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Old 05-30-2009, 03:09 PM   #13
Walter Martindale
Location: Cambridge, ON
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 710
Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Just read Dr. Goldsbury's article... Wow.

All that said, I've seen shihan get quite upset when they're addressed as follows: "Hai shihan" or "excuse me shihan" or similar things. I believe they might not jump all over the poor sod who makes these mistakes because they know that the speaker just doesn't understand and probably can't understand because, well, they're not Japanese...
It seems that if you are introducing someone who is a shihan, you might say "I'd like to welcome the visiting shihan, (put name here) sensei, who will be leading the weekend's training," or something like that...
Sensei - If you're leading the training session/lesson/practice, I think you get called Sensei - the most basic usage referring to the person who is teaching. (it's also used to refer to doctors - or it was when I went to visit the issha in Tokyo in 1978..)
Normally when I end up leading the class I feel a little uncomfortable being called sensei because I'm so far down the feed chain in terms of coming to an understanding of this Aikido stuff.
Sempai-Kohai - that's a Senior-Junior relationship. Prof. Goldsbury outlined how fluid the situation can be in school. What I saw in the Kodokan and how I've come to understand it is - a new fellow joins a dojo and is somehow linked to a person who is higher up the feed chain (who is also linked to someone higher up the feed chain in the dojo). The "higher up" people are the Sempai, the "lower down" people are the "Kohai" - Sempai take some responsibility for the Kohai's training, deportment, etc., and Kohai take individual guidance from his/her individual Sempai. What I saw was that as part of training, a Sempai (let's say his name is Shoji) could and would, in the interest of the Kohai's training, beat the living daylights out of his (only saw it in males) Kohai. If some other Sempai (perhaps named Taro) in the same dojo started pounding the daylights out of Shoji's Kohai, then it is Shoji's responsibility to intervene and protect his Kohai by serving a good sound thrashing to Taro - if he can. In return for Shoji's guidance, training, and to some extent protection, the Kohai (along with the other kohai) cleans the dojo so that the Sempai doesn't get in trouble from the Sensei for being a bad Sempai, carries his Sempai's training kit, and basically acts as a servant to Sempai until he has advanced enough to become a Sempai to some new intake Kohai, to transmit the culture and training...
That's sort of what I think I saw in my brief stay in Japan, and was led to understand by my (judo) sensei (yondan) and sempai (sandan) in Canada, each of whom had spent about 5 years training in Japan...
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