Kensington Karate held belt testing yesterday, and 14 juniors passed their test to advance in rank. Nine of the students were white belts, testing for their first colored rank. Of course, it is a time of celebration, photos, pride, and in some cases... a good night's sleep with that belt still around your waist! Then, there is that moment that you walk into your next class, and you realize something: You are no longer a pure beginner, others are viewing you as a role model, and your days of limited expectations are over! In other words, you are a "sempai" to someone, and they are now your "kohai". A sempai's job is to educate and mentor the kohai in the etiquette, culture, and technique of the dojo. This mentoring system applies across many different organizations and activities in Japan, and simply means that one who has been there longer has an obligation to help newer members. Now, it is hard enough for adults to be gracious in mentoring new members of their work place, club, etc., but imagine trying to do so with the life-experience level of a seven or 11 year-old. It is then the Sensei's job to teach sempai how to lead without bullying or bossing others around. It takes some work, but the results are clearly visible, especially in the teen years and beyond. This is one of the least understood and mentioned purposes of traditional karate training: Students learn leadership skills. In turn, they see themselves as having something important to offer to others, which leads to that elusive self-esteem. It explains the Karate Heroes motto: "Shaping Everyday Heroes, Every Day".