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Old 01-04-2004, 12:01 AM   #1
AikiWeb System
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AikiWeb Poll for the week of January 4, 2004:

How do you usually address your main aikido teacher on the mat?
  • I don't do aikido
  • Last name + "sensei"
  • First name + "sensei"
  • "Sensei"
  • His/her first name
  • Mr/Mrs/Ms + last name
  • Other
Here are the current results.
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Old 01-04-2004, 12:17 AM   #2
PeterR
 
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Dojo: Shodokan Honbu (Osaka)
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I answered Last name + Sensie

but really it is

Other (Last name + Shihan)

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-04-2004, 03:00 AM   #3
Jim ashby
Dojo: Phoenix Coventry
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Hmmmmm. A tricky one this as we have so many instructors. It does happen that a higher ranked Instructor is a pupil at one of the other Instructors' classes, in which case I call the person running the class Sensei and the other Sensei by their first name. Hope this makes sense!!

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 01-04-2004, 09:55 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Dojo: Roswell Budokan, Kyushinkan Dojo, Aikido World Alliance
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With a bow and "Sensei".

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 01-04-2004, 10:28 AM   #5
Patrick
Dojo: Mississippi State Universty Aikido
Location: Mississippi
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Dr. and last name.

Kendo is like star wars and everyone gets to be Darth Vader.
"Luke, I am your sensei"
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Old 01-04-2004, 12:41 PM   #6
Don_Modesto
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
(Last name + Shihan)
Really?!

Huh!

I was under the impression that "sensei" was a term of direct address like "Dr." and "shihan" a term like "physician". I've never heard a Jpn use "shihan" like that. I'd be interested in your further comment, Peter (as I'm sure your Jpn is far better than mine ever got).

Thanks.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
------------------------
http://www.theaikidodojo.com/
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Old 01-04-2004, 06:22 PM   #7
PeterR
 
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Not sure about the ins and outs but Shihan is a title as far as I know. Theoretically it only works within an organization but even that's fuzzy.

What I mean is I would not necessarily address Chiba sensei as Shihan but would definately address Nariyama Shihan as such. By fuzzy I mean that in a face to face confrontation or letter I would probably use Shihan to both - in fact my last letter to an Aikikai Shihan I did just that. Peter G. please tell me if I'm making a fool of myself.

Sensei itself is funny - at what point do you address people that are not teaching you directly as sensei. It's a lovely balance between age, experience, culture and familiarity - but that's topic for another poll.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-04-2004, 06:32 PM   #8
Jeanne Shepard
 
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Our dojo is very democratic and we avoid titles for some complicated reasons. For that reason, all of our teacher go by their first names, but, of course all visiting teachers at our dojo, or in their own, are First or last name Sensei.

Jeanne
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Old 01-04-2004, 09:21 PM   #9
Rich Stephens
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Last name plus sensei.

To me, first name plus sensei sounds very odd. It's like calling someone Mr. Bob or Ms. Mary. I don't think people have done that for quite a few decades...

If someone deserves the title "sensei" to you, then how can you also be on a level with them where you feel comfortable calling them by their first name?

A democratic Aikido dojo is also an interesting concept. If you have removed something as fundamental as the sensei - student, sempai - kohai relationships, is there anything still Japanese about your practice? Or has it been completely stripped of its origin and Americanized?
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Old 01-04-2004, 10:22 PM   #10
boni tongson
 
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here its sensei plus first name usually.

we here like to short cut names and things when we call to our sensei we say "sei!" when refering to him to a third party we say "sensei rene or so & so..."

Last edited by boni tongson : 01-04-2004 at 10:37 PM.

Weak hearts and flesh do not exist where undaunted spirits dwell!
-PMA
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Old 01-04-2004, 11:16 PM   #11
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Rich Stephens wrote:
A democratic Aikido dojo is also an interesting concept. If you have removed something as fundamental as the sensei - student, sempai - kohai relationships, is there anything still Japanese about your practice? Or has it been completely stripped of its origin and Americanized?
What sometimes is considered Japanese practice often bewilders the Japanese. Often the idea of student-teacher, junior-senior isn't so much expressed as is. The idea of a group training togeather led by someone only because they know a little more is actually quite common here. One needs only look so far as many university clubs and even my own.

Our group is very democratic even to the point of students coming up and asking to work on specific things during class. Depending on the person I get Peter, Peter-san or Peter-sensei, makes no never mind.

No need to be more Japanese than the Japanese.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-05-2004, 02:10 AM   #12
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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Quote:
Rich Stephens wrote:
To me, first name plus sensei sounds very odd.
In a way, I agree. On the other hand, sensei first, last name after to me sounds a lot more odd.

Actually, I know of one Japanese teacher whom people call first name sensei. He is the son of a teacher, so just last name sensei would call confusion. Not sure if they do this in his home dojo in Japan also, though.
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Old 01-05-2004, 04:43 AM   #13
Sigrun Hjartardottir
Dojo: Aikikai Reykjavik
Location: Reykjavík, Iceland
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Our chief instructor has set the tone in our dojo as he prefers, out of modesty, to be called by his first name only. However, when called sensei we prefix it with his first name, Mitar, as last names in Iceland only indicate whose daughter or son you are.(We traditionally take our father´s first name and add dottir or son to it) When I trained in the US we wouldn´t have dreamed of using our instructors first name with sensei, so I guess its just a case of " when in Rome..."
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Old 01-05-2004, 05:30 AM   #14
PRapoza
Dojo: Cape Cod Aikido Kenkyukai 541 Thomas Landers Rd., East Falmouth
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When in Rome, Japan or wherever... My first teacher was Sensei + Last name. He is American. Japanese teachers are always Last name + Sensei. Never addressed them as Shihan. If introducing them at and embu or some other aikido event or to a VIP then Last name + Shihan. Otherwise, Last name + Sensei. My own personal preference, being American, is First name + sensei. Japanese use the Last name like we use our first names. It's a matter of being appropriate and polite. Some students call me Last name + sensei and that's fine too.
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Old 01-05-2004, 09:46 AM   #15
Rich Stephens
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Quote:
Paul Rapoza (PRapoza) wrote:
My own personal preference, being American, is First name + sensei. Japanese use the Last name like we use our first names. It's a matter of being appropriate and polite.
Sorry, but the Japanese do not use last names "like we use first names". When an American calls someone by their first name it is a sign of familiarity and casualness: the Japanese use the family name for the exact opposite reason, in other words, because no such familiarity or casualness would be appropriate.

You may hear the last names used in Japan as often as you hear first names in the states. But the reasoning is the complete opposite. And because of that, family names would always be used for one's teachers. That is the real way to be appropriate and polite.

When they call an American by his first name plus sensei (as I was called while living in Japan) it is for one of two reasons: either they are mistaken that in English students commonly call their teachers or elders or minor acquantainces by their first name in the states (which is instead rare); or they are just intending to remind you that though they must call you sensei out of surface level politeness, they needn't give you the usual Japanese level of respect because, after all, you aren't Japanese and therefore sensei or not are not above them in society.

Last edited by Rich Stephens : 01-05-2004 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 01-05-2004, 02:47 PM   #16
PRapoza
Dojo: Cape Cod Aikido Kenkyukai 541 Thomas Landers Rd., East Falmouth
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Dear Mr. Stephens,

It sounds as though you had some negative experiences in Japan. I'm sorry about that. My experiences there have been generally positive and I stand by my original post. I'm sorry you disagree. I'll elaborate a little. For instance if an acquaintance called you by your last name only "hey Stephens!" that would not be considered polite, would it? "hey Rich!" would probably be more exceptable, neh? People who are acquaintances would use last name + san, which = Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc..., in Japan. But here would use first name only. That's what I meant.
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Old 01-05-2004, 03:46 PM   #17
BC
Location: Chicago, IL
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Quote:
Rich Stephens wrote:
A democratic Aikido dojo is also an interesting concept. If you have removed something as fundamental as the sensei - student, sempai - kohai relationships, is there anything still Japanese about your practice? Or has it been completely stripped of its origin and Americanized?
I don't think so. I refer to each instructor in our dojo by their first names. However, before our late Japanese sensei passed away four years ago, we always referred to him as Sensei. I think it is more that none of the instructors feel they could ever replace our late Sensei, and so aren't comfortable with that term. Besides that, our dojo is about as traditional as any American dojo could get without being perceived as too contrived or "too Japanese." But we are also still democratic in many ways.

However, we still refer to any visiting shihan as <last name> followed by Sensei though, and when speaking to them, call them Sensei. FWIW.

Robert Cronin
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Old 01-06-2004, 08:30 AM   #18
Roger C. Marks
Dojo: Tetsushinkan London
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Tricky subject this. My understanding is that shihan is used for the originator of an organisation or system and, in judo at least, we do not have many of these. When being instructed by someone we perceive as shihan we address them as sensei or family name + sensei but refer to them in the third person as shihan (with family name preceding.

Sensei denotes experience and a degree of technical ability in almost any field - doctor, teacher, artist, engineer eceteras - my understanding is that the meaning is something like 'one who has been there, seen it and done it' and not just purchased the 'T' shirt. Age and grey hair may have something to do with it.

Although we generally refer to and address the instructor and other high grades as sensei while practicing, the technical advisor of the British Judo Council, Hosaka Akinori (family first, personal name follows!) sensei, 8th dan kodokan, dislikes us using the term sensei when refering to ourselves or our fellow dan grades. I think this is because he sees all this senseing one another as an unseemly ego trip. He could well be right.
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Old 01-06-2004, 04:19 PM   #19
Chris Li
 
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Quote:
Rich Stephens wrote:
When they call an American by his first name plus sensei (as I was called while living in Japan) it is for one of two reasons: either they are mistaken that in English students commonly call their teachers or elders or minor acquantainces by their first name in the states (which is instead rare); or they are just intending to remind you that though they must call you sensei out of surface level politeness, they needn't give you the usual Japanese level of respect because, after all, you aren't Japanese and therefore sensei or not are not above them in society.
I just introduce myself with my last name in Japan (which is what Japanese people normally do) and that's what they use, never had a problem with it. If you introduce yourself with your first name (or even with your first and last names together) then, unsurprisingly, many Japanese people will use it.

Never had problems with Japanese people showing respect in the dojo.

The average language teacher (even Japanese ones) are not in a very high status position, in any case, so I don't imagine that many Japanese would see them as "above them in society".

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-06-2004, 06:45 PM   #20
Jeanne Shepard
 
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When I'm referring to my teachers, they are Malory Graham Sensei, or Frits Haberman Sensei, so the person knows who I'm talking about, but its important, for alot of complicated reasons, for us to be informal in the dojo. Its part of the very structure of the dojo.

The first name then Sensei is for people we know fairly well and are affectionate with.

But when we had Yamada Sensei this summer, of course he was "Yamada Sensei!"

Jeanne
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Old 01-06-2004, 09:40 PM   #21
Jeffrey A. Fong
Dojo: Aikido Tacoma
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I have alternated between "sensei" and their name with "san" affixed to it (e.g., Nelson-san, Marvin-san). Extra formal (e.g., seminars) always sensei.
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Old 01-07-2004, 10:37 AM   #22
Karen Wolek
Dojo: Kingston Aikido
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My teacher is Sensei in the dojo. Always.

He once corrected another student and said, "You call me sensei in the dojo. Out there, you can call me whatever you want." So I said, with an evil grin, "We can call you WHATEVER we want???" Heh heh heh.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 01-07-2004, 06:27 PM   #23
Rich Stephens
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Quote:
Paul Rapoza (PRapoza) wrote:
Dear Mr. Stephens,

It sounds as though you had some negative experiences in Japan. I'm sorry about that. My experiences there have been generally positive and I stand by my original post. I'm sorry you disagree. I'll elaborate a little. For instance if an acquaintance called you by your last name only "hey Stephens!" that would not be considered polite, would it? "hey Rich!" would probably be more exceptable, neh? People who are acquaintances would use last name + san, which = Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc..., in Japan. But here would use first name only. That's what I meant.
Sorry for such a late reply - I've just returned from a trip and have so much to catch up on! Paul, (there I go with the first names already!), I don't think I would characterize my experiences in Japan as negative at all. Realistic sure, but not negative. The fact that my wife (Japanese, school teacher) and I don't want our kids to be educated there is the only reason I'm not still there. (well that and the fact that it was time to have a steady income and work schedule to make parenting a bit more stable, and I didn't want to get sucked into life as a "salaryman", ha!). I still have many strong connections to Japan and visit and will probably return to live someday.

I see what you mean by "hey Rich" being common here for acquaintances (though athletes on sports teams here in the states often do refer to their teammates by their last names: same in Japan). I guess I just think that an Aikido sensei would never be something on the level of an acquaintance, therefore I feel first names aren't appropriate. I feel the same way about my children's school teachers here in the states. There are some teachers these days who want to be called by their first names, but I guess I just don't like that much. I like their take on education vs. the old methods but the first name thing is a little too much for my tastes.

Christopher's Point about introducing ourselves with our last names only in Japan is a very good one. That's what Japanese would do in most situations and you know, on second thought he is probably right that the way Americans introduce themselves often dictates how they will be called by Japanese (e.g. "hi, i'm Mary" will lead to being forever addressed as "Mary-san")

The comment about language teachers not being held in high esteem might be true as well. But the point remains that they are always refered to as "sensei", and Japanese who teach language along side foreigners are always "family name + sensei". I was always refered to as "richard-sensei" or "stephens-sensei", even when the students were older and more accomplished in society than myself. And a school teacher, Aikido instructor or Ikebana teacher or anything else basically, will always be refered to as "sensei", probably even if the student is the same age and continues to associate with that teacher for decades, and past the stage of acquaintance and on to what would in the west become a friendship where first names would be used. At least that was my experience.

I guess showing respect is the important thing and if using first names can be done without loosening that bond, and if the sempai-kohai relationship can also be preserved even when both address each other with first names, then all is good.

-Rich
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