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Old 04-17-2008, 10:36 AM   #1
chuunen baka
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o-sensei

I had always assumed that the o- in o-sensei meant "great" and, not having seen it written assumed it was kanji 大先生. According to wikipedia, it is 翁先生 - ou- meaning "old man" or "venerable".

Which is the accepted form amongst the Japanese-literate aikidoka?
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Old 04-17-2008, 01:02 PM   #2
Jack M.
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Re: o-sensei

It is my understanding that the "o" which precedes a word means "honorable," such as otosan (honorable father) or okasan (honorable mother).

I have also heard the words okane (money), obento (lunch box), ocha (tea), but I have no idea why they would be considered honorable in any context.

Sumimasen, watashi wa nihongo ga heta desu! Sorry, my Japanese is very poor!
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Old 04-17-2008, 01:18 PM   #3
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Re: o-sensei

Hi Jack,

The "o" that you're referring to (御) is different than the "ou" (long vowel) in "O-sensei" which is different than the two characters referenced in the first post, 大 and 翁.

Both 翁先生 and 大先生 are used in Japanese when referring to Morihei Ueshiba sensei (although I personally prefer using the term kaiso (開祖) myself). Of the two, I personally prefer the former over the latter.

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Old 04-18-2008, 11:38 AM   #4
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Re: o-sensei

I once wrote two short notes on this issue in my blog. You can find them in:

http://flintstonecom.blogspot.com/20...i-ueshiba.html

and in:

http://flintstonecom.blogspot.com/20...a-osensei.html
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:03 PM   #5
Chris Li
 
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
Hi Jack,

The "o" that you're referring to (御) is different than the "ou" (long vowel) in "O-sensei" which is different than the two characters referenced in the first post, 大 and 翁.

Both 翁先生 and 大先生 are used in Japanese when referring to Morihei Ueshiba sensei (although I personally prefer using the term kaiso (開祖) myself). Of the two, I personally prefer the former over the latter.

-- Jun
I tend to use kaiso (開祖) as well - which I think is probably more common in Japan. I've seen a couple of different ways of writing "O-sensei" - I can recall at least one place in which Kisshomaru Ueshiba wrote it as 大先生, and those characters turn up quite a bit more hits on Google than the other variant. 大先生 was also used by Sokaku Takeda (with a different reading).

Chris

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Old 04-19-2008, 12:54 AM   #6
Charles Hill
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Re: o-sensei

The o'sensei meaning "old man" is part of a pair of titles, the other being waka'sensei meaning "young man." It is common in situations where there are father/son "sensei" working together. For example, in my town, there is a hospital/clinic run by the Watanabe family. If you said "Watanabe Sensei" it wouldn't be clear whom you were talking about, so one says Osensei or Wakasensei. I imagine that this was the original usage at the Aikikai Honbu dojo.

Charles
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:28 AM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: o-sensei

It is always good to base such discussions on how the term is used by Japanese writers. So here are the results of a random glance through Hideo Takahashi's Takemusu Aiki. (I have not given the kanji readings because those in question [大] and [翁] are clear from previous posts.)

The book begins with a forward by Kisshomaru Ueshiba. There he refers to his father as 合気道会祖植芝盛平翁, later shortened to 盛平翁. In the same sentence he refers to his father and the latter's friend Masahisa Goi. He uses 盛平翁 and 五井先生. Masahisa Goi next contributes a chapter on aikido & religion. After an initial reference to 植芝盛平翁, he refers almost exclusively to the Founder of Aikido as 植芝先生. He never once uses 大先生 with either 大 or 翁.

After O Sensei's discourses, Takahashi adds a chapter entitled 大先生随聞記. This is the only occasion in the entire book where Takahashi uses the title 大先生. There is a final chapter entitled 植芝盛平先生の思い出. In both of these chapters Takahashi always refers to the Founder as 植芝先生. I came across 大先生 just one other time, where he quotes a deshi answering a question.

Of course, this does not mean that 大先生 is never used. Far from it. However I have never encountered 翁先生 and would like to see some references. The Wikipedia article lacks references and this makes the content suspect, at least for me.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 04-19-2008 at 04:30 AM.

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Old 04-19-2008, 08:39 AM   #8
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Of course, this does not mean that 大先生 is never used. Far from it. However I have never encountered 翁先生 and would like to see some references. The Wikipedia article lacks references and this makes the content suspect, at least for me.
Well, there's the Japanese Wikipedia article, and also this column from Yasuo Kobayashi's website.

I recall seeing it in some other written materials, though I can't recall off the top of my head what they were. Personally, by far the most I've seen is 開祖 kaiso, followed by 植芝盛平翁 Ueshiba Morihei-ou, and 植芝盛平翁先生 Ueshiba Morihei-ou sensei, a few scattered 翁先生 and then finally the rare 大先生. 大先生 is used in the Japanese version of Stanley Pranin and Morihiro Saito's Takemusu Aikido series. I think that "O-sensei", in as much as it's used in Japan, is spoken far more than written, and spoken still less than "Kaiso".

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 04-19-2008, 07:35 PM   #9
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Re: o-sensei

Hi Peter, Josh,

I just did a quick perusal through some of my Japanese language aikido books and magazines. Here's what I found.

I found 大先生 used in Kisshoumaru Ueshiba's 合気道一路 in its interviews section (eg p261), in Stanley Pranin's two 植芝盛平と合気道 books (a collection of interviews), and in the 道 magazine (eg within interviews as well as within many articles written by Japanese shihan). The only two places where I found 翁先生 used in print was in H. Takahashi's 武産合気 on the last line of the very last page (p 218) and in Seiseki Abe's article 合気道と書道 in 合気道探求 #15 on page 32.

The other books I perused seem to use the following:
  • 合気神髄 by K. Ueshiba - 開祖
  • 合気道復刻版 by K. Ueshiba - 植芝翁、植芝道主
  • 合気道開祖植芝盛平伝 by K. Ueshiba - 開祖
  • 合気道で悟る by K. Sunadomari - 開祖植芝盛平翁、植芝盛平翁、開祖、翁
  • 武道論 by K. Tomiki - 植芝翁
  • 合気道修行 by G. Shioda - 植芝先生、開祖
  • 規範合気道基本偏 by M. Ueshiba - 開祖植芝盛平
Hope that helps,

-- Jun

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Old 04-19-2008, 08:13 PM   #10
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Re: o-sensei

Hello Jun & Josh,

Yes. I had not seen the Kobayashi home page and I missed the reference on p.218 of Takahashi's book. I am curious about why he uses 翁先生 in that one place, but 植芝先生 everywhere else in the あとがき. Perhaps because there is a reference to Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba directly beforehand. The Wikipedia article states that references to 翁先生 are many, but does not give any.

Thanks.

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Old 04-21-2008, 01:57 AM   #11
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
Both $B2'@h@8(B and $BBg@h@8(B are used in Japanese when referring to Morihei Ueshiba sensei (although I personally prefer using the term kaiso ($B3+AD(B) myself). Of the two, I personally prefer the former over the latter.
When I lived and trained in Tokyo, he was sometimes referred to as Ueshiba Morihei sensei, but most often referred to as Kaiso. I prefer to use the term Kaiso too.

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 04-21-2008, 06:27 AM   #12
chuunen baka
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Re: o-sensei

Maybe if somebody was feeling brave, they could edit the wikipedia entry?
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:30 AM   #13
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Alastair Rae wrote: View Post
Maybe if somebody was feeling brave, they could edit the wikipedia entry?
Ha, ha! Nice try, but I'm not falling for that one...

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 04-22-2008, 11:02 AM   #14
chuunen baka
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Alejandro Villanueva wrote: View Post
I once wrote two short notes on this issue in my blog. You can find them in:

http://flintstonecom.blogspot.com/20...i-ueshiba.html

and in:

http://flintstonecom.blogspot.com/20...a-osensei.html
In your second example, Takeda o-sensei, is, I think, used to distinguish from his son, Tokimune, who would be Takeda waka-sensei (若先生).

From here and other discussion on the web, I think the use of O-Sensei by western aikidoka is incorrect. And I don't know who the Irish guy "O'Sensei" is supposed to be.
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Old 05-07-2008, 12:57 AM   #15
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Teacher

I am fond of the use of osensei because it refers to him as a teacher, instead of a founder or owner of a do, et cetera. And judging from his many excellent direct students, he was a marvellous teacher.

There are many fancy titles in Japan, as well as the rest of the world, but what really surpasses 'teacher'?

Just a thought.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-20-2008, 02:09 AM   #16
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Jack Walter wrote: View Post
It is my understanding that the "o" which precedes a word means "honorable," such as otosan (honorable father) or okasan (honorable mother).

I have also heard the words okane (money), obento (lunch box), ocha (tea), but I have no idea why they would be considered honorable in any context.
LOL! I wondered about that myself. "Honorable book" is the literal translation, but that does sound odd to the English ear eh? It's just a polite form of speech.

Specifically with "okane", dropping the "o-" sounds crass. Like criminal slang, as in, 金出せ!(kane dase) - "gimme your money!"
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Old 05-20-2008, 11:43 PM   #17
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Re: o-sensei

The "o" doesn't really indicate "honorable". The use of "o" in such cases as "okane", "ocha", etc., is considered "bikago" -- "beautifying speech". It just sounds a little more polite and refined. The "o" itself doesn't have any specific semantic meaning. And with some words, like "okane" and "ocha", they are practically separate words unto themselves. "Cha", for example, refers to any kind of tea, but "ocha" only refers to green tea.

Josh Reyer

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Old 05-21-2008, 10:54 PM   #18
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
The "o" doesn't really indicate "honorable". The use of "o" in such cases as "okane", "ocha", etc., is considered "bikago" -- "beautifying speech". It just sounds a little more polite and refined.
I believe the correct grammatical term for this (short) 'o' is "honorific" prefix, although you are of course right that it doesn't translate as "honorable". I like the way you've explained it And I would add that in certain cases such as "ocha" and "gohan", the honorific prefix has become such a necessary part of the word that it is (probably) not even processed as "polite and refined-sounding" by native speakers any longer. It has sorta become "invisible".

I've long suspected that the horrible stereotype of Asians in old movies as saying "honorable such-and-such" all the time derives precisely from this prefix. If anyone has some hard evidence to support this, I'd like to know.

I think it's worth repeating something Jun mentions above, for the benefit of those who are beginners at Japanese: the language has what is called "contrastive vowel length". This means that short vowels and long vowels are treated as different by the language. Specifically, two words which differ only in the length of a single vowel (like "obasan" and "obaasan") can never be considered the same word. Since English doesn't have this feature it takes some getting used to when learning Japanese, and of course the fact that the length is rarely represented in romanized forms makes it all the harder for those who have not mastered hiragana. If you're a serious student, however, at some point you need to know that the "o" in shihonage is long, but the one in kokyunage is short

Dave

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Old 05-21-2008, 11:48 PM   #19
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Re: o-sensei

Don't forget oshikko (pee pee) おしっこ

Not to be confused with shikkō (膝行) knee walking しっこう (makes a mess of dōgi if you do)

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Old 10-24-2008, 01:08 PM   #20
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Re: o-sensei

Quote:
David Iannucci wrote: View Post
I've long suspected that the horrible stereotype of Asians in old movies as saying "honorable such-and-such" all the time derives precisely from this prefix. If anyone has some hard evidence to support this, I'd like to know.
Dave
Dave, it might have that origin in some cases, but consider also the other honorific options in Japanese... for example, "-sama" as in "kyaku-sama" ("honoured customer"). In most instances there isn't a real equivalent in English - but on the other hand, it's such an integral part of the Japanese that if you were translating, you couldn't legitimately just leave it out...
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