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Old 09-05-2002, 09:05 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
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Re: Responsibility: Teacher's or Student's?

Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
So, here's a (linguistic) thought I've been having.

The Japanese terms that we hear being used most often in aikido that refer to a "teacher" are "sensei" and "shihan."

Taking a look at these two terms linguistically, we know that "sensei" literally means "born/lives before" and "shihan" literally means "master example." Neither of these terms (as opposed to other terms in Japanese like "kyoushi" and "kyouju") contain a literal character in its terms for "teaching."

In other words, neither the term "sensei" nor "shihan" connote that the person with such a title has to "teach," per se, but just keep doing what he has been doing. In this approach, it's the student's responsibility to learn through modelling and "stealing" the teacher's teachings.

I'm surmising that this has roots in the classical "master - apprentice" system, but I really have no firm basis for this.

Any thoughts? I'm especially interested to hear from folks like Peter Goldsbury who have extensive experience in the martial arts as well as a good basis in the Japanese language...

-- Jun
Hello Jun,

I have not forgotten the question. In fact, I am not sure you are right. I think "Shihan" (certainly) and "Sensei" (probably) do have a very close connection with teaching and I doubt whether the structure of the words (the putative original meaning of the characters) has such a strong influence on what they mean in contemporary Japanese.

I realise that evidence is needed and I am producing it in the form of a general article which deals with Japanese terms for teaching and learning. I have almost finished it and you will have it as soon as it is ready.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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