View Full Version : You're sensei, I'm sensei, Everyone's sensei

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09-01-2009, 10:48 PM
I came across some organizations/dojo that if you're a shodan, doesn't matter for how long, 2 years, 1 year, 1 month, 1 day..., you're entitled "SENSEI" everyone will address you as "SENSEI" even your sensei calls you "SENSEI" :eek: whether you're teaching class or not. :confused: :confused: :confused:

Janet Rosen
09-01-2009, 11:48 PM
All it means is "teacher." In some dojo, if the senior student teaching in the absence of a black belt is not a black belt, during that particular class, the person leading it is addressed as "sensei."

09-02-2009, 01:37 PM
In the couple places I have trained, the lead instructor who owns/operates the dojo was sensei. I don't see it being a bad thing either way in most circumstances.

09-04-2009, 06:07 PM
In my dojo we have a similar trend in addressing shodan and above as sensei. It may also be used in conversation in addressing someone by name, such as "sensei Mike", or "sensei Charlie". But we have only one Sensei (with a capital S).

09-04-2009, 06:14 PM
Please, please... for the love of Allah... it's <insert name here> sensei, not the other way around.

BTW, in my family, no one under 4th dan is ever called "sensei."

09-05-2009, 09:48 AM
Since she gave me friendly, great instruction during the adult education summer term, I gave my painting teacher a print of my piece. I wrote on the the back her name followed by Sensei. It is my understanding that in Japan, pretty much any teacher, martial arts or otherwise, is addressed considered a sensei. This also goes for doctors even though they are not purely "teachers." Maybe someone can confirm or correct me on this, but I don't believe the word is as reserved or honorary in Japan as it seems to have become for me, in the West, or at least the States. I wonder if it really is a title of extra honor in Japan, or if it means what it means: "teacher," "physician," and probably some others.


09-05-2009, 11:27 AM
Thank you Mike for the correction, but do we address the person by the last name followed by "sensei"? For example, would John Doe be Doe sensei, or John sensei? Thanks

09-06-2009, 01:02 AM
It really depends on culture. In the US, much less of a big deal to refer to someone by their given name than it would be in Japan. My gut tells me that <first name> sensei just feels wrong, but I hear it all the time.

Michael Fitzgerald
09-06-2009, 01:14 AM
I love the title of this thread!
were I apt to run at the mouth (fingers in this case) about things philosophical at any chance I got, I might start something about how this title points out something about how loose people can be with things that are (can be) quite important.
Anyhow, I remember training with some boys and girls from a Japanese High school many years ago, for a brief seminar.
In conversation, I referred (respectfully- I thought) to their Sensei as 'Sensei'.
WELL! The one young man I was speaking to seemed to be quite offended that i had done this- and was very quick and excited to correct me and tell me that this man was NOT my Sensei- but HIS!

could have been a language thing- but y'know.

I have also bee told at another time, that "you only have one Sensei."
OK, that's my 2 cents.

09-06-2009, 08:43 AM
According to the Sanseido New Concise Japanese-English Dictionary, the word "sensei" has many meanings. One set of meanings that may be meaningful here states that "sensei" refers to "a teacher, an instructor, a schoolman, a schoolmaster, a schoolmistress, a doctor, a master................."

Another meaning may mean "one who was born before another", or one who has entered a system of culture before another. Chronology over rank appears to apply in this instance.

One may address another person as "sensei" for a variety of reasons. For instance, if I am addressing a person of merit and esteem in another profession,or martial arts system, I would address that person as "sensei". This simply connotes respect for that person's well earned status, but not any subservience on my part.

I am also consistently in the habit of addressing instructors and dojo-cho of other Aikido dojos as "sensei', especially in the presence of their own students. I do this irregardless of rank considerations, or in comparison to mine. In my own dojo, I refer to my instructor corp as "sensei" when in the presence of the students they will be leading in class and in life. We can better expect respect, when we are willing to freely give it to others.

Whomever we address as "sensei" for whatever the reason, for whenever the occasion, we must always remember to honor the primary sensei in our lives, ourselves. This inner sensei is the one who makes the final decision as to what we ultimately believe, the core values we keep, and the behavior we consistently undertake.

In Oneness,

francis y takahashi

09-06-2009, 11:55 AM
At Kannagara dojo when I taught the kids' class I was never called sensei. In the Shodokan system I believe "sensei" is technically supposed to denote sandan and above. I don't know how it's done at different schools though.
Certainly in the school system in Japan the teachers are called sensei. In a private English class I helped out with a bunch, I once referred to the teacher as sensei and the whole class started laughing. I think part of it was the novelty of having a gaijin speaking Japanese, but I'm pretty sure it was also because the instructor was not so formal (the students never called him sensei).
I know in some cases there's the idea of being inside or outside a group which determines how you refer to someone in that group, which I guess is possibly why the one person didn't think it appropriate to use the term sensei. My limited understanding is that sensei is a term meant for anyone apart from ourselves who teaches and who is of sufficient rank, but I can see how there might be a difference between calling someone simply sensei (implying perhaps "my" sensei) and using their name followed by sensei.

09-06-2009, 02:42 PM
I used to dojo hop a lot and yes at certain dojo, everyone from shodan and up will be called "sensei" but I also was told by a san-dan not to call him sensei since there's only one sensei in the dojo and that's the chief instructor... To be... called sensei or not to be called sensei. Hmm...

Darryl Cowens
09-07-2009, 12:21 AM
Funny... I don't believe I have yet once heard the word sensei used as a formal title....

I've certainly never heard the term sempai used, let alone anyone addressed using the term...

09-07-2009, 08:13 AM
My Sensei , Yas Inaba Sensei 6th Dan, sadly passed away in January this year. He is and always will be "my Sensei". His Sensei, who has taken over the technical direction of our dojo, Kazuo Igarashi 7th Dan of Japan, is now one sensei I receive instruction and guidance from as he oversees our dojo and does all our yudansa testing.

At this time in our dojo we have a number of instructors, from first to fourth Dan, who share the teaching. I am one, and I am a sensei only when I am on the mat teaching. Even when I am on the mat instructing and am addressed as sensie I feel like an imposter because Inaba Sensei was our sensei. If a new student calls me sensei off the mat I get a funny feeling inside and gently correct them. “On the mat Sensei, off the mat Andrew.”

Inaba Sensei used to laugh during our “koza” sessions we had once a month when discussing the term sensei and point out to new students that as a schoolteacher I was a sensei too. I used to gently tease him that he was a year younger than me and if I didn’t study aikido he would be my “kohai”.

But there was, and is, no doubt who my Sensei was and will always be in our dojo and any dojo I visit or train at. There are many senseis, but if you are lucky only one who is your Sensei.

We all miss you Sensei.

John Matsushima
09-12-2009, 01:29 AM
Too many "wanna-be chiefs" and not enough injins.

You think you're an expert now that you're shodan? ha ha ha ha ha

09-12-2009, 10:41 PM
Too many "wanna-be chiefs" and not enough injins.

You think you're an expert now that you're shodan? ha ha ha ha ha

Some of them wouldn't even talk to beginners now that they've joined the all-high-and-mighty-club. "You are not worthy of talking to me because your belt color is lighter than mine" :confused:

Steven Lasher
09-14-2009, 11:01 AM
The karate dojo I trained at addressed all black belts as sensei+your last name. We only address our head instructor as sensei at the aikido dojo. Everyone else regardless of rank just uses by there first name.

09-14-2009, 10:19 PM
It has been my long experience that the true and ultimate definition of "sensei" is not by description, but by example.

In Oneness