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Old 10-12-2008, 10:01 AM   #32
Rocky Izumi
Dojo: GUST Aikido Club
Location: Salwa, Kuwait
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 381
Re: Who to call "Sensei"?

There is only one Sensei in a Dojo. Outside the Dojo, you might any number of people "Sensei," but that can be a problem as well. I don't like people calling me Sensei unless I am teaching the class by the request of the Dojo's Sensei. In that instance, I am the Sensei of the Dojo's Shihan-dai (assuming that the Dojo's Shihan-dai is also the Sensei of that Dojo which is not always the case). Thus, by inference, I could then be called Sensei by the students of my student. However, when I visit other Dojos to practice, I will insist that I am not called Sensei until outside the Dojo. Being a Sensei brings certain responsibiliities with it that I do not willingly accept under all circumstances. From an article I wrote many years ago:
The ability to call someone "sensei" is sometimes used in Japan as a strategy to attain dependence on someone. I recently posted a small note about a movie in which an elder gentleman kept refusing the title of sifu. This is because the sensei or sifu has
certain responsibilities towards the student. By allowing yourself to be called sensei, you are acknowledging your responsibilities towards that student. So sometimes, Japanese use the term sensei to force others to act in a certain way towards them.

This reminds me of a story of a samurai who was a very good swordsman, but one that knew his limitations. Another samurai who wished to challenge him came over to pick a fight. The first samurai who, guessing from the reputation of the aggressive fighter that it would be a close duel, decided not to agree to the challenge, instead called the fighter "sensei," also guessing that the fighter was rather vain. The fighter could not pass up the chance to be acknowledged as the sensei accepted the title. The original, pacificist samurai then asked if the sensei would accept him as a student. The fighter realized he was trapped and then had to agree such that the duel was avoided.

The moral of the story is: "Be careful who you let call you sensei."
To answer this question, I have to go back to the role of the Sensei in the Dojo. The Sensei is not only the chief instructor, she or he is also the person ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of all the students as well as of the Dojo. If you ever think about becoming a Sensei, think of this. If a student is injured and no one
volunteers to take the injured person to the hospital, Sensei must do it. Even if someone else does volunteer, Sensei should still go to the hospital with the student and wait.

Perhaps Sensei might send the Dai Sempai with the injured student and go to the hospital after class is over. If the Dojo runs out of money for rent, Sensei must pay for it out of his or her own pocket. If a student has a personal problem, the student will probably come to Sensei for advice. If a student gets into trouble with the law, it is up to Sensei to go and help. If people have interpersonal problems in the Dojo, it is up to Sensei to resolve it. The Sensei is responsible for everything in the Dojo. Even if some
student is assigned to keep the books, if that student makes a mistake or does not fulfill their responsibilities, it is up to the Sensei to make things right. If the Dojo needs maintenance and the students do not take care of it before Sensei asks, it is up to Sensei to get it done, cleaning the toilets, washing the floors, ceiling, and walls or changing the light bulbs. If the students are not taking care of business, then Sensei is responsible for doing it since it is Sensei's fault that the students didn't learn their
responsibilities well enough. The Sensei must teach the students to develop their ethics and common sense (Toku-iku and Joshiki-no-Kanyo) as well as their body and spirit (Tai-iku and Ki-iku).

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