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Old 06-27-2011, 07:14 PM   #26
BKK
Dojo: Elkton Ki Aikido, Elkton Va.
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!
Hi Janet,

Sensei does not actually mean teacher, but translates literally as "born before". It acknowledges that your teacher has gone before you, but would still apply even if they were chronologically younger than you. In Aikido it's a term of respect given to a teacher, but it doesn't mean "teacher". It's technically incorrect to say "my Aikido sensei" when you mean "my Aikido teacher". Sort of like it wouldn't make sense to say "my Honorable" if you were talking about the judge that was hearing your case in court; you would say "my judge", or more likely "the judge".

So to me, it doesn't really make sense to stop calling your teacher "sensei" when they no longer teach you, assuming you still respect them.

As far as outranking your sensei... My first Iaido teacher was Kanai sensei. He never held any rank in Iaido, but it didn't matter to any of his students. His students got promoted by Mitsuzuka sensei, and it would not be uncommon for there to be many yudansha in his classes. So as soon as I made shodan I outranked him, but that was a mere technicality...

Brian
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Old 06-28-2011, 03:04 AM   #27
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

The term has a number of meanings, of wider range than the meanings of the individual Chinese characters used to write the word. Here is what the word means according to the 広辞苑 Kojien, an authoritative monolingual dictionary used here in Japan:

1. 先に生れた人。Opposed to 後生 (kousei = younger students).
2. 学徳のすぐれあた人。自分が師事する人。また、その人に対する敬称。徂徠先生、お花の先生。
A person renowned in learning and virtue.
A person who receives teaching for/by him/herself: who studies at the hands of someone regarded as a shi 師. Shiji suru 師事する can mean studying at the hands of someone regarded as a teacher. Jibun ga adds the emphasis of doing this for or by oneself.
A term of politeness used in respect of such a person.
3. 学校の教師。担任の先生。
A teacher in a school.
4. 医師・弁護士、指導的立場にある人に対する敬称。先生に診てもらう。
5. 他人を、親しみまたはからかって呼ぶ称。

Meaning 2 is relevant to aikido and Meaning 3 is relevant to Japanese education generally.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 06-28-2011, 08:37 AM   #28
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!
Hello Janet,

I think that the terms sempai and sensei seem to have a mystique, in this forum, at least, that they do not have in Japan--and this mystifies me somewhat.

As I indicated in my previous post, the term sensei has a wide range of meanings and is often used for relationships that have no depth whatever. Thus it is quite possible for there to be a relationship between a student and a sensei that ceases to exist.

This is not possible in the case of sempai and kohai, where the crucial factor is the point at which one enters the group (the hai in sempai refers to one's companions in the group). Given an organization, like a university faculty, a company, or a government ministry, the date at which one enters the organization determines one's overall sempai / kohai status: those that entered before you are sempai; those that entered after you are kohai. However, in a large organization like a university, there are many subgroups, such that it is possible for someone to be both a sempai and a kohai at the same time in relation to the same person.

Everything else is extra. So, in the organizations I have experienced where the sempai / kohai relationship was regarded as important (including the local university aikido club), some sempai did indeed have teaching relationships to some kohai. But there was no sensei in the club. There was a shihan and also a kantoku (coach), but they were never invested with the awe that some AikiWeb members give to their Sensei (always written with a capital S).

Sensei and sempai have similar connotations of seniority (conveyed by the concept saki / sen 先, which means previous or before). But that is all.

Consider this: all of the Japanese teachers who came to the US to reside there and teach aikido

(a) would have experienced the sempai / kohai relationship from junior high school onwards and if they were in sports / martial arts clubs, this would have been in an extreme form (with polite speech required, folding and washing sempais' keikogi, and being hazed on the mat and forced to get drunk at kompa) (companion parties), but also might well have involved very close human relationships that would have continued long after graduation, and

(b) would have encountered 'O Sensei', the possessor of all aikido virtues and supreme bearer of the title, and would have referred to all the other senior instructors in the Hombu as X-Sensei / Y-Sensei (just like we do at Hiroshima University), even if they did not really have any close relationships with these teachers.

So, you can ask: what features of their own experience in Japan as deshi / sempai / kohai / sensei have they replicated in their new countries of residence, especially the US? I have been able to see these questions as important only after many years of living here myself.

Clearly, there is the title (sensei) which also depends on a vertically based teaching / learning paradigm. In some cases this has been given semi-mystical status ('Until you have found the right teacher, you cannot be said to have begun training in the art', implying that the relationship is of equal importance to the art itself).

The title rests on the traditional vertically-based teaching relationship that is based on another traditional Japanese model--of the person first and the teaching second. 'Given the person, the teaching will follow' is a mantra largely responsible for the poor academic reputation of some Japanese universities. Perhaps the key here is self-training, punctuated by rigorous (non-Japanese) peer reviews.

By the way, I have discussed some of these issues with two US-based Japanese aikido teachers. I refer to both as 'Sensei', but they are not really my Sensei (in the exalted Aikiweb sense). In one case we have become good friends. This teacher's name is Yoshimitsu Yamada.

So, in answer to the OP's question, it depends. If you are in the same organization and the time of entry is valued, probably not.
But if rank and titles have no intrinsic relationship, it is quite possible, even desirable as a general target.

Very best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:19 AM   #29
Janet Rosen
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
....
I think that the terms sempai and sensei seem to have a mystique, in this forum, at least, that they do not have in Japan--and this mystifies me somewhat....
So, in answer to the OP's question, it depends. If you are in the same organization and the time of entry is valued, probably not.
But if rank and titles have no intrinsic relationship, it is quite possible, even desirable as a general target.
Very best wishes,
PAG
Thank you for (as usual ) shedding light, history and perspective all at once!

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:32 AM   #30
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

Thanks Peter, Prof. Goldsbury, for this and many other helpful posts in various threads about Aikido, Japanese language and culture. This one brings up a memory of about 1979 when I had "thrown my back out" brushing my teeth at summer camp (things like that do happen, I have heard from others) In my case I sneezed while bending over the sink. It may have also been that I had done a lot of typing for my job in order to take time out to attend...

I decided to visit Boston (Cambridge) as what I thought of as a rain check and ended up visiting a friend from an earlier summer camp who lives in the Swampscott-Marblehead area, and, adding to the various Massachusetts seminars, totaled about once a month until 1981. I also visited one of the students from my YMCA class here.
I was just shodan, but I encouraged the students to attend classes taught by my teachers and others senior to me, as I mentioned before.

My friend Ginny and probably others in that area referred to her teacher as "Mr. Mulligan", using the American term of respect.

With regard to my former student living and working in Cambridge, with whom I also stayed a couple of times, she didn't continue, having too many activities plus job.... but when I did see her there she beamed and said "Teacher" in a slightly high though not very loud voice that could be heard by others nonetheless.... I was a little embarrassed, though touched by the show of respectful affection and said "ssh " softly, "Kanai Sensei is the teacher here."

I guess she and I were both right, I had been her teacher back in Connecticut. A charming person, I wonder if she started practicing Aikido again when she moved to Texas or maybe back to Colorado, a small town called Las Animas?

It's always nice when former students who have moved keep in touch and restart Aikido, sometimes many years later...
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:33 AM   #31
Diana Frese
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

(simultaneous posts of thanks)
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:44 AM   #32
Aviv
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

I would hope that my students continue to diligently train and eventually outrank me.

Peace, Aviv Goldsmith
Aikido in Fredericksburg
www.aikidoinfredericksburg.org
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:09 PM   #33
OwlMatt
 
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

I'm not sure I understand all the "he will always be your sensei" talk here. Isn't there ideally a point at which an instructor stops being a superior and becomes a peer?

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Old 07-02-2011, 02:13 AM   #34
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Outranking your Sensei?

Quote:
Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Isn't there ideally a point at which an instructor stops being a superior and becomes a peer?
I think budo teacher is neither an instructor nor "superior".
He is a teacher.
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