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Old 01-17-2003, 03:01 AM   #26
johnny rebb
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5
this is indeed an interesting topic...I personally feel that you can call some Sensei, Sir, Bill or whatever, if you donīt have respect and you call someone Sensei but you think heīs an asshole, it will still sound like "asshole".I believe you can call a Sensei by his/her firstname and you respect the person they will feel that.

Thatīs the way it works in Sweden.

cheers JR

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Old 01-17-2003, 07:20 AM   #27
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
Location: London
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 899
United Kingdom
Oh John, thats a whole new can of worms, I know some people who can make "good morning" sound like "eat lead and die".

I agree with you in principle, but I assumed (naively?) that people who use the term sensei outside of the dojo situation were using it as a term of respect. Perhaps I've been mistaking the intention of those I've heard use this term, what a wonderful thought...
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Old 01-17-2003, 07:51 AM   #28
Ta Kung
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 237
Yeah Ian, you really are an arse!

Just kidding, friend. I never met you... Don't come after me. My Aikido is weak.

And to stay on topic, we never say sensei to our sensei. We call him by his first name, and that's the way he likes it. We show our respect in other ways, we bow when he has helped us correct our technique and such...
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Old 12-29-2003, 09:09 PM   #29
Dojo: san diego aikikai
Location: San Diego
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 24
I always, and as far as I know and have seen all of our students always call our teacher sensei outside of class.

San Diego Aikikai
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Old 12-29-2003, 09:31 PM   #30
William Boyd
Dojo: Aikido of Reno
Location: Reno, NV
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 26
Hi all I've always called my aikido teacher sensei. Aikido is a Japanese martial art so I use the Japanese terms. your in ai ki do .
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Old 12-29-2003, 10:06 PM   #31
Location: NJ
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 241
In most federations/Associations there are usually some rules governing who to call sensei and those you dont need to address as sensei.

If I recall, in USAF, only those 4th dan and above should be addressed as sensei. Those below 4th dan can be addressed by their name. But those that arent 4th dan can be addressed by their students as sensei if they so which after all they his/her students.

Dont make me, make you, grab my wrist.
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Old 12-29-2003, 10:30 PM   #32
Nafis Zahir
Nafis Zahir's Avatar
Dojo: Bucks County Aikido
Location: Pennsylvania
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 425
Out of respect, you should say Sensei inside and outside of the dojo. That is, if you are true to budo and aikido is not just a hobby for you. Do you really think that Saito Sensei, after being with O'Sensei for over 20 years, called him anything else besides O'Sensei? Just as you would call a Doctor, Doctor outside of his office, so should you call your Sensei, or any Sensei for that matter. Any Chiba, Yamada, or Kanai Sensei students out there? If so, what do you say?

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Old 12-29-2003, 10:46 PM   #33
Location: NJ
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 241

I think its a great sign of respect to call them Sensei outside the dojo. I certainly do. Infact I think its good to call ones teacher sensei not only because it shows humility(defined as humble enough to put aside your beliefs for the sake of learning. That is bringing a blank slate to receive and learn without reservations)and respect. Its good to distance yourslelf from your teacher to keep familiarity from breeding. The mindset should be you are there to learn. Not saying you can be friendly with your teacher, but on the mat there is a pecking order, head of the class is your teacher.

I kinda like when there is more than one sensei in the room and you call out " Hi sensei!" and get all their heads to turn. But maybe thats just my idea of fun

Dont make me, make you, grab my wrist.
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Old 12-30-2003, 12:31 AM   #34
Rich Stephens
Location: California
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 28
As I started Aikido in Japan, it is quite natural to refer to my sensei there as sensei, in or out of the dojo.

I guess the most surprising thing for me about this thread is how many of you have friendly relationships with your Aikido sensei in daily life. That is surprising to me. It's further surprising that some of you seem to be implying that you don't feel the need to address them as sensei outside, because you feel outside the dojo you have equal status as they do or something and don't feel the need to treat them as your sensei. That is something I could never imagine doing in Japan.

Personally I'm just unable to separate Aikido from the Japanese culture and language. (If I could get over that perhaps I could find an acceptable dojo here in the u.s. but since I can't, I just wait).

Anyway, on another note, I found Mr. Akiyama's comments about using the first name with sensei or san for foreigners to be interesting. The Japanese have learned from movies and whatnot that Americans often use each other's first names and while that's true, it gets taken too far there. I was a teacher (not Aikido) in Japan and was always called Richard-Sensei instead of Stephens-sensei. For those who didn't know me as a teacher and used "san" instead, it was the same story. I must say that I wasn't always comfortable with that. It seemed belittling and often assumed a level of familiarity that did not exist. Oh well. One learns that such things are either misguided attempts to treat one as they mistakenly assumed we would like (see below), or in some cases just ways that although politeness requires them to add a "san" or "sensei" for your name, they want you to remember that you are not on the home team, no matter how long your association with Japan.

[about mistaken assumptions on what we foreigners are comfortable with: the average Japanese seems to have a bit of a misunderstanding about when westerners resort to using first names. They were surprised to hear that even in California we refered to our school teachers as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. so and so and our university professors as Dr. so and so. Or our corporate bosses as Mr. or Ms. so and so. They assumed everyone went by first names.

So maybe they think they are doing something correct by calling a foreigner by their first name, but it's kind of odd. And the practice of using a first name which is what friends do, but still sticking on a title of "san" or "sensei" or even the English "mr." is even more bizarre!


Last edited by Rich Stephens : 12-30-2003 at 12:34 AM.
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Old 12-30-2003, 12:50 AM   #35
Dojo: Seigi Dojo
Location: Jakarta
Join Date: Nov 2002
Posts: 247
at first i addressed my instructors as 'sensei' on and off the mat, but they refuse to be called 'sensei' simply because they feel they haven't reached 'sensei' level yet, thus they asked me to addressed them by name instead. And so i called them by name until this day, but in my opinion no matter how you addressed your instructor, it should came out of respect and not because of their belt, as Thalib have said.
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Old 12-30-2003, 12:51 AM   #36
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 498
William Oakes (SmilingNage) wrote:

I think its a great sign of respect to call them Sensei outside the dojo. I certainly do. Infact I think its good to call ones teacher sensei not only because it shows humility(defined as humble enough to put aside your beliefs for the sake of learning. That is bringing a blank slate to receive and learn without reservations)and respect. Its good to distance yourslelf from your teacher to keep familiarity from breeding. The mindset should be you are there to learn. Not saying you can be friendly with your teacher, but on the mat there is a pecking order, head of the class is your teacher.

I kinda like when there is more than one sensei in the room and you call out " Hi sensei!" and get all their heads to turn. But maybe thats just my idea of fun
I wrote a whole long post with regards to "respect" for one of the other current threads on that subject. However, I decided not to post it. Therefore I won't speak about that with regards to calling your teacher "Sensei" when not in the dojo.

I have a similar take on it as Mr. Oakes, and it speaks to me as a practitioner, well as a student, really. I call my teacher "Matsuoka Sensei" at the dojo because:

a. That is his title

b. He is my teacher

c. That is the custom in our dojo.

When I joined the dojo, I declared, "I am a student of Matsuoka Sensei." When I go into the dojo, I learn from this person. Sometimes about aikido, often times about many other things. Because I am the student, I treat him as the teacher, and he treats me as a student - because I am the student. He always treats me with respect, as do I, him.

Whenever I see my doctor at a restaurant, he is still my doctor. A priest outside his parish is still a priest. Even though I am married, and even if I have 20 children, my father will always be Dad. I may respect these individuals or I may not, but that does not change who they are in the world.

I said, "Matsuoka Sensei is my teacher." When I leave the dojo and go outside, my teacher doesn't suddenly change into anything different from whom he was when I was with him at the dojo. He is still my teacher. I listen to him and learn from him when we are in the parking lot, at restaurants, on the phone, at the bowling alley, the airport or even the bus station. I call him Sensei, because he is my teacher, and I am always his student, learning from him no matter where I am in relation to where he or our dojo is. Martial arts, at one level, are about raising one's consciousness to develop a mind of no openings. This I would consider to be a 24x7x365 endeavor. Therefore, I am a student 100 percent of the time and my teacher is a teacher 100 percent of the time.

What each of you do may or may not make sense to me. If it is different for you, and it empowers you as a student and your teacher as the teacher - GREAT! If not, then it may be time to re-evaluate the habit.

I no longer participate in or read the discussion forums here on AikiWeb due to the unfair and uneven treatment of people by the owner/administrator.
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Old 12-30-2003, 01:33 AM   #37
PeterR's Avatar
Dojo: Shodokan Honbu (Osaka)
Location: Himeji, Japan
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 3,319
It's a funny thing but when I started my group I really did not want to be called sensei mainly because it was a "let's train togeather" atmosphere that I was trying to clutivate and neither my assistant nor I have much rank to talk about. Originally most people did refer to me by my first name - sometimes with -san.

However, I noticed that both inside and outside the dojo (in the latter case usually there is some Aikido context) I am refered to as Peter sensei when talked about and more and more when addressed. My assitant gets the same treatment as he should. This is the culture and there is no stopping it.

That little story out of the way. In this culture sensei is applied to everything from dentists to old men, from kindergarten teachers to university professors. It's a big deal only in the context its being used.

I would be bothered if the title was used outside of an Aikido context in North America. Within the dojo - well part of the interest in training is that there is a little of the Japan mystique.

Last edited by PeterR : 12-30-2003 at 01:36 AM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-30-2003, 07:36 AM   #38
Greg Jennings
Dojo: S&G BJJ
Location: Springboro, OH
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 1,125
Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:

However, I've lived in the United States for the past 25 years (with a brief stint in Japan for university research). It's the culture and language here to call people by their first names.
In many situations here in the South, it is totally inappropriate to address someone older by their first name. More rarely, this applies to people your own age and even younger people.

One says "Sir", "Ma'am", "Mr", "Miss", etc.

Then again, there are situations where it is *only* appropriate to address someone, regardless of age or hierarchical considerations, by their first name.

It's just a different culture here. The language, tone, inflection, etc. all carry nuances that are often lost on those that haven't spent a lot of time here.


Greg Jennings
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Old 01-06-2004, 12:26 AM   #39
Location: Florida
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10
Me personally, I've called all my previous sensei's sensei at all times just out of respect. Even at my last workplace, my boss was a former career Army officer, and I naturally called him Mr. Hill, even though he told everyone they could just call him Tom. But somehow it just didn't feel right, so I always called him Mr. Hill. Deep down, I think he respected me for doing that. I even remember everyone else at my work asking me why I called him Mr. Hill instead of Tom.

My answer was that partially it was cultural. I'm part asian (filipino) and it's just something that we do. We call older brothers Kuya, older sisters Ate, and we call older non-relatives who are family friends Tito (for uncle) or Tita (for aunt). We can also say Manong as a respectful term for older male. It's also partially that my grandfather was a former Naval officer and he instilled in me a sense of respect for those above you. I call all older males Sir, and all older women Ma'am.

But that doesn't mean I'm blindly obedient. My first major style I actually quit because I realized that the founder of the style had an ego problem. He pretty much demanded to be called "master", which I found rather odd, since just about everything I've read shows that such a honorific is given by the students, not demanded by the instructor. While there was more to his ego trip than this, I realized early on that respect is something earned, but one should initially be respectful until someone has won your admiration.

Also, you have to consider the Japanese perspective of what a sensei truly is. In their concept of Giri and Gimu, the main difference between the two being that gimu can never fully be repaid. So from what I understand, we have gimu to our sensei for the valuable lessons we are taught.

To me, respect is one of the most important lessons in life. It teaches us humility, and it makes us sympathize with others more readily. No wonder "rei" was one of the virtues of bushido. So simply out of respect, I call my instructors sensei no matter where or when, just as I call all my university teachers professors (even if they don't have PhD's).
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Old 01-17-2004, 02:19 AM   #40
Usagi Yojimbo
Dojo: Shinkikan Aikikai Aikido of Corpus Christi
Location: Texas
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27
Wow... never thought about that... I call my Sensei "Joel". I met him before he started teaching the classes through a friend of mine. He gave us a ride home after we ate out at a local resturant after a seminar with Kato-sensei who had come over from Japan for the seminar. So I respect Joel, I know he can beat the tar out of me and everything, but I'm just comfortable calling him Joel. He doesn't seem to mind either, we talk and joke alot, mostly about Aikido or video games...

My head hurts...
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:52 PM   #41
stuartjvnorton's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Shudokan
Location: Melbourne
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 225
My first Sensei was (& still is lol) Japanese, and everyone always called him that. It was almost like it _was_ his name.

My current Sensei is not Japanese but I always call him that as well. His 2IC I will call Sensei most times, unless we're all going out as a group. Then it's "John".

Sometimes senior students will take a class. Them I will call Sensei when they are taking the class, but by their name at other times.
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Old 02-06-2004, 12:12 AM   #42
Thom Hansen
Dojo: Aikido Yuishinkai Cleveland Dojo
Location: Brisbane
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 28
I ask my students to call me Sensei only when i'm in training off the mat i insist the call me Thom or even arsehole that is their want.

However i do insist that they always call senior instructors Sensei

Life is a gem .. Treasure every minute
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:50 AM   #43
Dojo: NY Aikikai
Location: NYC
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2
Nafis Zahir asked:

Any Chiba, Yamada, or Kanai Sensei students out there? If so, what do you say?

I started training at New York Aikikai last April, and it took me a little while to figure out the protocol. Yamada Sensei is referred to as "Sensei," and I believe Sugano Sensei is referred to as either "Sensei" or "Sugano Sensei," both in person or in absentia. Generally, in conversation if someone refers to "Sensei", they're talking about Yamada.

Therefore, at the end of Yamada Sensei's class, the class says "Thank you Sensei." Because of his reduced teaching schedule--and my schedule--I have not actually taken a regular class with Sugano Sensei, so I cannot comment directly on that, but my understanding is that again the class says "Thank you Sensei."

Other instructors are referred to by their first names; at the end of Steve Pimsler's class, the class says "Thank you Steve." This is true even if the teacher is above 4th dan, as is the case with Steve and many others, William Oakes' observation on USAF protocol notwithstanding.

This is all a way of minimizing the confusion that can result from a large teaching staff under one roof. Do others, in larger dojos, have similar approaches, or different?
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Old 02-07-2004, 11:42 AM   #44
Dojo: Ki dojo
Location: Ljubljana
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 102
If I happened to encounter O Sensei I would just bow veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery low and kept my mouth shut.

At our dojo our teacher or sensei or whatever is always caled by his first name. Inside or outside the dojo. So there's no "Mr.__", no "sensei", no "teacher", no nothing. His idea, his wish - we go by that. However in my language we have a formal and an informal way of adressing people (like saying "you" or "You" in english, "sie" or "Sie" in german, you say "ti" or "Vi/vi" in slovene). Naturally I use the formal one.

It made me think also of how I adress those that teach at a university or academy rather than at the dojo - I always use "professor", "professor /surname/" or "Mr. professor" (that one sounds a lot more normal in slovene) without adding the surname and adress them in a formal way. I came to understand that being a university professor has in history been a very respected status, so these are old forms of speach and I guess old habits die hard.

Best regards!
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Old 02-07-2004, 12:51 PM   #45
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Dojo: Hallamshire, Sheffield
Location: South Yorkshire, UK
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 12
I tend to call my istructor Sensei, both inside and outside of the dojo, although I occasionally call him by his first name. He has said we can all call him by his first name outside the dojo, although I usually don't because it just doesn't feel 'right'.

Shodan, Shotokan karate & 6th kyu Aikido

"The brave do not live forever, but the timid do not live at all."
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Old 02-07-2004, 08:32 PM   #46
Dojo: Bulungan
Location: Jakarta
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 3
i always call my instructur, sensei with his/her name.But sometimes, i call his/her name, not when we're on practice
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Old 02-08-2004, 08:29 AM   #47
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 375
I think in a non Japanese speaking dojo it is not necessary to address someone as sensei. On the other hand, it does come in handy when you go to another school and don't know or have forgotten the name of the teacher...
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Old 02-08-2004, 07:32 PM   #48
Dojo: Aikido of Park Slope
Location: New York
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 36
Maybe I don't understand what Sensei means or translates as. So for those who speak Japanese, what does sensei mean.


"If the enemy thinks of the mountains, attack like the sea; and if he thinks of the sea, attack like the mountains. - Miyamoto Musashi - 1584 - 1645
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