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Old 07-22-2008, 12:11 PM   #26
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
Location: Phila. Pa
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 4,614
Re: Sensei? Sempai?

I am sometimes in a rather interesting position, as I get out of my home dojo to train at some other places, in different associations. Sometimes (as this past Sunday), someone will refer to me as Sensei. I usually will ask them not to do that. Believe me, it is not because I am being falsly modest!

I think the instructor of the dojo should get that title (if it is going to be used at all). That is the person responsible for the training, the person who takes the risk of operating a place for training (financial and otherwise), the person that the members should be looking to for guidence in training. I don't mind when people ask for suggestions, or trying to help where people feel I can. But I like it to be clear who is teaching, who is taking the risk on behalf of their students, and who is ultimately responsible. I feel that letting people call me Sensei kind of get's in the way of those priorities.

And it's just less confusing for everyone. And as Jen said, sometimes we do just need to lighten up!

I don't use sempai much, since from what people like Peter have said, it seems to be something most properly used in a truly Japanese context. And I can't say I like everything that I've heard about it in that context...


Ron Tisdale
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 07-22-2008, 12:25 PM   #27
CitoMaramba's Avatar
Dojo: Dangayan Singkaw Aikido Shinzui Group Philippines
Location: Plymouth, UK
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 492
Re: Sensei? Sempai?

An article worth re-reading:
The meaning of the term "Sensei" By Peter Boylan

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
Dangayan Singkaw Aikido Shinzui
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Old 07-22-2008, 06:17 PM   #28
Location: California
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 48
Re: Sensei? Sempai?

I lived and worked in Japan for approx 8 years and here's my take on Sempai/Kohai (though this is within a company hierarchy rather than a MA hierarchy).

Anyone who has been at the company before you is technically a Sempai, even though that person may be younger than you, it denotes seniority through longevity in a position. The sempai/kohai relationship never changes, even if a person who is kohai to you eventually gets promoted above you, you are still the sempai, though the distinction becomes meaningless.
The terms sempai/Hohai are rarely used to name people, they are more just distinctions of relative rank within the group (and typically this is age based as companies tended to hire college graduates once/year, so the age distinctions were maintained as the employee stayed in the company). For example it's not typical to call a fellow employee kohai or sempai, like "Hi Sempai, how are you". The terms are used more like "this person is my sempai (or Kohai)". Rank is usually distinguished by the addition to the persons last name. Tanaka-san would be used for a Mr Tanaka who is same/higher rank than you, Tanaka-kun would be used for someone of lower rank. Tanaka-Sempai or Tanaka-Kohai would almost never be used.
So I don't think Sempai-Kohai are used in the same sense as "Sensei" which signifies rank and respect when used with/without a persons name.

my 2-en's worth
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