We are going to dive straight into a topic that isn’t usually spoken about due to uncertainty as to whether it is an appropriate question to ask your own Sensei, but it is absolutely valid to ask, and that is ‘can I train with another Sensei?’.
We understand the value of learning from different people. You can develop new perspectives on old concepts and even experience a whole new teaching style. This works very well for conventional schooling and academia, but when it comes to specialist skill development and learning, can become a grey area. Ever learnt something from one person and then someone else told you it is incorrect? Consistency is key to developing any skill. So, there are a few considerations that need to be made prior.
In Japan, many traditional Sensei absolutely forbid the practice of learning from more than one Sensei as it presents a form of disloyalty and disrespect to your original Sensei. As Karate encompasses Japanese culture, this belief has transcended time and space and many Dojos uphold this belief. However, there are Martial Arts clubs that facilitate the value of diversified learning, within set parameters. Clubs will often have sister-clubs or affiliations with other clubs. These clubs tend to share the same or similar values, teaching styles and disciplines which limits any mis-teachings or differences of opinion. Ensuring that both or all Sensei are in alignment ensures the student maintains progression throughout their training. More often than not, your Sensei are probably training with those Sensei too!
TRAINING OUTSIDE OF ALIGNMENT
Training with other clubs that do not have an agreement with your Dojo can cause some roadworks for the student. Any mis-match could mean the student is told to re-learn something, possibly due to a difference in technique opinion or style. Grading can also become an issue as now, the primary Sensei may not be privvy to the training the student is doing additionally, or even knows what the other Sensei is teaching them. However, this does not apply to cross training. Cross training with a Sensei for a different martial art is a new kettle of fish. If your primary Sensei does not specialise in a martial art you would like to try then by all means, ask them to point you in the right direction! They will have many connections, and also understand your level and which school would suit you best.
SHOULD I ASK MY SENSEI?
The very first thing you should do is talk to your Sensei. It is not the question that is disrespectful, it is the approach that may seem disrespectful. Keep in mind, your Sensei has worked hard to help you develop, train you and help you achieve your martial arts goals. So, showing respect and loyalty to your Sensei by consulting them first, before anyone else, matters. They know your journey best. Loyalty is one of the pillars of martial arts culture. It is an attribute that most, if not all martial arts clubs teach and practice. Loyalty, also means asking your Sensei about training before seeking advice from others. Your Sensei will gladly chat to you! In cases where a student seeks advice from another Instructor, the student will often be re-directed to ask their Sensei. The loyalty is upheld by Instructors as well.