Peter A Goldsbury
I think with these terms (sensei, sempai, kohai) it is not so much being skeptical as taking what you think you need and leaving the rest.
I have been living here for over thirty years and have developed my own intuitions about these terms, not from aikido training, but from being part of a large traditional Japanese organization like a national university. There all the terms are used and have their respective value, but the situations are very sharply defined. So you cannot have the terms without the context—the total context and you cannot focus on one aspect, like sempai helping kohai, and ignore the rest.
I have also been visiting the Netherlands on a regular basis for over thirty years to teach aikido. I have rarely heard any of the terms used, perhaps because I rarely use them myself, but also because they are not established as dojo terms. As others have mentioned, first names are regularly used and the addition of the title Sensei is very much the exception.
On the other hand, from the posts by Adam Huss, I can see that the terms are in frequent use in his own dojo and they have value there. It is not my place to pass any judgment about this. I merely state that the situation is quite different in the two dojos in Hiroshima where I am the senior instructor and it has always been different in the main dojo here, where I have trained since I came here and where the senior instructor has 8th dan rank. He is almost always referred to as Dojo-cho; Sensei is a title given to visiting shihans like Hiroshi Tada and sempai and kohai never used outside the university aikido clubs, where there is a very specific context.
So I tend to have a similar way of thinking as Chris Li (except that I do not think I am skeptical). As for envisaging a future direction, well, things work very well here. But things also seem to work very well for Mr Huss and probably for you as well.
The word skeptical was not meant as a criticism, nor did it refer only to the terms sensei, sempai kohai (although "sensei" is the subject of this thread). I think Chris is at times critical and skeptical about the Japanese ways, much in the same way as I am skeptical about the western ways of thinking. In itself I see this as a healthy attitude.
It is only that we differ of opinion; where he criticizes sempai - kohai structure there I see something worthwhile studying and applying. Also I think that it is not a structure that is alien to us; it is not much different from the hierarchical structure on board of ships, the kitchen of a restaurant or the fire-brigade. I have trained in several traditional kobudo dojo where this structure was in use without any problems. It is typically the members and instructors of Aikido dojo who have problems with it. . .
As for your visits to the Netherlands, with all due respect, the organization that invited you, represented only a small part of the aikidoka of the Netherlands. There are dojo who do use the title sensei.and use it with a proper understanding of what it means.
As for my own training and teaching; it is a reflection of the teachings and the structure of the dojo in Japan where I am a member of. It works for me and I am more then happy with it.
Best wishes from the Auvergne,