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Old 09-03-2012, 10:41 AM   #1
Chris Evans
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Question Sensei?

At what Dan grade is an aikidoka referred to as sensei? Is this a universal understanding within all aikido political groups?

"The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools."
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:53 AM   #2
odudog
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Re: Sensei?

Sensei has nothing to do with the dan grade. It has all to do with the role of responsibility taken on. One can be a 5th dan and still not be a sensei.
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:53 AM   #3
john.burn
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Chris Evans wrote: View Post
At what Dan grade is an aikidoka referred to as sensei? Is this a universal understanding within all aikido political groups?
With my dojo, whoever happens to be teaching is called sensei, but only whilst on the mat. Once off, or, once someone else teaches something then you're back to a mere mortal .

I'm going the change that though and get em to call me by my first name, I'm not Japanese after all.

Best Regards,
John

www.chishindojo.co.uk
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:44 AM   #4
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
John Burn wrote: View Post
With my dojo, whoever happens to be teaching is called sensei, but only whilst on the mat. Once off, or, once someone else teaches something then you're back to a mere mortal .

I'm going the change that though and get em to call me by my first name, I'm not Japanese after all.
I think you're right. It feels appropriate in Japan, but it doesn't sit right in English speaking countries. IMO, anyway.
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Old 09-03-2012, 12:06 PM   #5
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Sensei?

We address the teacher by their first name, even when they are teaching. It's an aikikai dojo with teachers ranking up to 6 dan.

My son's aikido teacher is also addressed by his first name. It's an aikibudo / yoseikan dojo and the teacher is a 3 dan if I'm correct.
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:21 PM   #6
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

How would you address the head-trainer of your footbalteam; with "coach" or "trainer" or with his first name?
How about your physician, would you say doctor or use the first name?
Or the teacher at the university; "professor" or his first name?
Or your priest; "father" or his first name?
Your instructor in fencing; "maitre" or his first name?
How about your father? "Dad" or first name?

Tom
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:42 PM   #7
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Sensei?

I had to think...I would call them all by their first name except for my dad and I would call my mom, mom too.

Last edited by Mary Eastland : 09-03-2012 at 03:43 PM. Reason: them for that.

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Old 09-03-2012, 04:26 PM   #8
Hellis
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Re: Sensei?

When Kenshiro Abbe Sensei introduced Aikido to Britain in 1955 it was his teaching that once a student reached Shodan he/ she would be referred to as Sensei - I consider if that was the wish of my teacher, then I have no wish to change his teachings - This method still continues in the `Ellis Schools of Traditional Aikido` after 55 years - I am sure that it will continue as such once I am gone.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
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Old 09-03-2012, 04:47 PM   #9
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

How about the queen of England? Would you call her Liz?
How would you address the president of the USA? Mr. President?
How would you address the prime minister of a foreign country?
Or the dalai lama? Or the pope? Would you use "his holiness" or call him by his first name?

Tom
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:00 PM   #10
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Henry Ellis wrote: View Post
When Kenshiro Abbe Sensei introduced Aikido to Britain in 1955 it was his teaching that once a student reached Shodan he/ she would be referred to as Sensei - I consider if that was the wish of my teacher, then I have no wish to change his teachings - This method still continues in the `Ellis Schools of Traditional Aikido` after 55 years - I am sure that it will continue as such once I am gone.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
That is quite exceptional. Did he ever give a reason for doing this? Is it because he had a need for instructors on a rather short term in order to spread Aikido?

As a contrast, I remember that Ken Cottier (7th dan Aikikai Hombu shihan) never liked to be addressed with sensei - not in the dojo and certainly not outside the dojo.

Tom
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:15 PM   #11
Hellis
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
That is quite exceptional. Did he ever give a reason for doing this? Is it because he had a need for instructors on a rather short term in order to spread Aikido?

As a contrast, I remember that Ken Cottier (7th dan Aikikai Hombu shihan) never liked to be addressed with sensei - not in the dojo and certainly not outside the dojo.

Tom
It was Abbe Sensei's teaching - It never changed. - students were referred to as Mr or Ms.
If anyone came in my dojo using first names they would be out quicker than they came in.

I remember teaching Ken Cottier when he was beginner in Liverpool. He was a Judoka with Fred Wainwright Sensei - Ken didn't have any problems with calling myself and Ken Williams Sensei each time we visited.
I always liked Ken Cottier and invited him as a guest to the `Kenshiro Abbe Memorial Event` in 2005 at Crystal Palace - London.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Last edited by Hellis : 09-03-2012 at 05:17 PM.
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:51 PM   #12
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Sensei?

In our group, 'sensei' is a teaching title, the first one, as well as a generic term for "teacher" (or rather 'born first'). We teach that one does not generally become a true sensei until sandan...though for practicality reasons we really don't hold to that these days. For us any yudansha that is teaching can be called 'sensei,' but those who do not teach regularly are not necessarily promoted beyond sandan or yondan as there isn't much of a reason at that point.

Personally, I only like calling my personal teachers 'sensei' as it holds special meaning to me. Also, I feel uncomfortable when others address me as sensei.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:12 PM   #13
Janet Rosen
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Re: Sensei?

It means teacher. I routinely call other teachers "teach" or my physicians "doc" - it helps to be middle aged I suppose - meanwhile in the dojo I follow and have no problem with the etiquette that on the mat whoever is teaching/leading at the moment gets the honorific during the class while I address MY teacher + anybody else I place in that category as "sensei" to their face anytime I'm in a dojo.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:19 PM   #14
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
How about the queen of England? Would you call her Liz?
How would you address the president of the USA? Mr. President?
How would you address the prime minister of a foreign country?
Or the dalai lama? Or the pope? Would you use "his holiness" or call him by his first name?

Tom
Why would I not call her Liz or Elizabeth if she prefers? I think Barak is a fine name.Why would I call the pope his holiness?

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Old 09-03-2012, 10:56 PM   #15
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
John Burn wrote: View Post
... then you're back to a mere mortal
sensei is not an esoteric title or something like that, isn't it?
Isn't it just the japanese word for teacher? It's used in elementary school aswell as in the dojo. So there is nothing holy or royal or immortal or whatever in it.
We use this address with Japanese teachers. Or sometimes with teachers who lived in Japan for a while. But when it's used, it's used on an off the tatami.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:07 PM   #16
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
How would you address the head-trainer of your footbalteam; with "coach" or "trainer" or with his first name?
How about your physician, would you say doctor or use the first name?
Or the teacher at the university; "professor" or his first name?
Or your priest; "father" or his first name?
Your instructor in fencing; "maitre" or his first name?
How about your father? "Dad" or first name?

Tom
Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
How about the queen of England? Would you call her Liz?
How would you address the president of the USA? Mr. President?
How would you address the prime minister of a foreign country?
Or the dalai lama? Or the pope? Would you use "his holiness" or call him by his first name?

Tom
It depends on how well I'd know the person and on what they prefer.

With people I don't know well and people older than me, I would use Mr. / Mrs. (+ their last name) and if etiquette requires a more specific honorific, I'll use that: in the karate dojo it was explained that different ranks had different titles, 3 dan and 4 dan was called sensei (sempai for 2 kyu to 2 dan and shihan for 5 dan and up). Outside class, we'd adress them by their first name.

If I know people a little better and if they want to be addressed by their first name, I'll use that.

It just happens to be that the Dutch aikido teachers that I know, prefer first name only.
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:59 AM   #17
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Sensei?

I think the term implies a type of relationship with one's instructor. I think Ellis Amdur coined the phrase "at once intimate and distant". It certainly makes sense in a Japanese cultural context and I would certainly use the term for Japanese instructors, but even this is flexible.

For example, I would refer to my Shakuhachi teacher as "xxx Sensei" when addressing him in public (in relation to shakuhachi activities), but I always addressed as "xxx San" outside of that context because it "felt" right. I always referred to my martial Arts instructor as "xxx Sensei".
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Old 09-04-2012, 01:54 AM   #18
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

When I'm in Japan, speaking to Japanese people in Japanese, I don't expect to be called "Mr." - why would I expect to be called by a Japanese title when I'm in the US, speaking English with non-Japanese?

Of course, there are cultural considerations - around here you call most folks by their first name. It's different in Japan - but, then, we're not in Japan are we?

As to the meaning of "sensei" - it denotes exactly zero about qualifications or credentials, it's simply the description of a societal role.

In Japan you usually call someone by their societal role as the first choice, last name as the second choice, and first name as the last choice.

But, for most of the people in this discussion, we're not in Japan, we're not Japanese, and we're not speaking Japanese - most of us don't even have the ability to speak Japanese.

Different culture, different place, different language, different customs. It seems kind of silly to me to insist on importing random Japanese customs that really have no purpose outside of the context of their culture.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-04-2012, 02:23 AM   #19
Eva Antonia
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Re: Sensei?

Hello,

in Germany we have this stupid differentiation with "Sie" and "Frau X", or we can say "Du" and "Eva", and the horrid thing is you never know which one is appropriate. There are lots of people insisting on the formal addressing, feeling that it's a lack of respect or imposing inappropriate intimacy if you use the informal one, and others who feel exactly the opposite. I still couldn't get used to "Sie" after being a German for 44 years, and if someone calls me "Frau Röben" I probably wouldn't answer because I wouldn't think he meant me - I'm Eva. But then when I'm in Germany I always try to address people in the way I assume they would like to hear being addressed. Why offend people with such a simple thing? So if I ever would meet the queen of England I'd probably say whatever she expects (no need for such a meeting), and if I meet my sensei I say his first name because that's how he likes to hear it. I'd rather use "sensei" for talking ABOUT a teacher, not to him - expect that's how the custom is in his dojo.

But when I'm teaching classes at the university, I'd never expect my students to address me formally, and this has nothing to do with laxness, I still expect them to work and to make some efforts to pass their exams. If ever I'd get to the level to teach aikido, it would be the same.

All the best,

Eva
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Old 09-04-2012, 02:31 AM   #20
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Different culture, different place, different language, different customs. It seems kind of silly to me to insist on importing random Japanese customs that really have no purpose outside of the context of their culture.
I won't insist. But in our dojo we do also wear funny clothes, bow in, and greet each other in the beginning and end of class in Japanese. Our basic rule (not followed very strictly) is that whoever teaches that night is called sensei. Doesn't feel any odder than those other random customs we follow, to me.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 09-04-2012, 04:21 AM   #21
john.burn
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
sensei is not an esoteric title or something like that, isn't it?
Isn't it just the japanese word for teacher? It's used in elementary school aswell as in the dojo. So there is nothing holy or royal or immortal or whatever in it.
We use this address with Japanese teachers. Or sometimes with teachers who lived in Japan for a while. But when it's used, it's used on an off the tatami.
That was a tongue in cheek comment! And yes, it's just a word for teacher and I only use the term sensei 24/7 to Japanese teachers.

Best Regards,
John

www.chishindojo.co.uk
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Old 09-04-2012, 06:20 AM   #22
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Pauliina Lievonen wrote: View Post
I won't insist. But in our dojo we do also wear funny clothes, bow in, and greet each other in the beginning and end of class in Japanese. Our basic rule (not followed very strictly) is that whoever teaches that night is called sensei. Doesn't feel any odder than those other random customs we follow, to me.

kvaak
Pauliina
I wouldn't regard any of the above mentioned as random customs. They are all part very important part of the training IMO. So is training under a "sensei".However, training under a "sensei" and all that entails, is very hard (although by no means impossible) outside of Japan because of the cultural references. If it"s just a title of address, you could call your instructor anything, surely?
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:09 AM   #23
phitruong
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Re: Sensei?

forget the sensei title. what i want is the "Great Grand Master" title. much more impressive.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:42 AM   #24
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Henry Ellis wrote: View Post
It was Abbe Sensei's teaching - It never changed. - students were referred to as Mr or Ms.
If anyone came in my dojo using first names they would be out quicker than they came in.

I remember teaching Ken Cottier when he was beginner in Liverpool. He was a Judoka with Fred Wainwright Sensei - Ken didn't have any problems with calling myself and Ken Williams Sensei each time we visited.
I always liked Ken Cottier and invited him as a guest to the `Kenshiro Abbe Memorial Event` in 2005 at Crystal Palace - London.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
Thank you for your reply!

Exactly as I remember Ken Cottier - polite and even formal towards other people. He had no problem whatsoever addressing Aikido instructors as sensei. But as for himself he never insisted on it.

By calling the students Mr. and Ms, Abbe sensei followed in effect the same custom as in Japan, where everyone is addressed with family name and "san".
Of course this Japanese kind of formal politeness was not much different then the European culture of that time (fifties?).

But European culture has changed dramatically and it shows its effect on the Aikido dojo..
I was wondering if you would be willing to share some of your thoughts on this?

If I understand it correctly students and teachers are still addressed in the same formal way in your dojo? How about the teachers that have been educated in your dojo - are they less formal?.

kind regards,

Tom
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:49 AM   #25
Tom Verhoeven
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Smile Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
forget the sensei title. what i want is the "Great Grand Master" title. much more impressive.
Please do not be modest - "great important immortal professor doctor honorable grand magister" seems more appropriate!

Tom.
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