I thought that was a "sempai," and that "sensei" is a teacher - which has no connotation of seniority or rank. I could be wrong!
I think that the terms sempai
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
, where the crucial factor is the point at which one enters the group (the hai
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
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
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).
have similar connotations of seniority (conveyed by the concept saki
先, which means previous
). 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
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
, and being hazed on the mat and forced to get drunk at kompa
rties), 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
(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
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,