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Old 01-09-2003, 07:52 AM   #17
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Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 5,996
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
Do you mean that Japanese teachers deserve more respect than non-Japanese? And that non-Japanese should have at least 30-40 years experience before they deserve this title off the mats?
I don't think I'm using the title as a sense of respect, per se.

I'm studying aikido. I'm a part of the aikido world. Heck, I'm part of the budo world. As such, I'm sensitive to knowing who is a teacher and who isn't. Also as a Japanase citizen and having been brought up in the Japanese culture, I'm inculcated with the language's nuances.

When I encounter any Japanese person, it's just a part of me to be polite; that's just a part of the Japanese language and culture (the two, of course, are almost inseperable). Regardless of who the person might be, if they're Japanese, it usually makes a lot more common sennse to me to use at least "san" after their name.

Combine that with my involvement in aikido pretty much forces me to use Japanese people's titles. That's why I'd use "sensei" for Japanese people. It's not out of "respect," per se, but due to the fact that that's how you'd address them in Japanese. The fact that most Japanese instructors whom I've met in the art are older than I am pretty much requires I use "sensei" with them, too.

However, I've lived in the United States for the past 25 years (with a brief stint in Japan for university research). It's the culture and language here to call people by their first names. It's not a sign of disrespect to do so, especially with folks whom I personally know. Also, many of the Western teachers with whom I've studied I'd consider to be a personal friend. Combine the two and you get the fact that it feels a lot more natural for me to call Western people by their first names.

However, with some teachers whom I've encountered, I'm not "friends," per se. These happen to be those who already occupy a very high place in the hierarchy. Although I know them and they know me, it's mighty difficult for me to overcome my Japanese cultural tendencies combined with my aikido involvement that, in this case, I call them Such-and-such sensei instead of something like Bill sensei or Frank sensei.

Of coruse, there are some Western folks I know whom I consider to be a personal friend who happen to have studied aikido for the past 40 to 50 years. These people I'll just call by their first names due to my interaction and relationship off the mat. Japanese folks, regardless of how well I know them off the mat, I'll most likely always call Such-and-such sensei.

So, as Bryan said, it's just an interesting mix of personal and cultural comfort. It's not that I respect Japanese instructors more -- it's just that, to me, the Japanese and Western cultural influences with which I've grown up show up (rather interestingly, if I may say so myself)...

Hope that made more sense...

-- Jun

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