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Late to Class

I used to dread being late to training. Because of school or work, I'd sometimes have to arrive late. Actually, if I was very late, I would just not go because I did not want to disrupt the class or upset the sensei.

This was a very Japanese thing. Japanese people hate to be late and are not very tolerant of those who are late. Being half-Japanese, being late gave me (and still gives me) considerable stress.

My Sensei lives in Okinawa. When I visited his dojo, many students came to class late. Some left early. The atmosphere was so much more relaxed than I had ever experienced. Okinawans, it seemed, were not as rigid about time -- and many other things.

At my dojo, students should try to come to class early so that they can help to clean and set up the room. However, if they have to come late, it is no problem at all.

They should dress in their gi and then walk to the side of the room (if I am teaching in the front) and wait for me to notice them. Then they should bow. I will signal them to join the class. That's it.

The sensei has to know who is in the class. A late student should not join the group without the sensei's permission. However, the issue is not one of discipline or punishment. It is simply one of accountability and teaching plans -- the sensei might want to select which group the late student will join.

Coming late to class is not a matter of shame. With our jobs and families, sometimes it cannot be avoided. It is no big thing. It certainly is not a reason to make a student do push-ups. That's just silly. The instructor should not take himself so seriously.

In additon, senior student who come late can still help teach. That is a good reason to come to class even if late.


Charles C. Goodin