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Old 05-29-2009, 12:01 PM   #1
Linda Eskin
 
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Question How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

I'm sure the answers must be here somewhere, but I haven't been able to find them...

If one is speaking directly to a Shihan, when taking instruction from them, are they addressed as "Good morning, Shihan," or "Good Morning, Sensei"?

Similarly, is Sempai a title, or just a word that means senior student? Would one say "Thank you, Sempai" like one would say "Thank you, Sensei," or are they just addressed by their name.

And while we're on the subject... In our dojo the chief instructor / owner is referred to indirectly as Sensei (as in "Go ask Sensei about that."), and of course is addressed directly as Sensei (as in "Thank you, Sensei."). Two questions about that...
  • - Yudansha are not referred to as "Sensei" when one is teaching a class, but should they be addressed as Sensei?
  • - When there is a visiting guest instructor / clinician, are they also addressed as "Sensei"? Or is Sensei the only one who is addressed as Sensei?

Many thanks!
Linda

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Old 05-29-2009, 12:33 PM   #2
Bob Blackburn
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Shihan is not used in addressing the person. Sensei is used.

As for Yudansha that are teaching. This varies by dojo. Ask a senior member of the dojo for their etiquette.

For a quest teacher, they will usually be introduced by your Sensei. Use whatever title your Sensei address them as.

My personal belief when visiting a dojo is you can never be too polite. I err on the side of over addressing a person. They will let me know if I should use their name instead.

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Old 05-29-2009, 12:46 PM   #3
lifeafter2am
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

As Bob said, it depends on the Dojo. In our dojo if a yudansha is teaching then they are referred to as Sensei, at least by the junior mudansha.

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:52 PM   #4
Nick
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

If you don't know, ask.

If you address someone with a black belt as "Sensei" and they get incredibly incensed, you might want to find a new dojo.

The use of "Sempai" varies from school to school, and it is bestowed either as a title or an assumptive title anywhere from nikyu to nidan.

"Shihan" tends to be a more exclusive title, but as Bob said: call someone however they introduce themselves to you, and it's always better to be overpolite than underpolite. Often, karate systems will show the practitioner's rank (and sometimes their title) on their belts: since most aikido systems just have belt/hakama, it can be hard to distinguish exactly who is what, so when in doubt, ask!

Nick

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Old 05-29-2009, 01:30 PM   #5
Dan Herak
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

My sensei is a shihan, and we call him 'sensei.'

A good rule of thumb is that the head instructor is called sensei on and off the mat. Other teachers are called sensei while teaching but not other times, either during practice as students or off the mat.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:50 PM   #6
Phil Van Treese
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Smile Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Usually anyone from yodan up is called a "sensei", junior yudansha, sandan down to shodan, are "sensei" when they are teaching or when they are teaching in place of the head sensei for 1reason or another. I myself prefer just to be called "sensei". Follow the lead at your, or another's, dojo and you won't go wrong.
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Old 05-29-2009, 03:54 PM   #7
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

In regards to sensei, two very good posts that followed one another.

First one:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...6&postcount=32

Second one:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...1&postcount=33

Found this article:

http://www.aikiweb.com/language/goldsbury1.html

Last edited by MM : 05-29-2009 at 03:59 PM. Reason: Added link to Peter Goldsbury's article
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Old 05-30-2009, 02:08 AM   #8
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Thank you all for the great replies, and Mark, for those posts & article. I'll have to finish reading the latter tomorrow - very interesting, and very long. I appreciate the info. I suppose it's my tech comm background that makes me feel quite adrift in a new environment until I have at least a basic grasp of the terminology. :-) Feeling a little more settled in that regard now.

Cheers,
Linda

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Old 05-30-2009, 06:49 AM   #9
erikmenzel
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

In my experience the words are just a reflection of the trust, respect and responsibilities coming with the relation.

Being a teacher in RL I have pupils that call me Sir without respect and I have pupils that call me by my name (even thoug school regelations say they should call me Sir) with the proper respect.

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Old 05-30-2009, 09:11 AM   #10
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Go with Bob
namaste

brUNO
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Old 05-30-2009, 11:03 AM   #11
Jesse Legon
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

When I arrived in Japan, I asked a friend how I should address Nariyama Shihan. As 'Nariyama Shihan', just 'Shihan', 'Sensei' etc. The thought about it for a bit and said 'You're not really high up enough to address him.'

Okie dokie, question answered!! :P

She was sort of half-kidding a little bit, kind of.
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Old 05-30-2009, 12:30 PM   #12
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

From a Japanese language POV,

As mentioned, Shihan is a title, not a term of address. Shihan are called "Sensei" or "Name-sensei".

In a school context and in some work contexts, "sempai" can be a term of address, either by itself or as "name-sempai". However, this is generally not done by adults in the dojo. Sempai is never a title, it's more like a state of being.

Incidentally, Sean Connery in Rising Sun notwithstanding, "kohai" is never used as a term of address.

Josh Reyer

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Old 05-30-2009, 04:09 PM   #13
Walter Martindale
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Just read Dr. Goldsbury's article... Wow.

All that said, I've seen shihan get quite upset when they're addressed as follows: "Hai shihan" or "excuse me shihan" or similar things. I believe they might not jump all over the poor sod who makes these mistakes because they know that the speaker just doesn't understand and probably can't understand because, well, they're not Japanese...
It seems that if you are introducing someone who is a shihan, you might say "I'd like to welcome the visiting shihan, (put name here) sensei, who will be leading the weekend's training," or something like that...
Sensei - If you're leading the training session/lesson/practice, I think you get called Sensei - the most basic usage referring to the person who is teaching. (it's also used to refer to doctors - or it was when I went to visit the issha in Tokyo in 1978..)
Normally when I end up leading the class I feel a little uncomfortable being called sensei because I'm so far down the feed chain in terms of coming to an understanding of this Aikido stuff.
Sempai-Kohai - that's a Senior-Junior relationship. Prof. Goldsbury outlined how fluid the situation can be in school. What I saw in the Kodokan and how I've come to understand it is - a new fellow joins a dojo and is somehow linked to a person who is higher up the feed chain (who is also linked to someone higher up the feed chain in the dojo). The "higher up" people are the Sempai, the "lower down" people are the "Kohai" - Sempai take some responsibility for the Kohai's training, deportment, etc., and Kohai take individual guidance from his/her individual Sempai. What I saw was that as part of training, a Sempai (let's say his name is Shoji) could and would, in the interest of the Kohai's training, beat the living daylights out of his (only saw it in males) Kohai. If some other Sempai (perhaps named Taro) in the same dojo started pounding the daylights out of Shoji's Kohai, then it is Shoji's responsibility to intervene and protect his Kohai by serving a good sound thrashing to Taro - if he can. In return for Shoji's guidance, training, and to some extent protection, the Kohai (along with the other kohai) cleans the dojo so that the Sempai doesn't get in trouble from the Sensei for being a bad Sempai, carries his Sempai's training kit, and basically acts as a servant to Sempai until he has advanced enough to become a Sempai to some new intake Kohai, to transmit the culture and training...
That's sort of what I think I saw in my brief stay in Japan, and was led to understand by my (judo) sensei (yondan) and sempai (sandan) in Canada, each of whom had spent about 5 years training in Japan...
HTH
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Old 05-31-2009, 08:33 AM   #14
brUNO
 
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Just a side note (because I haven't seen it mentioned):

Different Martial Disciplines veiw the above rule differently.
In Judo, there is only one Shihan (Kano, Sensei) but he is still not referd to as that title.

In certain family styles of Kenpo (Ga-san ryu and Fuji ryu for example) The head of the family style system, or ryu, is Shihan and they ARE refered to by that title, not sesnei. I specifically asked one of their seniors (he was Japanse) if this was proper and I was told it was for this case. It separates the level of teachers in their hiarchy.

By definition, I believe "Sensei" means one who has gone before you or "born before". The Japanese use this term for their Doctor, the man expertly cutting fish in the market, sushi chefs, school teachers, and just someone older than you.

Shihan means basically, an instructor or teacher who understands the system enough to duplicate other students to sensei level. Basically "Master Instructor."

I have heard it described to "gaijin" as "Sensei is like having a doctorate (like a professor at University) and Shihan would be head of the department (The head of the Science Dept.). Both are called Doctor".

Best rule of thumb: You can never bow too much and you can't go wrong by calling someone Sensei.

Bruno
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:53 AM   #15
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Quote:
Brent Smith wrote: View Post
Best rule of thumb: You can never bow too much and you can't go wrong by calling someone Sensei.
I disagree. Read the writings of: Prof. Goldsbury, Rocky Izumi, and Ellis Amdur that are linked in a post above.

The use of the term sensei should be appropriate and most certainly can be "wrong" at times and you also can "bow too much".

Best regards.

Chuck Clark
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Old 05-31-2009, 02:07 PM   #16
erikmenzel
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Quote:
Brent Smith wrote: View Post
Best rule of thumb: You can never bow too much and you can't go wrong by calling someone Sensei.
I dont know, but to me this sounds a bit wrong.
I refuse to call the (insert random bad word) of the nearby McDojo that wrote his own cretificate and who is crunching up people to establish a relation to students based on fear sensei.
For me calling such a person sensei would be wrong, if only cause I dont want to help to hold up their personal fantasies of being the Super Grandmaster High Sifu The enlightened

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Old 06-02-2009, 02:45 PM   #17
brUNO
 
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Quote:
Chuck Clark wrote: View Post
I disagree. Read the writings of: Prof. Goldsbury, Rocky Izumi, and Ellis Amdur that are linked in a post above.
I have not read those yet, but I will. Thank you.

Quote:
Chuck Clark wrote: View Post
The use of the term sensei should be appropriate and most certainly can be "wrong" at times and you also can "bow too much".

I guess I stand (standing bow) corrected.
Domo Arigato, Sensei

Bruno
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Old 06-02-2009, 08:41 PM   #18
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Best rule of thumb: Keep your bloody mouth shut when you don't know what your talking about...

Sounded good at the time. (*shruggs*)

Bruno
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Old 06-24-2009, 09:11 PM   #19
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Some say using "shi" when addressing an individual with that title is bad luck, or even disrespectful. I don't know if that holds true with "Shihan" or directly addressing one as such ('shi' having some relationship to death, from what I've been told).

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Old 06-25-2009, 07:33 AM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Quote:
Adam Huss wrote: View Post
Some say using "shi" when addressing an individual with that title is bad luck, or even disrespectful. I don't know if that holds true with "Shihan" or directly addressing one as such ('shi' having some relationship to death, from what I've been told).
Wait a minute. Who told you?

There are (at least) 163 Chinese characters read in Japanese as SHI--and the meanings are all different.
Shihan (師範) as a compound has nothing to do with death and I have heard eminent aikido teachers addressed as "Shihan".

It is also customary to refer to individuals as SHI 氏, also read as uji (clan). As a professor, I was sometimes responsible for recommending colleagues for promotion within the university system. The accepted way of referring to the person I was recommending was 'Xxxxxx-shi' (氏). However, just as a sensei NEVER refers to himself or herself as 'Sensei', or 'Xxxxxx-Sensei', one never addresses someone by calling him or her 'Xxxxx-shi.'

Thus there are some websites and blogs where the term Sensei is used incorrectly. Of course, one can argue that the term is being used outside Japan and is therefore separated from its cultural context. I find this argument unconvincing and suggest the term, Teacher, uttered in the same reverential tones that Silas used in The Da Vinci Code, when he addressed the person he never knew.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 10-27-2009, 04:03 PM   #21
samantha oddie
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

when i started doing karate i made a mistack and i called my sensei by her first name. she soon let me now about it she said its sensei then my name not my name first. you should always call them sensei because it holds the respect from the past masters. i also call the sempai by the name i dont call them for example sempai tash i just call her tash.
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Old 10-27-2009, 05:37 PM   #22
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

In our dojo, even though our sensei has the title of shihan with birinkai, we address him as sensei. As far as the other yudansha who teach, mostly we call them by their first name, but we will use the term sempai to them sometimes as well.

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Old 10-27-2009, 08:35 PM   #23
Chris Farnham
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

To add to Joshua's earlier point about Japanese language. I often hear my colleagues; all sensei at a Japanese middle school, refer to their sempai as "sempai". I often hear them refer to each other as (name)sensei regardless of the persons position. I, for instance ,am often referred to as Chris Sensei. I have found though, that my coworkers generally only refer to each other as just "sensei" when addressing to a senior.
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Old 11-30-2009, 01:43 AM   #24
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

Well, we call our instructor by his first name. [He is 1st Dan]
We dont have any other black belts, so they are called by their first name as well.

When we have visiting instructors, anyone 3rd Dan and above is referred to as Sensei. At Seminars we typically have 3 or 4 Senseis visiting. [Most of them 4th Dan.]

As for Shihan... havent met one yet. [Though technically Tamura would be our Shihan, maybe I will eventually make it to Budapest to see him when he comes... perhaps when I get my black belt.]

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 11-30-2009 at 01:46 AM.

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Old 11-30-2009, 09:30 AM   #25
Garth Jones
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Re: How to address a Shihan, Sempai, or Sensei?

In my time in the USAF, ASU, and independent aikido worlds, I've never heard any of the shihan addressed by anything other than 'Sensei.' I've also never been in a dojo that used 'sempai' as part of a form of address.

On the mat it's always polite to address the person teaching as 'sensei' although many dojos are more casual than that. Personally, I'd rather just be called Garth but there are a few people in my dojo who call me sensei and I think it's a waste of time to correct them.

In correspondence with senior Western teachers who I know, I will often address a letter or email with 'Dear <first name> Sensei.' For a more formal letter or with somebody I don't know, I always use their last name instead.

When I'm taking a class from somebody senior, I try to address them as sensei even if I'm on a first name basis with them off the mat. It's polite, shows respect, and preserves the mood of the class.

When in doubt, though, I always use 'sensei.' For example, I've been to many seminars with Ikeda Sensei over the years and been part of a bunch of lunches, dinners, and potlucks with him. He was at my house once when he was in Pittsburgh. He introduces himself to peoples' family as Hiroshi and he's generally very easy going. All that being said, he does maintain a bit of a Japanese reserve - we are not buddies so I always (and probably always will) call him sensei.

Anyway, that's been my approach on this issue and so far it's worked......

Cheers,
Garth
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