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Mona
05-31-2002, 04:30 PM
Hello,

Our Sensei has been coming to class late for the past few weeks, for family reasons. A sempai (his 'oldest' student, actually) has been taking over and giving us classes on a regular basis. I called him 'Sensei' today and he got upset, and told me to call him 'Sempai'. But Sensei wasn't around and we had no idea wether he was going to show up today or not anyway.
Isn't it proper/ethical to call him Sensei, especially that he teaches Aikido himself (but at other dojos)?
I mean, when Sensei isn't around and might not show up, and a Sempai takes over, doesn't he automatically become a 'subtitute Sensei'? What do you think? Or better still, is there some sort of an ethical code relating to such cases?

akiy
05-31-2002, 04:33 PM
Here's Chris Li's interpretation (along witha quick note from me) of the term "sensei":

http://www.aikiweb.com/language/sensei.html

-- Jun

Mona
05-31-2002, 04:44 PM
Originally posted by akiy
Here's Chris Li's interpretation (along witha quick note from me) of the term "sensei":


Judging from that, it's safe to call him Sensei then. :)
My Sempai was simply being modest.
Not that I'm surprised or anything.
:p

BC
05-31-2002, 04:52 PM
Our dojo's sensei passed away a few years ago, and since then, his senior students teach all of the classes. We do not refer to any of the current instructors in our dojo as sensei, but rather address them by their first names. This is done more out of respect for our late Sensei, and to preserve our memories of him. The only people we call sensei in our dojo nowadays are guest instructors from either Aikikai Hombu dojo or outside our association. I guess it's just each to his/her own...

Peter Goldsbury
05-31-2002, 08:37 PM
There is an awful lot of local tradition connected with these two terms in aikido, and so perhaps there will be little consensus on a bulletin board such as this.

When I was a student in the UK and began to teach aikido classes at the main London dojo in the abence of Kanetsuka Sensei, no one ever used the term 'Sensei'. I suppose we would have been 'shidoin', but this is a descriptive term, not really a title.

And we never, ever used the term 'sempai' to refer to senior members of the dojo. This term is not really of the same kind as 'sensei'. In my university aikido club, there is a shihan, fuku-shihan, kantoku, and every single member is in a relationship of sempai or kohai to everyone else. The term 'sensei' is used only of people like myself, who are outside the club system. Similarly, in the city aikido dojo, neither 'sensei' nor 'sempai' are ever used, the chief instructor always being referred to as 'dojo-cho'. But this is the custom in Japan.

On the other hand, there is a custom (outside Japan in my experience) to refer to the person who teaches the class as 'sensei' and this happened at the recent Aiki Expo in Las Vegas. I do not have any real objection to this, but it is not a universal custom. In Holland, where I regularly instruct, I am known by my first name (as I am throughout the Aikikai) and 'sensei' is never used, even when I am teaching. This might be thought disrespectful, but I think that the quality of training is more important than the way you refer to the instructor.

Best regards,

Brian C.
06-03-2002, 05:27 PM
:ai: :ki: :do:
Ohayo my friends. It was taught to us that there is more to the names than just a being the teacher. It is an earned rank or title ,if you will. So in our school a sempai is always a sempai until he has earned to be called sensei within that dojo.

Respectfully,
Brian C.

Janet Rosen
06-03-2002, 05:51 PM
Where I first trained, folks would bow out thanking "sensei" if the chief instructor had taught, and thanking "semipai" if a senior student had taught the class. So that's what feels "normal" to me

dalen7
07-20-2008, 09:57 AM
Old thread, but I found it doing a google search trying to answer a similar question as the original poster.

Just found out, or understood, that in our system no one is a sensei until they are 3rd dan or higher.

2nd dan and lower are sempai.

In the same token, a brown belt can teach here - seems I read somewhere that stateside usually 2nd dans teach.

People here dont typically get their brown belt, from what I have seen, until 7 years or so.
Black is typically longer by the looks of it.

Anyway, it seems it really is a depends on system then.
I was under the impression that if you were black belt and teacher you were a sensei.

Peace

dAlen

jennifer paige smith
07-20-2008, 12:10 PM
I'm thinking 'gratitude is gratitude.'

My students just kinda started calling me Jensei out of the blue one day. I really like the humor and friendliness inherent in it. And if anyone is in doubt as to who sensei is they can ask the dojo-cho: me.

Aikido needs be taken seriously, but we don't need to take ourselves so seriously, honestly.

crbateman
07-20-2008, 12:11 PM
This term has on its own taken on a sense of entitlement outside of Japan, whereas in Japan it is merely a description of one's vocation. It's probably best to just do as the Romans do. I have never personally offended anybody (to my knowledge) by calling them "Sensei", so that's a new one on me. Your sempai should probably just try to lighten up.

jennifer paige smith
07-20-2008, 12:25 PM
This term has on its own taken on a sense of entitlement outside of Japan, whereas in Japan it is merely a description of one's vocation. It's probably best to just do as the Romans do. I have never personally offended anybody (to my knowledge) by calling them "Sensei", so that's a new one on me. Your sempai should probably just try to lighten up.

Yeah. Take a pill.

mathewjgano
07-20-2008, 01:02 PM
Old thread, but I found it doing a google search trying to answer a similar question as the original poster.

Just found out, or understood, that in our system no one is a sensei until they are 3rd dan or higher.

2nd dan and lower are sempai.

In the same token, a brown belt can teach here - seems I read somewhere that stateside usually 2nd dans teach.

People here dont typically get their brown belt, from what I have seen, until 7 years or so.
Black is typically longer by the looks of it.

Anyway, it seems it really is a depends on system then.
I was under the impression that if you were black belt and teacher you were a sensei.

Peace

dAlen
The Shodokan system is similar, if I'm remembering correctly. 3rd dan are referred to as sensei, 2nd dan are not. I was training briefly under a pair of great 2nd dans and when one was promoted I was told it's more appropriate to call him sensei now.

CitoMaramba
07-20-2008, 01:40 PM
At a seminar once, an Aikikai 5th Dan (Japanese) corrected me and told me not to call him "sensei"... Perhaps the fact that he was there acting as the uke for an Aikikai 8th Dan shihan had something to do with it..

dalen7
07-20-2008, 02:03 PM
Well it seems that this topic is true to Aikido - (namely a million different ways to skin the cat) ;)

But in the end there is a common thread behind it all. :)

Matthew it was interesting what you said about Shodokan.
I have been trying to nail exactly what style best fits what we do...because it seems we are a blend of a few, contrasting, systems.
(Which is good.)

I saw some clips on youtube when I searched for Shodokan Aikido, and their zealousness has some semblance in what we do.

Anyway - from what Im gathering, it seems with our system a master is equivalent to the word sensei. (Which starts at 3rd dan.) Again, this is what I gather from how I understand the Hungarian.

Point is, the guys 3rd degree and above really are fluid, and have basically been doing it their whole life it seems.

I agree with Jennifer about her comment where people can take things a bit to serious. I understand, somewhat, where the orginal posters Sempai is coming from. They are 'into' the art and are trying to be as 'pure' to it as they can be. (This to is good, each has to float their own boat, as it were.) ;)

Peace

dAlen

p.s.

Just wanted to add, the more I learn about Aikido - the more, as I said above, I realize that it truly is a diverse system unto itself. So many comments are here and there about what works and what doesnt. People put Aikido in a box and dont realize there are multiple boxes with the name Aikido on it. ;)

Be true to yourself. ;)

Walter Martindale
07-20-2008, 02:40 PM
My understanding of "sempai" was that it was usually one-half of the "sempai-kohai" relationship - where the sempai is a senior who took a kohai (junior) under his wing. I don't know if the same relationship traditionally exists for women - it may, and the terms may even be the same, or different - I only observed it in males in Tokyo.

At our dojo in Regina Saskatchewan, we were developing a sempai-kohai system. One of the things we had (we used coloured belts there) was that the more senior students (sempai) handed down their coloured belt to their kohai when the kohai was graded to that colour of belt. We were held responsible for our kohai's etiquette errors and if the kohai's ukemi wasn't up to our sensei's expectations, the kohai didn't take the thrashing, the sempai did...
W

CitoMaramba
07-20-2008, 02:49 PM
I have heard Japanese females calling their seniors, whether male or female, "sempai"... at least in anime :D (eg, "Taiho Shichauzo" and "Boys Be")

lifeafter2am
07-20-2008, 02:54 PM
I have heard Japanese females calling their seniors, whether male or female, "sempai"... at least in anime :D (eg, "Taiho Shichauzo" and "Boys Be")

LOL!

For what it's worth, it's the same in Japanese RPG video games. :p

Peter Goldsbury
07-21-2008, 05:13 AM
My understanding of "sempai" was that it was usually one-half of the "sempai-kohai" relationship - where the sempai is a senior who took a kohai (junior) under his wing. I don't know if the same relationship traditionally exists for women - it may, and the terms may even be the same, or different - I only observed it in males in Tokyo.
W

In my experience at Hiroshima University, the sempai-kohai relationship transcended sexual differences. There were two broad types of student clubs: the 体育会 (Tai-iku-kai or sports club groups) and the サークル連盟 (Circle groups). There were aikido clubs in both groups. The two clubs with which I was most closely associated (Tai-iku-kai Aikido-bu) and the ESS (English Speaking Society) were in the two different groupings, but the kohai addressed their seniors by the 'Sempai' title, even if the kohai was male and the sempai was female.

There were subtle differences. It was not a general policy in the Circle Renmei clubs for kohai to use keigo (especially polite Japanese) when addressing their sempai, but in the Taiikukai clubs the practice of using keigo was the rule and was fairly rigidly followed (the rigidity also varying from club to club).

Mary Eastland
07-21-2008, 06:25 AM
I'm thinking 'gratitude is gratitude.'

My students just kinda started calling me Jensei out of the blue one day. I really like the humor and friendliness inherent in it. And if anyone is in doubt as to who sensei is they can ask the dojo-cho: me.

Aikido needs be taken seriously, but we don't need to take ourselves so seriously, honestly.

Love this.
Mary

Garth Jones
07-21-2008, 12:01 PM
I'm sure there are a million different answers to this. In my experience there are quite a few dojos in which whomever is teaching class is 'sensei.' That seems to be especially true if the dojo has a number of instructors of similar rank. Others, in which the head instructor is MUCH more senior to everybody else, they are 'sensei' and generally everybody else goes by their first names.

In my dojo I prefer people to just address me by my first name. A few call me sensei and that's fine - I don't see any point in making a big deal out of it one way or another.

I have heard (and used) a hybrid form off address - using the first name followed by 'sensei.' To me it sounds a bit more casual than just 'Sensei' but more formal and respectful than the first name alone. I use it with people who are my seniors and whom I know very well. If I'm ever unsure, I always default to 'Sensei' - better to be too polite than not polite enough, I think!

Anyway, that's my $0.02.

Cheers,
Garth

PS I think 'Jensei' is very cool.

jennifer paige smith
07-21-2008, 04:28 PM
PS I think 'Jensei' is very cool.

Thank you, Garth Sensei;) .

My teacher used to say, 'When in doubt, bow." I think that covers the kind of spirit we're covering here, don't you?

Jensei

patf
07-21-2008, 05:09 PM
What's the proper etiquette for say.. you are at a seminar somewhere with your sensei from your dojo, and the class is being taught by someone other than your sensei. Is it still correct to refer to your sensei as "sensei" during that class, or should there be one and only one "sensei" during the class i.e the one teaching....

Nafis Zahir
07-21-2008, 11:49 PM
Our dojo's sensei passed away a few years ago, and since then, his senior students teach all of the classes. We do not refer to any of the current instructors in our dojo as sensei, but rather address them by their first names. This is done more out of respect for our late Sensei, and to preserve our memories of him. The only people we call sensei in our dojo nowadays are guest instructors from either Aikikai Hombu dojo or outside our association. I guess it's just each to his/her own...

We do the same at our dojo whenever Sensei tells a student to lead the class.

Garth Jones
07-22-2008, 11:35 AM
Jensei -
Yep, I think 'when in doubt bow' is just the right spirit. And, perhaps, when really in doubt, sit seiza and bow, if you're not already sitting.

What's the proper etiquette for say.. you are at a seminar somewhere with your sensei from your dojo, and the class is being taught by someone other than your sensei. Is it still correct to refer to your sensei as "sensei" during that class, or should there be one and only one "sensei" during the class i.e the one teaching....

Two thoughts - 1. ask your teacher what he or she thinks is correct and do that. 2. If don't have the chance to ask, using 'sensei' too much is better than not enough. Again, when in doubt, bow.

Cheers,
Garth

JO
07-22-2008, 12:00 PM
I tend to use sensei for anyone teaching the class. But we don't really have a set rule and nobody really seems to know what to do when a more junior member is filling in for our chief instructor.

Outside of the dojo, my sensei becomes "Pierre", despite his being a 6th dan. I also address at least one shihan by his first name outside of the dojo. But then modern Quebec is a pretty informal place, and out of the dojo, the local culture takes over and we're just a bunch of guys that have known each other for years.

Ron Tisdale
07-22-2008, 12:11 PM
I am sometimes in a rather interesting position, as I get out of my home dojo to train at some other places, in different associations. Sometimes (as this past Sunday), someone will refer to me as Sensei. I usually will ask them not to do that. Believe me, it is not because I am being falsly modest! ;)

I think the instructor of the dojo should get that title (if it is going to be used at all). That is the person responsible for the training, the person who takes the risk of operating a place for training (financial and otherwise), the person that the members should be looking to for guidence in training. I don't mind when people ask for suggestions, or trying to help where people feel I can. But I like it to be clear who is teaching, who is taking the risk on behalf of their students, and who is ultimately responsible. I feel that letting people call me Sensei kind of get's in the way of those priorities.

And it's just less confusing for everyone. And as Jen said, sometimes we do just need to lighten up! ;)

I don't use sempai much, since from what people like Peter have said, it seems to be something most properly used in a truly Japanese context. And I can't say I like everything that I've heard about it in that context...

Best,
Ron

CitoMaramba
07-22-2008, 12:25 PM
An article worth re-reading:
The meaning of the term "Sensei" By Peter Boylan (http://www.budogu.com/html/sensei.html)

patf
07-22-2008, 06:17 PM
I lived and worked in Japan for approx 8 years and here's my take on Sempai/Kohai (though this is within a company hierarchy rather than a MA hierarchy).

Anyone who has been at the company before you is technically a Sempai, even though that person may be younger than you, it denotes seniority through longevity in a position. The sempai/kohai relationship never changes, even if a person who is kohai to you eventually gets promoted above you, you are still the sempai, though the distinction becomes meaningless.
The terms sempai/Hohai are rarely used to name people, they are more just distinctions of relative rank within the group (and typically this is age based as companies tended to hire college graduates once/year, so the age distinctions were maintained as the employee stayed in the company). For example it's not typical to call a fellow employee kohai or sempai, like "Hi Sempai, how are you". The terms are used more like "this person is my sempai (or Kohai)". Rank is usually distinguished by the addition to the persons last name. Tanaka-san would be used for a Mr Tanaka who is same/higher rank than you, Tanaka-kun would be used for someone of lower rank. Tanaka-Sempai or Tanaka-Kohai would almost never be used.
So I don't think Sempai-Kohai are used in the same sense as "Sensei" which signifies rank and respect when used with/without a persons name.

my 2-en's worth