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Old 01-17-2003, 12:34 PM   #1
Grasshopper
Dojo: Caulfield
Location: Australia
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What happens if you're NOT sensei?

This may be different for different forms of aikido, but I've been told that in Aikikai, you only get to call someone "sensei" when they're yondan or higher.

Now, both my teachers (eek!) are sandan, and both encourage their students to call them by their names, what would/could one call "rank-wise"? Sempai?

Yoroshiku!

"Respect your elders. Take care of your juniors."
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Old 01-17-2003, 01:10 PM   #2
Karen Wolek
Dojo: Kingston Aikido
Location: New York
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I think my teacher is sandan, we are a USAF/Aikikai dojo, and he is called Sensei.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 01-17-2003, 01:26 PM   #3
mj
Location: livingston, scotland
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I think you should ignore their expressed wishes, and do the right thing. Sensei means teacher, it is not an honorific given to 'special' people. It is the teacher.

Older students can be called sempai (pretty rare in the west, from my experience).

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Old 01-17-2003, 01:29 PM   #4
JMCavazos
Dojo: Aikido Center of South Texas
Location: Houston,Tx
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Sensei means teacher ---

The question to ask is whether you consider this person to be your teacher.

Some teachers may feel like you are learning the art together & they may feel better if you call them by their first name - just like any other student in the class.

I say, it's up to the teacher to decide how he/she wants to be called.
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Old 01-22-2003, 01:46 PM   #5
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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Re: What happens if you're NOT sensei?

Quote:
Diana Hope (Grasshopper) wrote:
I've been told that in Aikikai, you only get to call someone "sensei" when they're yondan or higher.
Not true. There are all kinds of variants of how and when to use the word sensei, including not at all.

Actually, there are a few recent threads on the topic here on Aikiweb. I suggest you look them up.
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Old 01-22-2003, 02:07 PM   #6
deepsoup
Dojo: Sheffield Shodokan Dojo
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Quote:
mark johnston (mj) wrote:
I think you should ignore their expressed wishes, and do the right thing.
I think the instructor in question has the right to decide what the 'right thing' is in the confines of his own dojo.

And if I were teaching, I'd get very grumpy with a student who insisted on ignoring my wishes because some bloke on the internet told her she should.

Sean

x
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Old 01-22-2003, 02:46 PM   #7
paw
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Sean is 100% right on this one. If they want to be addressed by their birth name, it seems pretty rude to not do so.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:59 PM   #8
Chris Li
 
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Re: What happens if you're NOT sensei?

Quote:
Diana Hope (Grasshopper) wrote:
This may be different for different forms of aikido, but I've been told that in Aikikai, you only get to call someone "sensei" when they're yondan or higher.

Now, both my teachers (eek!) are sandan, and both encourage their students to call them by their names, what would/could one call "rank-wise"? Sempai?

Yoroshiku!
In Japan (even in the Aikikai), whoever is teaching is routinely addressed as "sensei", whether they're a 4th dan or a 4th kyu. It's more an indicator of function than it is of rank.

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-22-2003, 10:03 PM   #9
Edward
Location: Bangkok
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Re: What happens if you're NOT sensei?

Quote:
Diana Hope (Grasshopper) wrote:
This may be different for different forms of aikido, but I've been told that in Aikikai, you only get to call someone "sensei" when they're yondan or higher.
Your information is not very accurate, I'm afraid. In Aikikai, the evolution is from Fukushidoin to Shidoin to Shihan. Anybody who teaches a class, whether aikido or chemistry or painting is called sensei.

Cheers,

Edward
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Old 01-22-2003, 10:07 PM   #10
PeterR
 
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And you know what - I've specifically asked not to be called sensei within my group - no problems. I have nothing but Japanese students.

I'm not an offical instructor within the JAA (there is a specific designation) and that's one reason I prefer a simple first name. At Honbu I address anyone leading the class as sensei instructor designation or not - that is what's done there.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-23-2003, 02:06 AM   #11
JJF
 
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Okay - now here's a twist.... I'm a 3 kyu and definately NOT a sensei in my home-dojo. However last year I visited a dojo in another town, but when I got there they had to cancel the practice, since the local sensei was ill. A bunch of very new aikido-students looked very dissapointed, but as they were beginning to leave I offered to teach a class - me being the only one who actually had been graded. They accepted and we had a lot of fun for a couple of hours.

My question (which is actually just for arguments sake) is: Should I be called sensei in that dojo from now on since I did give a lesson that night, or was it only that night that I was a sensei ?

No matter what, I still don't feel a bit like a sensei in my home-dojo

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 01-23-2003, 02:40 AM   #12
PeterR
 
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Wow - I would never do that (I assume this was without the dojo sensei's permission) especially with newbies and especially if this your first visit?

But to answer the question, no. During the class you were teaching maybe (see my post above about my discomfort with the term) but I think sensei is more than a one off thing.


Quote:
Jørgen Jakob Friis (JJF) wrote:
Okay - now here's a twist.... I'm a 3 kyu and definately NOT a sensei in my home-dojo. However last year I visited a dojo in another town, but when I got there they had to cancel the practice, since the local sensei was ill. A bunch of very new aikido-students looked very dissapointed, but as they were beginning to leave I offered to teach a class - me being the only one who actually had been graded. They accepted and we had a lot of fun for a couple of hours.

My question (which is actually just for arguments sake) is: Should I be called sensei in that dojo from now on since I did give a lesson that night, or was it only that night that I was a sensei ?

No matter what, I still don't feel a bit like a sensei in my home-dojo

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-23-2003, 04:04 AM   #13
ian
 
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I'd say sensei just relates to the master/student relationship. Therefore if you are the instructor of the night you are called sensei - if not, you aren't. (I wouldn't call a high ranking student I was training with sensei, but I would call any instructor sensei).

I believe the purpose of using the term sensei is to establish who is the teaching authority in the dojo. If you have two people of the same rank at a dojo and only one of them is the instructor I would only call the isntructor sensei; otherwise the teaching could become very chaotic.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 01-24-2003, 02:33 AM   #14
PeterR
 
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Hi Ian;

Generally speaking sensei is often as much an honorific as it is a designation.

I addressed my daughters kindergarten teacher as sensei. I also refer to my dentist, my budo teachers, my boss and the old man down the street, as sensei. In the latter case it has a lot to do with the original meaning which is "before life" or more eloquently "one who has gone before".

In Japan, think of -san versus sensei as mister versus sir and you wouldn't be that far off.

In the dojo there are several people I refer to as sensei. All are above san dan but that is often not enough. Age has a lot to do with it even though there are some that are younger than I. I think the main thing is a long term commitment to teaching Aikido even if they are not the dojo-cho. For instance, I can not think of one ex-deshi where I don't use that honorific since one of their main functions as deshi (there is usually only one with a tenure of 2-3 years) is teaching classes. When you come right down to it - sometimes its just a matter of feeling.

I don't think the term has anything to do with establishing authority. The thing is everyone knows where they stand in the order of things - titles are superfluos.

That last bit does not mean they shouldn't be used but the application, or not, is not really so rigid.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-24-2003, 10:30 AM   #15
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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Interesting thread, especially as Peter's last reply to Ian Dodkins shows at least three different cultures trying to use the same word. It's helped clarify some of the answers posted by US/Canadian aikwebbers in other posts.

I can quite happily understand Peter's use of "sensei" in Japan. However, the "mister" and "sir" analogy sort of breaks down for the UK. I can't think of a single instance I've used the term sir other than when adressing a person where that is their title (in which case, it's Sir ...). Outside of our public-school system, sir, or other honorifics, are not in general use. This is why I think sensei in the UK is normally used to denote the formal relationship in the dojo.

(for the record, I use the term sensei in exactly the way Ian has already described)
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Old 01-24-2003, 01:56 PM   #16
David Shevitz
Dojo: Aikido Kokikai South Everett
Location: Seattle
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I'm quite new here, but if I may offer my own 2 cents:

In our organization, the term "Sensei" officially is used only when one reaches 3rd dan or higher, or if the person is a head instructor of their own dojo.

I recently had to deal with this issue as I opened my own club. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who found the idea of being called "sensei" a little unnerving! ) I ended up giving my students their choice of either calling me by my first name or as sensei. Interestingly enough, 100% of them use sensei.

I think the reason is because its a title we have come to expect (at least in the US) when learning a martial art. An example I like to use: most people, even if they know and/or socialize with their physician, still refer to him/her as "doctor" when they have a medical appointment. It helps to acknowledge the role the individual is playing. The term "sensei" seems to be similar: it reinforces the idea that the person is there to provide instruction.

Of course, the most important thing (in my opinion) is that whatever term is used, it's used respectfully.

Best Regards,

David Shevitz, Aikido Kokikai Silver Firs
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