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BJohnston
06-24-2011, 12:46 AM
Just curious if it would ever be possible to surpass your sensei in rank? Just wondering at what point someone might expect to stop advancing in the art. My sensei told me that it's no longer possible for him to advance. It got me thinking.

Janet Rosen
06-24-2011, 01:00 AM
I'm not sure exactly what you are asking...?...students may start training at dojos run by say a nidan then move to someplace they can train with a shihan in same or different organization and meanwhile the original instructor due to unaffiliating or injury or whatever may not get higher rank anymore or for a while...meanwhile the student keeps training so sure it's possible.

There is a difference, IMO, between "advancing in the art" and getting higher rank :-)

Shany
06-24-2011, 01:24 AM
You can outrank your sensei. But, he will always be your sensei.

Tim Ruijs
06-24-2011, 01:52 AM
The relation you have with your teacher (Sensei) exists only when both parties have something to gain. So in case you (think you) 'outrank' your teacher you should find (what you think is:D ) a better teacher. This happened a lot in the past. If you want to get good, find the best teacher until he has nothing to teach you, then you find the next one...Loyalty and respect...;)

The example Janet gave is a valid one to show how you can get a higher rank. But...I think to stick to one teacher is better until you decide it is time to move on.

I am curious though as to why your teacher would say he cannot advance anymore. What was the context in which he said that?

Stephen Nichol
06-24-2011, 01:59 AM
You can outrank your sensei. But, he will always be your sensei.

Or 'she' as the case may be. ;)

Although one may eventually, by the path Janet mentioned, gain a higher 'actual rank' than their initial Sensei, the relationship will always be that they are Sensei to you. They will most likely always have insights worth learning given their experience and that in training 'with' them, technical improvement is no longer the objective you will both share.

Mark Uttech
06-24-2011, 05:24 AM
Onegaishimasu,
"rank" is probably already a wrong word. The purpose of living is to advance. I am also reminded of a General who, when asked about retreating said, "no, we never retreat. we advance in a different direction..."
In gassho,
Mark

Jauch
06-24-2011, 06:23 AM
I am curious though as to why your teacher would say he cannot advance anymore. What was the context in which he said that?

I'm curious too :)

Why did you sensei say that? He was talking about his RANK or about his AIKI?

sakumeikan
06-24-2011, 07:13 AM
I'm curious too :)

Why did you sensei say that? He was talking about his RANK or about his AIKI?
Dear Eduardo.
A persons rank is simply that .It does not always refct on a persons aikido ability.If a person is graded say 5th Dan then stops training for years he may well retain the rank , but his ability may not be to standard.Likewise some guys , for whatever reason, political, face doesnt fit etc, may well be held back by others in terms of rank.However this has no bearing upon ones ability.Whatever you belt colour is at the end of the day it only holds you jacket in place.
Tying a dan grade belt or a bit of string around you midsection does not diminish or improve your ability.You are what you are no more no less.
Cheers, Joe.

Jauch
06-24-2011, 08:44 AM
Dear Eduardo.
A persons rank is simply that .It does not always refct on a persons aikido ability.If a person is graded say 5th Dan then stops training for years he may well retain the rank , but his ability may not be to standard.Likewise some guys , for whatever reason, political, face doesnt fit etc, may well be held back by others in terms of rank.However this has no bearing upon ones ability.Whatever you belt colour is at the end of the day it only holds you jacket in place.
Tying a dan grade belt or a bit of string around you midsection does not diminish or improve your ability.You are what you are no more no less.
Cheers, Joe.

Hello Joe! :)

Yes. I did not mean to say that rank and ability is something that are connected. At least, not most of time.
To me, a rank is more like a way to "reward" the commitment someone has to the practice. But we know that many times this is done by "political" reasons (sometimes valid ones).

So, I agree that the rank that someone has says really nothing about the AIKI ability of this person.

My doubt is more if Barry's sensei (and Barry itself) was talking from an "organization" viewpoint, as when one already have achieved the higher possible hank or do not have the ways to achieve it (like number of students, etc), or if it was about advancing in ability.

The first I complete understand. I myself moved from Brazil to Portugal and for almost 5 years have been a "1º kyu". Many of my friends in Brazil that when I left were 4º and 3º kyu are 1º kyu like me, now, and probably will become shodan before me.
When I moved, I start to train in an organization that was affiliated to Aikikai, like my own in Brazil. I choose to do my "tests" on Brazil. And I knew that this would lead to a very slow rank change to me, because is very difficult to go to Brazil (once each 2 or 3 years) and at the same time when a shodan test is taking place. But I don't mind. Now, the organization here at Portugal is not anymore with Aikikai, so, I'll continue to take tests in Brazil (when opportunity shows up) and will start to take tests here too (probably).

"Rank" do not bother me. ;)

But I will be surprised if the whole point to Barry's Sensei is ability...

Cheers! :)

BJohnston
06-24-2011, 09:47 AM
Thank You all for your responses.


My doubt is more if Barry's sensei (and Barry itself) was talking from an "organization" viewpoint, as when one already have achieved the higher possible hank or do not have the ways to achieve it (like number of students, etc), or if it was about advancing in ability.

But I will be surprised if the whole point to Barry's Sensei is ability...

Cheers! :)

I believe he was talking about the organization's views. I could have gotten this wrong. He might have meant that he can no longer physically test for rank...aka the only way he could advance in rank was if he were promoted "politically"? I'm still a little green when it comes to these things. Hope that makes sense:)

David Yap
06-24-2011, 09:56 AM
There is a difference, IMO, between "advancing in the art" and getting higher rank :-)

Absolutely agree - one requires effort and brain, the another may not :D

Marc Abrams
06-24-2011, 10:02 AM
Here is the easiest way to accomplish this feat:

Work outside doing physical labor all day. Do not rinse off or use any kind of deodorant. Put on your dogi and work hard in class. Do not wash your dogi or yourself after class. Continue doing this daily for one week. If you do not out rank your sensei, then you are obviously doing something wrong! :yuck:

Marc Abrams

Ps- If you are a higher rank than a person who teaches that class, that person is still the Sensei, regardless of rank. I frankly enjoy the opportunity to do this. It is always informative to see how and what other people teach, regardless of rank.

Jauch
06-24-2011, 10:15 AM
Thank You all for your responses.

I believe he was talking about the organization's views. I could have gotten this wrong. He might have meant that he can no longer physically test for rank...aka the only way he could advance in rank was if he were promoted "politically"? I'm still a little green when it comes to these things. Hope that makes sense:)

Hi Barry :)

Each organization has it's own rules for hanking.
For example, Aikikai. You do test for rank only until you reach the 4º dan. After that, new rank is something that is "given" by the Aikikai based on the recommendations of higher aikidoka of the organization and on the "help" that you gave to spread the art (and organization, of course).

Maybe this is something like that that prevents your sensei from getting a higher rank. He might not want to fill the criteria that is needed to get higher ranks.

But this is not a problem, of course.

But I have seen people "changing" from organization or sensei because the old sensei takes too long to call them to do a test, usually for 4º dan (because the sensei thinks that they are not prepared).

Anyway, Aikido is a personal path. We must keep going on, with the steps that we can do, never caring about ranking, or at least, trying to abandon the need for it :)

The funny is in the journey, anyway ;)

lbb
06-24-2011, 10:20 AM
I am curious though as to why your teacher would say he cannot advance anymore. What was the context in which he said that?
Lack of a teacher, perhaps. What happens when your teacher dies?

Jauch
06-24-2011, 10:59 AM
Lack of a teacher, perhaps. What happens when your teacher dies?

If you still need a teacher, you find another one...No?

Cynrod
06-24-2011, 01:33 PM
You can outrank your sensei. But, he will always be your sensei.

+1

Janet Rosen
06-24-2011, 01:50 PM
You can outrank your sensei. But, he will always be your sensei.

I disagree.
S/he may always have more seniority than me, but to me "sensei" = teacher, a relationship.
Some of us change dojos because of no longer regarding a specific person as "my sensei" which can happen for a wide variety of reasons.

Jauch
06-24-2011, 02:12 PM
I disagree.
S/he may always have more seniority than me, but to me "sensei" = teacher, a relationship.
Some of us change dojos because of no longer regarding a specific person as "my sensei" which can happen for a wide variety of reasons.

On the other hand...

I had to "change" dojo because move to another country.
But I still feel my "old" sensei as my sensei. And he will always be my sensei, even if he stop practicing for some reason (like an illness, for example). And when I come back to visit, I train and learn with him.
My relationship do not changed because I moved on.

On the new dojo, I adopted the new teacher as a second sensei, besides the fact that he do not like to be called sensei. And look to learn what I can from him, even the focus on the training being different somehow from my first sensei.

Cheers! :)

Janet Rosen
06-24-2011, 04:55 PM
Oh, no contradiction between us. You are certainly not unique and I think it is wonderful to have those sources of support and inspiration from which to draw! I feel that way about certain people with whom I have trained from time to time but due to circumstances/geography cannot really develop that relationship with.

On the other hand...

I had to "change" dojo because move to another country.
But I still feel my "old" sensei as my sensei. And he will always be my sensei, even if he stop practicing for some reason (like an illness, for example). And when I come back to visit, I train and learn with him.
My relationship do not changed because I moved on.

On the new dojo, I adopted the new teacher as a second sensei, besides the fact that he do not like to be called sensei. And look to learn what I can from him, even the focus on the training being different somehow from my first sensei.

Cheers! :)

Jauch
06-25-2011, 05:24 AM
Oh, no contradiction between us. You are certainly not unique and I think it is wonderful to have those sources of support and inspiration from which to draw! I feel that way about certain people with whom I have trained from time to time but due to circumstances/geography cannot really develop that relationship with.

Ei!!!
How is that I'm not unique???? lol Kidding ;) I understand.
Yes. You're right. No contradiction. :)

Cheers!

Tim Ruijs
06-26-2011, 11:18 AM
The way I understand the meaning of 'sensei' is that it indicates someone 'who went before you'. He/She has walked the path you are about to explore and can help you/give you some pointers.

Said person will not use the term himself, but is addressed this way by his/her followers.

Barry kinda explained why he thought his teacher said he cannot advance. Likely because of political issues/or physical limitations. I am surprised about that. I would expect him to explain that to his students so they know what is/might be going on (in the organisation). As sensei he knows the path and should inform students who are about to take that road...no?

Janet Rosen
06-26-2011, 02:55 PM
The way I understand the meaning of 'sensei' is that it indicates someone 'who went before you'. He/She has walked the path you are about to explore and can help you/give you some pointers.
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!

Diana Frese
06-26-2011, 05:13 PM
Thanks, Janet, it's a great point to bring up. I'm not exactly sure myself, but here are a quote, and also a personal story that might further the discussion a little...

I read somewhere, "Be careful who you call your student for the student may surpass you..." At one point I thought it had come from the founder of Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi. I read an autobiographical book by him, and it said something similar, I'll have to look it up, but maybe someone remembers it exactly, and whether he said the statement I put in quotation marks.

I had an interesting personal experience at the local YMCA years ago where I had a small class. A former student of judo, of a similar age of most of my students, probably in their twenties and I was in my thirties, wrote inquiring about the classes (I had a listing in the local phone book yellow pages) addressing it to "Sensei".

I was just "Daian" to the rest of the students, (and of course to him once he joined ) and most of the American Aikido teachers I knew used their first names.... What was cool was in just one conversation over a few years I heard him refer to me as his senpai and that made me real happy. Somehow I really liked the idea of being their senpai, of introducing them to my teachers, whenever they could make it to workshops and seminars and dojo visits, So they got to call my teachers "sensei"
and I wish they could have visited them more.

But marriage, job changes, moving in the case of some of them intervened, and the first two of the three listed occurred in my case, and besides other yudansha moved to the area ... I know of at least one of the former Y group people who returned to practice in her original area after about fifteen years and is now shodan working towards nidan. That's what I am, and way cool if she eventually becomes sandan.

Well, I've rambled too much, please excuse me, I'm getting old!

Tim Ruijs
06-27-2011, 02:36 AM
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!

Sempai is the 'older', experienced student(note: not teacher!). Kohai is the junior that learns the ropes of the dojo from the sempai. Important aspect is that there is no implicit form of respect between sempai and kohei (father/son, boss/employee, teacher/student!).

Sensei is exactly what you say, however does have seniority with respect to his ability.
So anybody who is more advanced than you and teaches is a sensei (in relation to you). It is a courtesy title, much like shihan.
:confused: relations in Japan are very complex.

Also this is how I understand it, which could be incorrect ;)

amoeba
06-27-2011, 04:14 AM
My teacher always says she wants her students to eventually become better than her... so why not? Although the possibility seems kind of far-fetched now...

BKK
06-27-2011, 08:14 PM
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!

Hi Janet,

Sensei does not actually mean teacher, but translates literally as "born before". It acknowledges that your teacher has gone before you, but would still apply even if they were chronologically younger than you. In Aikido it's a term of respect given to a teacher, but it doesn't mean "teacher". It's technically incorrect to say "my Aikido sensei" when you mean "my Aikido teacher". Sort of like it wouldn't make sense to say "my Honorable" if you were talking about the judge that was hearing your case in court; you would say "my judge", or more likely "the judge".

So to me, it doesn't really make sense to stop calling your teacher "sensei" when they no longer teach you, assuming you still respect them.

As far as outranking your sensei... My first Iaido teacher was Kanai sensei. He never held any rank in Iaido, but it didn't matter to any of his students. His students got promoted by Mitsuzuka sensei, and it would not be uncommon for there to be many yudansha in his classes. So as soon as I made shodan I outranked him, but that was a mere technicality... :)

Brian

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2011, 04:04 AM
The term has a number of meanings, of wider range than the meanings of the individual Chinese characters used to write the word. Here is what the word means according to the 広辞苑 Kojien, an authoritative monolingual dictionary used here in Japan:

1. 先に生れた人。Opposed to 後生 (kousei = younger students).
2. 学徳のすぐれあた人。自分が師事する人。また、その人に対する敬称。徂徠先生、お花の先生。
A person renowned in learning and virtue.
A person who receives teaching for/by him/herself: who studies at the hands of someone regarded as a shi 師. Shiji suru 師事する can mean studying at the hands of someone regarded as a teacher. Jibun ga adds the emphasis of doing this for or by oneself.
A term of politeness used in respect of such a person.
3. 学校の教師。担任の先生。
A teacher in a school.
4. 医師・弁護士、指導的立場にある人に対する敬称。先生に診てもらう。
5. 他人を、親しみまたはからかって呼ぶ称。

Meaning 2 is relevant to aikido and Meaning 3 is relevant to Japanese education generally.

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2011, 09:37 AM
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!

Hello Janet,

I think that the terms sempai and sensei seem to have a mystique, in this forum, at least, that they do not have in Japan--and this mystifies me somewhat.

As I indicated in my previous post, the term sensei has a wide range of meanings and is often used for relationships that have no depth whatever. Thus it is quite possible for there to be a relationship between a student and a sensei that ceases to exist.

This is not possible in the case of sempai and kohai, where the crucial factor is the point at which one enters the group (the hai in sempai refers to one's companions in the group). Given an organization, like a university faculty, a company, or a government ministry, the date at which one enters the organization determines one's overall sempai / kohai status: those that entered before you are sempai; those that entered after you are kohai. However, in a large organization like a university, there are many subgroups, such that it is possible for someone to be both a sempai and a kohai at the same time in relation to the same person.

Everything else is extra. So, in the organizations I have experienced where the sempai / kohai relationship was regarded as important (including the local university aikido club), some sempai did indeed have teaching relationships to some kohai. But there was no sensei in the club. There was a shihan and also a kantoku (coach), but they were never invested with the awe that some AikiWeb members give to their Sensei (always written with a capital S).

Sensei and sempai have similar connotations of seniority (conveyed by the concept saki / sen 先, which means previous or before). But that is all.

Consider this: all of the Japanese teachers who came to the US to reside there and teach aikido

(a) would have experienced the sempai / kohai relationship from junior high school onwards and if they were in sports / martial arts clubs, this would have been in an extreme form (with polite speech required, folding and washing sempais' keikogi, and being hazed on the mat and forced to get drunk at kompa) (companion parties), but also might well have involved very close human relationships that would have continued long after graduation, and

(b) would have encountered 'O Sensei', the possessor of all aikido virtues and supreme bearer of the title, and would have referred to all the other senior instructors in the Hombu as X-Sensei / Y-Sensei (just like we do at Hiroshima University), even if they did not really have any close relationships with these teachers.

So, you can ask: what features of their own experience in Japan as deshi / sempai / kohai / sensei have they replicated in their new countries of residence, especially the US? I have been able to see these questions as important only after many years of living here myself.

Clearly, there is the title (sensei) which also depends on a vertically based teaching / learning paradigm. In some cases this has been given semi-mystical status ('Until you have found the right teacher, you cannot be said to have begun training in the art', implying that the relationship is of equal importance to the art itself).

The title rests on the traditional vertically-based teaching relationship that is based on another traditional Japanese model--of the person first and the teaching second. 'Given the person, the teaching will follow' is a mantra largely responsible for the poor academic reputation of some Japanese universities. Perhaps the key here is self-training, punctuated by rigorous (non-Japanese) peer reviews.

By the way, I have discussed some of these issues with two US-based Japanese aikido teachers. I refer to both as 'Sensei', but they are not really my Sensei (in the exalted Aikiweb sense). In one case we have become good friends. This teacher's name is Yoshimitsu Yamada.

So, in answer to the OP's question, it depends. If you are in the same organization and the time of entry is valued, probably not.
But if rank and titles have no intrinsic relationship, it is quite possible, even desirable as a general target.

Very best wishes,

PAG

Janet Rosen
06-28-2011, 10:19 AM
....
I think that the terms sempai and sensei seem to have a mystique, in this forum, at least, that they do not have in Japan--and this mystifies me somewhat....
So, in answer to the OP's question, it depends. If you are in the same organization and the time of entry is valued, probably not.
But if rank and titles have no intrinsic relationship, it is quite possible, even desirable as a general target.
Very best wishes,
PAG

Thank you for (as usual :) ) shedding light, history and perspective all at once!

Diana Frese
06-28-2011, 10:32 AM
Thanks Peter, Prof. Goldsbury, for this and many other helpful posts in various threads about Aikido, Japanese language and culture. This one brings up a memory of about 1979 when I had "thrown my back out" brushing my teeth at summer camp (things like that do happen, I have heard from others) In my case I sneezed while bending over the sink. It may have also been that I had done a lot of typing for my job in order to take time out to attend...

I decided to visit Boston (Cambridge) as what I thought of as a rain check and ended up visiting a friend from an earlier summer camp who lives in the Swampscott-Marblehead area, and, adding to the various Massachusetts seminars, totaled about once a month until 1981. I also visited one of the students from my YMCA class here.
I was just shodan, but I encouraged the students to attend classes taught by my teachers and others senior to me, as I mentioned before.

My friend Ginny and probably others in that area referred to her teacher as "Mr. Mulligan", using the American term of respect.

With regard to my former student living and working in Cambridge, with whom I also stayed a couple of times, she didn't continue, having too many activities plus job.... but when I did see her there she beamed and said "Teacher" in a slightly high though not very loud voice that could be heard by others nonetheless.... I was a little embarrassed, though touched by the show of respectful affection and said "ssh " softly, "Kanai Sensei is the teacher here."

I guess she and I were both right, I had been her teacher back in Connecticut. A charming person, I wonder if she started practicing Aikido again when she moved to Texas or maybe back to Colorado, a small town called Las Animas?

It's always nice when former students who have moved keep in touch and restart Aikido, sometimes many years later...

Diana Frese
06-28-2011, 10:33 AM
(simultaneous posts of thanks:))

Aviv
06-28-2011, 10:44 AM
I would hope that my students continue to diligently train and eventually outrank me.

OwlMatt
07-02-2011, 12:09 AM
I'm not sure I understand all the "he will always be your sensei" talk here. Isn't there ideally a point at which an instructor stops being a superior and becomes a peer?

Carsten Möllering
07-02-2011, 03:13 AM
Isn't there ideally a point at which an instructor stops being a superior and becomes a peer?
I think budo teacher is neither an instructor nor "superior".
He is a teacher.