels I am ready”.


    • Same goes for my dojo too. Senpai is a generic Japanese term for ‘Senior’ and is commonly used in dojos, however we rarely ever call anyone in the dojo that. There is only ‘sensei’ and everyone goes by their names. So i was rather suprised when someone addressed me as ‘senpai’. 🙂


      • Drew says:

        Actually I have been addressed as “senpai” before. Two things stuck to my mind then: 1.) It was weird and 2.) The students addressing me as “senpai” were all twice my age!


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