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Old 09-04-2012, 08:55 AM   #26
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Eva Röben wrote: View Post
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.

Eva
But is this not the same in lanquages like Dutch and French?
It is in modern English that we do not use these different ways of addressing someone, many if not most languages do.

Tom
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:07 AM   #27
Hellis
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
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
Tom

Ken Cottier - When I first met Ken he was just another beginner in those early days - The reason I remembered him more than anyone else at that time, he was such a very funny guy - he could impersonate Kenshiro Abbe's voice to perfection - he could also make the sound of a underground train entering and leaving the station, complete with doors opening and shutting. funny what we remember about people ( RIP )

In the ESTA dan grades new and old are taught the old traditional style, Derek Eastman and I have not changed our ways, so the students naturally follow. The reason I left Judo to join the first Aikido group was because of the positive power of the Aikido I saw then, I took one look and knew that was what I wanted.
The 1950s was a very difficult time to offer anything that was Japanese - we were all living on war rations until 1957 - Both Derek and I worked with ex-Japanese and German prisoners of war - so the very mention of Judo or Aikido would often lead to unpleasant situations.

Do you know my good friend Gijs Schouten in Holland ?

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:19 AM   #28
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

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Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
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?
Good question. But it is a question that is of this time and age. Things are changing. There is nothing wrong with change in itself, change is natural. But we should at times wonder if a change in culture is also an improvement and what the thought behind the change is. Was there something wrong with addressing people in a polite formal way, something that needed fixing?

Tom.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:22 AM   #29
ryback
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Re: Sensei?

In the same way that we bow,we wear Gi and Hakama,we say "Ikkyo" instead of
"first immobilization" and "kote gaeshi" instead of "the turning of the wrist", the term Sensei is an inseparable part of a dojo's protocol and it should not be neglected because discipline and respect is part of Aikido training.For that reason,in my opinion, it is not out of context even in a non-japanese dojo.Steven Seagal sensei once said that once someone a sensei, you refer to him as sensei whether he is on or off the mats.In our dojo we call sensei only the head instructor of the school and not every senior student who will take the Kamiza for a lesson...I think it is not a matter of rank, one should be considered a sensei when he runs his own dojo.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:48 AM   #30
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Yannis Mousoulis wrote: View Post
In the same way that we bow,we wear Gi and Hakama,we say "Ikkyo" instead of
"first immobilization" and "kote gaeshi" instead of "the turning of the wrist", the term Sensei is an inseparable part of a dojo's protocol and it should not be neglected because discipline and respect is part of Aikido training.For that reason,in my opinion, it is not out of context even in a non-japanese dojo.Steven Seagal sensei once said that once someone a sensei, you refer to him as sensei whether he is on or off the mats.In our dojo we call sensei only the head instructor of the school and not every senior student who will take the Kamiza for a lesson...I think it is not a matter of rank, one should be considered a sensei when he runs his own dojo.
Discipline and respect certainly aren't limited to the Japanese language.

Sometimes I wear the funny clothes - and sometimes I don't, and it doesn't seem to affect things very much one way or the other. They wear different funny clothes and use different words now then they did some years ago, even in Japan - things change, don't they?

Now, while we're at preserving the tradition - there's really no such word as "Gi" in Japanese.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-04-2012, 09:51 AM   #31
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Henry Ellis wrote: View Post
Tom

Ken Cottier - When I first met Ken he was just another beginner in those early days - The reason I remembered him more than anyone else at that time, he was such a very funny guy - he could impersonate Kenshiro Abbe's voice to perfection - he could also make the sound of a underground train entering and leaving the station, complete with doors opening and shutting. funny what we remember about people ( RIP )

In the ESTA dan grades new and old are taught the old traditional style, Derek Eastman and I have not changed our ways, so the students naturally follow. The reason I left Judo to join the first Aikido group was because of the positive power of the Aikido I saw then, I took one look and knew that was what I wanted.
The 1950s was a very difficult time to offer anything that was Japanese - we were all living on war rations until 1957 - Both Derek and I worked with ex-Japanese and German prisoners of war - so the very mention of Judo or Aikido would often lead to unpleasant situations.

Do you know my good friend Gijs Schouten in Holland ?

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

Thank you ever so much for sharing that memory with me - it brought tears to my eyes laughing! I did see Ken do his impersonations of Chiba sensei, but it is the first time I have heard about his impersonations of Abbe sensei!

I was in England on several occasions in the 1980s. Aikido by that time seemed quite popular. But the 1950s must have been difficult - had forgotten about those rations, it seems that that lasted longer in England then in the Netherlands - anti-everything-Japanese was common in the Netherlands as well.

Must have been difficult for Abbe sensei himself as well!.

I have not had the pleasure meeting Gijs Schouten - know the name though.
Did you visit the Netherlands for teaching a seminar?

Thank you for your kind response!

Tom
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Old 09-04-2012, 10:19 AM   #32
Hellis
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
Henry,

Thank you ever so much for sharing that memory with me - it brought tears to my eyes laughing! I did see Ken do his impersonations of Chiba sensei, but it is the first time I have heard about his impersonations of Abbe sensei!

I was in England on several occasions in the 1980s. Aikido by that time seemed quite popular. But the 1950s must have been difficult - had forgotten about those rations, it seems that that lasted longer in England then in the Netherlands - anti-everything-Japanese was common in the Netherlands as well.

Must have been difficult for Abbe sensei himself as well!.

I have not had the pleasure meeting Gijs Schouten - know the name though.
Did you visit the Netherlands for teaching a seminar?

Thank you for your kind response!

Tom
Tom

By the 1980s Aikido was pretty well established in the UK - In the 1950s there was just the one dojo "The Hut Dojo" - We would visit Judo dojos to promote Aikido, as was the case with meeting Ken Cottier in Liverpool.
I remember making the trip to Devises Judo Club to take part in the first "Aikido Seminar" in the UK - We were teaching tough Judoka who had to be taken all the way to show that Aikido was effective - If we had asked them to fall down I am sure they would have thrown us out of the door. many of the early students of Aikido were converts as I was from Judo.

It was a tough time for Abbe Sensei as you say - My father had a back injury and could not walk at all - I advised him that I would bring Abbe Sensei to try some Katsu on him - my father was not too happy at this suggestion - he relented - Abbe Sensei had him back on his feet in less than five minutes. My father saw Abbe Sensei in a different light to what was the general image of the Japanese. My father even came to see me at the Royal Albert Hall in 1963 with Abbe Sensei - Nakazono - Noro - Michigami - Hamano - Otani.

I did visit my friend Gijs Schouten a few years ago to teach at a large celebration of Aikido in Holland.

Henry Ellis
Co-author `Positive Aikido`
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
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Old 09-04-2012, 11:47 AM   #33
Walter Martindale
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Re: Sensei?

I think it doesn't hurt to know and be able to do "reigi" in an aikido dojo. That said, it's up to the head of each dojo to set the tone.
We're practicing a Japanese martial art, wearing "angry white pajamas" practicing with a "bow" and sitting in "seiza" and, and, and...
Most of the dojo I've been in have referred to the sensei as such at the start and finish of the class, but during class it's been (in approximate order of appearance) Don, Mel, Kawahara Sensei, Rocky, Andrew, Takase Sensei, another Andrew, Masuda Sensei, Ichihashi Sensei, Bill, Phil, Kenji, Steve, Robb, Papu, the second Andrew again, Chris, Irene, Din, Terry, another Bill, and a few others whom I can't remember in Osaka, Hiroshima, Victoria BC, (oh, yeah, Scott, Hilary, Mike)...

On the rare occasions I've led an aikido class, the formalities were adhered to at the start and finish of the class, and during the session it was "Walter..."

On some other notes... As an undergrad I called the professors "Doctor ....." in post-graduate studies, Dr McKenzie (MD, PhD) became "Don", Dr. Robertson was "Gord", etc... During thesis defense it was "Doctor Robertson, McKenzie, etc., and then during beers afterwards it was back to first names.

Pope? If I ever meet up with one I'll probably mumble whatever the protocol requires but it's tough to call someone "holiness" if there are no such things as gods.

I coach for a living. When people call me "Coach" I reply with "My name is Walter, please use it." Most of the rowing community with which I've been involved works that way, but I haven't spent much coaching time in the USA.

The queen? Hmm. Since I'm not directly related, "your majesty" I suppose. I had occasion to speak to the GG of New Zealand once a few years back - I used "Sir" because I didn't know to use "Excellency" as were his staff. It's really awkward when you're not supposed to touch someone and you're trying to help him get a life jacket on...
Parents were "Mum" and "Dad"

Last edited by Walter Martindale : 09-04-2012 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 09-04-2012, 11:56 AM   #34
Chris Evans
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Re: Sensei?

OK, so not so specific in aikido organizations.
In Seido karate a "sensei" is a 4th Dan: That is all.
I see that in my aiki- dojo, we have a 4th Dan that's called "sensei" and a 6th Dan that is the "sensei."

Last edited by Chris Evans : 09-04-2012 at 11:59 AM.

"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 09-04-2012, 02:45 PM   #35
Lyle Laizure
 
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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.
Far from being an expert on the Japanese language...I took a beginners Japnese class some time back and the teacher was a native Japanese lady. She said that "Sensei" referred to a master of a given trade. Though generically it can be used as "teacher" it really refers to someone who is a master at their craft. Using that definition I find it hard to believe that so many can be a sensei.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 09-04-2012, 02:56 PM   #36
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Lyle Laizure wrote: View Post
Far from being an expert on the Japanese language...I took a beginners Japnese class some time back and the teacher was a native Japanese lady. She said that "Sensei" referred to a master of a given trade. Though generically it can be used as "teacher" it really refers to someone who is a master at their craft. Using that definition I find it hard to believe that so many can be a sensei.
In every day usage, anybody teaching anything is called "sensei", whether it be pottery or day care - or hip hop street breaking, whatever. Doctors and lawyers are also called "sensei".

Basically, it just means "teacher" - so it's used for anybody teaching because Japanese are anal about using titles to refer to people.

Depending upon where you are and the culture you live in, that may not be the case.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-04-2012, 06:44 PM   #37
Rob Watson
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
In every day usage, anybody teaching anything is called "sensei", whether it be pottery or day care - or hip hop street breaking, whatever. Doctors and lawyers are also called "sensei".

Basically, it just means "teacher" - so it's used for anybody teaching because Japanese are anal about using titles to refer to people.

Depending upon where you are and the culture you live in, that may not be the case.

Best,

Chris
Also can be used dismissively when one is seen to be acting beyond thier station ... like some 5 kyu shihans, etc.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:47 AM   #38
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Re: Sensei?

I think the overuse of 'sensei' can sometimes lead to the diminishing of the senpai-kohai relationship. I feel like the leadership of senior mudansha, and junior yudansha, is very important to a healthy dojo. Of course, many aikido dojo are relatively small and can't really function with such distinctions...I get that. But I also feel like allowing these senpai to take positions of responsibility for the dojo, themselves, and junior students, is a great opportunity for growth as a persona as well as aikidoka. Some of the biggest influences in my life were my mentors (granted he was yondan at the time) in addition to my sensei.

I guess the correlation to the thread topic I am making is when a shodan or nidan are automatically pushed to a sensei status, that can kind of put a little too big a barrier between other students. There should definitely be a distinction, but I would hope the intimacy of a senpai-kohai relationship can still flourish, regardless of rank.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:19 AM   #39
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

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Adam Huss wrote: View Post
I think the overuse of 'sensei' can sometimes lead to the diminishing of the senpai-kohai relationship. I feel like the leadership of senior mudansha, and junior yudansha, is very important to a healthy dojo. Of course, many aikido dojo are relatively small and can't really function with such distinctions...I get that. But I also feel like allowing these senpai to take positions of responsibility for the dojo, themselves, and junior students, is a great opportunity for growth as a persona as well as aikidoka. Some of the biggest influences in my life were my mentors (granted he was yondan at the time) in addition to my sensei.

I guess the correlation to the thread topic I am making is when a shodan or nidan are automatically pushed to a sensei status, that can kind of put a little too big a barrier between other students. There should definitely be a distinction, but I would hope the intimacy of a senpai-kohai relationship can still flourish, regardless of rank.
Of course, mentors exist in the West all the time - and without the sempai-kohai stuff.

Personally, it's been my experience that, in the long run, trying to transplant the sempai-kohai stuff out of Japanese culture causes more problems than any benefits you might get out of it.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-05-2012, 02:59 AM   #40
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Sensei?

Here's a great piece about the practice of gift giving in Japan, especially to one's sensei;

http://classicbudoka.wordpress.com/2...ioned-bribery/
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:30 AM   #41
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Of course, mentors exist in the West all the time - and without the sempai-kohai stuff.

Personally, it's been my experience that, in the long run, trying to transplant the sempai-kohai stuff out of Japanese culture causes more problems than any benefits you might get out of it.

Best,

Chris
What do you think is the difference between the Japanese sempai - kohai structure with the western juniors - seniors in school or in companies?
If we look at the traditional western arts, how they are taught and structured then there does not seem to be much difference between Western way and Japanese way.

What kind of problems do you see with the sempai - kohai structure?

Tom
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:34 AM   #42
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Here's a great piece about the practice of gift giving in Japan, especially to one's sensei;

http://classicbudoka.wordpress.com/2...ioned-bribery/
Nice article!
Most older civilisations had a gift-culture. Many modern societies still have this - Japan is one of them. In the West we have a what has become known as a debt-culture. Not much improve,emt there, I think.

Tom
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:58 AM   #43
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
What do you think is the difference between the Japanese sempai - kohai structure with the western juniors - seniors in school or in companies?
If we look at the traditional western arts, how they are taught and structured then there does not seem to be much difference between Western way and Japanese way.

What kind of problems do you see with the sempai - kohai structure?

Tom
Well, it's much more rigidly structured and formal than anything you normally see in the US these days. Plus, you tend to exacerbate things when you give them "exotic" titles, and you get people here who are more Japanese than Japanese people in Japan.

The question is - why add an additional cultural layer, and what does it really get you?

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-05-2012, 11:20 AM   #44
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Lyle Laizure wrote: View Post
Far from being an expert on the Japanese language...I took a beginners Japnese class some time back and the teacher was a native Japanese lady. She said that "Sensei" referred to a master of a given trade. Though generically it can be used as "teacher" it really refers to someone who is a master at their craft. Using that definition I find it hard to believe that so many can be a sensei.
I fear the word "master of an art or trade" has lost much of its original value. Just about everybody seems to claim mastership of an art or trade. There is no longer a standard to reach for, many people seem quite early in their progression of any art satisfied with the level they have. In a similar way the word sensei and the relationship sensei - montei has lost much of its original meaning. Especially in Aikido - with the exception of the more traditional dojo. In particular the old ryuha have maintained much of its original meaning and purpose. Personally I prefer the old ways.

Tom
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:47 AM   #45
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, it's much more rigidly structured and formal than anything you normally see in the US these days. Plus, you tend to exacerbate things when you give them "exotic" titles, and you get people here who are more Japanese than Japanese people in Japan.

The question is - why add an additional cultural layer, and what does it really get you?

Best,

Chris
It certainly is more structured and formal. And that is exactly what I like about it. The down side is that just like a few decades ago in Europe things can become too rigid. It is however not as I experienced it, quite the opposite; a relaxed atmosphere seems to come naturally with a certain amount of formality.

You have stayed quite some time in Japan. Did you feel the formality and social structure as a constant hindrance?

Your second point is true enough and I have seen plenty of examples of this - but is this not also a matter of education and experience? It is a bit like thinking that every Dutchman wears wooden clogs (I do actually, but that is beside the point). Once someone has been in the Netherlands he knows better.

Your last point is of course an open question. It is up to each individual to answer this for him/herself.

Tom
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:16 PM   #46
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Re: Sensei?

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Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
It certainly is more structured and formal. And that is exactly what I like about it. The down side is that just like a few decades ago in Europe things can become too rigid. It is however not as I experienced it, quite the opposite; a relaxed atmosphere seems to come naturally with a certain amount of formality.

You have stayed quite some time in Japan. Did you feel the formality and social structure as a constant hindrance?
In general, yes - it's not an entirely negative thing, but it's not for everbody - and it is different in many ways from what is usual in the US. Enough so that I'd question the desireability of imposing one random section of it into a foreign culture.

OTOH, I found dojo atmospheres - even in very traditional arts (and I trained in some of the oldest of the old) were much more relaxed than you find in US dojo - despite the extra rules, perhaps because it's a natural extension of the culture rather than a foreign imposition.

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
Your second point is true enough and I have seen plenty of examples of this - but is this not also a matter of education and experience? It is a bit like thinking that every Dutchman wears wooden clogs (I do actually, but that is beside the point). Once someone has been in the Netherlands he knows better.
True - but the percentage of folks with real Japan experience is very small, even among senior folks - hence the difficulties.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-05-2012, 12:37 PM   #47
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Re: Sensei?

In James P Owen's book "Cowboy Ethics" one of the values he talks to is "Give allegiance and respect where they are deserved and returned"....... for me to call you Sensei and have meaning/value this has to be in play......otherwise it is just a title with an uncertain future.

as always
Gary
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Old 09-05-2012, 02:42 PM   #48
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Gary Welborn wrote: View Post
In James P Owen's book "Cowboy Ethics" one of the values he talks to is "Give allegiance and respect where they are deserved and returned"....... for me to call you Sensei and have meaning/value this has to be in play......otherwise it is just a title with an uncertain future.

as always
Gary
And I agree wholeheartedly - especially with the emphasis on the last bit; "...otherwise it is just a title with an uncertain future."

Tom
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #49
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
In general, yes - it's not an entirely negative thing, but it's not for everbody - and it is different in many ways from what is usual in the US. Enough so that I'd question the desireability of imposing one random section of it into a foreign culture.

OTOH, I found dojo atmospheres - even in very traditional arts (and I trained in some of the oldest of the old) were much more relaxed than you find in US dojo - despite the extra rules, perhaps because it's a natural extension of the culture rather than a foreign imposition.

True - but the percentage of folks with real Japan experience is very small, even among senior folks - hence the difficulties.

Best,

Chris
Sure, but city life is neither for everyone. Of course you have a point if we were talking about a random
part of the Japanese culture - but is kohai - sempai not an important if not necessary part of Aikido culture? And therefore more a matter of proper education?

Well, I agree with your second point.

As for your last point - that is regrettably true. Even worse, too many people did not even have a change to interact personally with Japanese teachers during seminars.

Tom .
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:28 PM   #50
Chris Li
 
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Re: Sensei?

Quote:
Tom Verhoeven wrote: View Post
Sure, but city life is neither for everyone. Of course you have a point if we were talking about a random
part of the Japanese culture - but is kohai - sempai not an important if not necessary part of Aikido culture? And therefore more a matter of proper education?
Well...that's the thing. It's an important part of Japanese culture, and it has correspondingly become a part of Aikido culture.

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's important any more than we should be eating Natto and drinking green tea just because Doshu does (I recommend both, but that's just my personal preference).

The question is, why is it necessary and what are the drawbacks? Especially, what are the drawbacks of implanting it in a foreign culture, and are the benefits really worth it?

IMO - the early instructors coming out of Japan (Tamura, Tada, Chiba, Yamada, Kanai, etc.) had gotten most of their actual teaching experience in university clubs during the build up after the war.

University clubs are notorious for their sempai-kohai shenanigans, and much of that was brought with them out of Japan.The sempai-kohai system was a familiar method for young instructors to impose order in a foreign environment. It might have been different if things had developed more organically.

I also wouldn't discount the effect of pre-war militarism on the martial arts - evidenced in the difference between koryu and gendai practices.

Best,

Chris

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