Thanks for the input, Prof Goldsbury! It's always great to your take on all things Japanese given your profession and location.
I guess I should clarify that I place importance on the actual relationship between senior and junior students...more so than the terms used. I feel like the dojo cho is only one person and can not be at more than one place at a time...creating a situation where senior kyu and junior dan students can assist in that development of their juniors (as long as there is some level of consistency with instruction). Our dojo places some importance on delegating responsibility, which I think helps ones growth as a person and martial artist. Actually, it is the responsibility of the senior kyu in class to ring the bell, line everyone up, and bow everyone in/out at our school.
As it relates to the terminology discussed, I guess I just don't know a simpler english translation that encompasses the meaning some of the Japanese terms have for me. To me, saying a particular student is my kohai (which I don't actually use as a title, and say only rarely and usually as a reference) means I have a special relationship with him or her. Its someone that I've bonded with, and seek to train with and help both on and off the mat. Currently, I have what could be termed a kohai. I recently helped him purchase a uniform, lent books and dvds that I thought would be appropriate and related to him (based on my knowledge of him as a person), train one-on-one outside of class, etc... We also have discussions about philosophy, life, work, relationships, etc (which I learn quite a bit from him about). I am certain he has no knowledge of terms like kohai, but I don't know how else to describe that kind of relationship other than to say "aikido friend."
When I was an uchideshi I had, what I called, and still do, a 'mentor,' in addition to my sensei/dojo cho. This person I wanted as mentor because I liked his approach to training, techniques, and felt I could learn a lot from him as a person and his ability to apply his aikido training to everyday life. I never referred to him as my sempai, just sensei...though at the time I was something like a 2nd kyu - shodan and he was yondan. Similarly we trained after and before class on the mat, as well as quite a bit of training 'off the mat.'
So I guess I was commenting on the importance of having that relationship within the dojo rather than importance of using terms such as kohai, dohai, sempai, sensei, sewanin, tetsudai, etc... We pretty much just use sensei in our school, sometimes attached to first names and sometimes last names. I'm not really sure why...
Last edited by Adam Huss : 09-06-2012 at 12:24 PM.