View Full Version : Discussion: Does Fatherhood make a better Sensei?

Tripitaka of AA
12th August 2002, 13:26
I've been wondering. I never noticed the similarities between being a parent and being a Sensei, until I had children (mine are twins, a boy and a girl now aged two and a half). The same sense of responsibility, the same duty to educate, the same frustration at lack of progress and pride in watching a new technique mastered.

When I was training (some 15 years ago), Mizuno Sensei and Jee Sensei had become recent fathers, but as far as I recall they were the only Branch Masters in BSKF to share those extra duties. Did this contribute to their skills in handling a Dojo?

By now, there must be a lot more Branch Master outside Japan who are family men (surely 95% of students are single... they were in my day). What do you all think now? Does being a parent help you to be a better Sensei? Or perhaps being a Sensei makes you a better parent?

Or does becoming a parent simply mean it is time to hang up the Dogi and put on the apron? It is still a huge challenge to juggle family AND career AND an active kempo schedule.

Your views please...

Gary Dolce
12th August 2002, 17:34

Interesting question! As a father of three (ten year old twins and a 7 year old), I can say that the most immediate and obvious impact of having children is that it makes it that much harder to balance the needs of family, career, and teaching Shorinji Kempo. It seems almost impossible to be fully committed to all three things. I have had to cut back on the time I commit to my Branch. The easiest thing to cut back on is the social commitments - I miss the after practice drinks, etc. More important, I tend to spend a lot less time outside of practice preparing for practice. So, in some ways my teaching has suffered.

On the other hand, I can't even begin to list the positive things I have gained from having children. I am not sure how they have transferred into my teaching, but I suspect that I am more patient and more foregiving as a teacher than I once was. I am also probably more understanding of the other demands in my students' lives than I once was. In my earlier days, I think I tended to expect everyone to be as committed as I was. Having children has made it much clearer to me how important it is to have a life outside of practice and how to maintain perspective on where practice fits in to the rest of my life.


Tripitaka of AA
12th August 2002, 20:32
Thanks for that Gary Sensei. It is so much easier to be a super-kenshi when you are "young, free and single", but things tend to get way more complicated when your scales have more on one side...

Steve Williams
12th August 2002, 21:58
For the short answer..... best summed up by Kaiso's quote....

The person.... it all depends on the person

Look at any instructor, not all are fathers, not all are not....

It takes a certain person to become a Shorinji instructor, or any MA instructor, I do not think that the ability (or lack thereof) is affected by having children or not.

Personally I do not have any children, but am in charge of the largest BSKF childrens class........ I probably have more time to devote to training.... this in itself probably shows the biggest difference between being a father or not.

All of the "older" (as in established, not ancient) BSKF instructors, with the exception of 1, have children..... I think this is more an indication of age than ability to teach.....

Tripitaka of AA
13th August 2002, 12:39
Hi Steve

Don't get me wrong about Fatherhood though, I'm not suggesting that a new directive be issued to all non-parents to begin propagation techniques as a matter of urgency. Your first point is certainly the most important one when choosing an Instructor; pick the teacher by his ability to teach, not the number of car-seats in the back of his Volvo.

I'm just curious to hear from Instructors and students as to whether they think parenthood (mustn't forget our female instructors) had changed their attitudes to training. I imagine that observant students may have seen a difference in their Sensei's methods after going through the various stages of child-rearing. The parent of a toddler is probably going to have a different range of concerns to the parent of a teenager.

Did the Shorinji Kempo training help take the pain out of child-rearing? Gary Sensei, were your children born before or after you began training?

Gary Dolce
13th August 2002, 21:07


Please just call me Gary - the formality isn't necessary here.

My twins were born just about a little past halfway through my SK career. So the adjustment for me was how and where to cut back on my time in order to meet new family commitments.

The key is to accept that your life has changed and that priorities need to change with it. I'm not saying it is easy - I fail at this regularly.

Without a null case (experience raising kids without practicing SK), it is hard to say how much effect my SK practice has had on child rearing. Practicing SK helps keep me sane, which has to have a positive impact on my kids. I do think about how to apply the philosophy of Kongo Zen at home. But I also acknowledge that the ideals of any philosophy are often hardest to apply when dealing with the people closest to you. So let's just call that a work in progress.

As for the "pain" of child-rearing - I don't think there is anything that takes that away. :)

BTW - I agree with Steve. There are good teachers who are parents and good ones who aren't.

colin linz
13th August 2002, 23:06
Hi All,

I think that Steve is right in that there are no hard and fast rules, and the person and their experiences play a large roll in their success as a teacher.

Although I have noticed from my own experience (I have 4 boys), and the observation of others that their teaching techniques change when they have children. Many people find that they have a greater appreciation and tolerance for the difference in learning styles between children and adults. Sometimes this is not fully understood by some instructors, although they may say they know this. It is a bit like teaching Gyaku Gote to some students; sometimes they will say they know how to do it, but when they try to do it they canít. Having children can sometimes lead to a greater understanding of the differing paths of development that people can share, as well as the need to change the way you teach to suit the learning style of the individual (Visual, Auditory, and Oral).

This does not mean every one needs to be a father to be a good teacher; just that many people gain some insight into the differences between us all when they have children, as they tend to be more involved with the development of their kids than anyone else. This type of experience can also be gained from other areas though; like coaching courses, teaching courses, communication courses, management courses, and of course life experience.


Tripitaka of AA
14th August 2002, 04:26
Many thanks for such learned replies.

I am hopeful that my own experiences in Shorinji Kempo will help me to be a better father. Sometimes it feels like I'm using skills that I picked up in the Juniors class that I helped to teach (some 15 years ago).... but too often it is only my kiai that gets exercised ;)

Life outside Shorinji Kempo will be different for every single Kenshi and I wouldn't presume to judge people's commitment by any rigid comparison of situations (work/family/age/etc.). Suffice to say, it is still possible to generalise and state that there are some very hard working citizens of the world, who manage to make excellent Kenshi despite their other responsibilities. The phrase "training for independent condition" springs to mind, although I can't remember which Howa subject that comes from.

Anyhow, I admire you all, you have my respect. I'd like to give you all a great big "Rei... NaoRei" if you know what I mean :D .

Steve Williams
14th August 2002, 18:52
Originally posted by Tripitaka of AA
The phrase "training for independent condition" springs to mind, although I can't remember which Howa subject that comes from.

Heh heh..... well remembered (sort of).

Comes from the "8 points of training attitude", sometimes called "How to learn Shorinji Kempo".

Point 7: Know your individual condition/ train to your individual condition.

More to do with being stiff hipped, too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, too young, too old, etc..... ;)

But can easily be applied as you have...... thats the great thing about Shorinji howa.... ;) :D

Steve Williams
14th August 2002, 18:54
Just noticed David, you posted that at 25 past 5 in the morning.... :eek:

You work nights or just can't sleep?? :)

Tripitaka of AA
14th August 2002, 20:41
Enlightenment can come at any time, light:rolleyes: or dark:cool: