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Thread: Where does the professor thing come from?

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    Default Where does the professor thing come from?

    I was reading a recent thread where someone related that they referred to themselves as "Professor" because that is the Japanese translation of Shihan (the person also said that Shihan alternately means Doctor[I'm guessing PHD, not MD here]). Hmmm... My dictionary translates professor as Kyoju. Do I need a better dictionary?

    I see the "professor title thrown out there a lot in US circles, mainly with folks who have founded their own arts here in the states. Trying to take the OED track of looking for first usage, it seems to me that this comes from a basic misconception from early visits to the US by Japanese teachers. The earliest use of this title that I have found is by Kano Jigoro. Now, it's seems that many in the martial arts world have overlooked the fact that Dr. Kano was PHD and a University Professor, hence the titles. It would seem that there has been an assumption made that this was an english translation of his Judo credentials.

    I have found some examples of early posters advertising the visits of Japanese shihan (from the sixties and early seventies) which refer to them as "Professor" despite the fact that the did not have any university credentials.

    To me it seems that this was merely a mistake, early on, on the part of promoters who looked to Dr. Kano's publicity materials for guidence, but has now "devovled" into common usage.

    Any thoughts?
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    This came up a long time ago pre crash and I don't recall anyone ever really explaining it well. Most of the posts were saying it was honorary to give them status as a teacher. Others claim it was the best translation of their rank which was familar to people in other countries.

    My personal opinion still - I think Professor was used because they got tired of being called "Mary Ann" or "Ginger"

  3. #3
    Don Cunningham Guest

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    I've heard the same story about misunderstanding Dr. Jigoro Kano's academic title as some sort of martial arts honorific. I believe this is probably true. I also think Funakoshi (sp?) also had a similar academic title unrelated to his karate teaching.

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    Thanks for the replies guys,
    I would agree with you Mr. Yamamoto, in most cases where I have seen it used, it has been to "elevate" someone's standing within a group. I'm not buying the translation arguement though, unless someone can show me where they found that translation and provide the characters as well. I will settle for bibliographical info if it's accurate.

    Thank you Mr.Cunningham for letting me know that I'm not just making this stuff up, and that others have followed this same trail.

    Thanks again!
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    I think this (and many other issues) stems from the fact that there is no one-to-one translation between words in Japanese and English. For example, be you shidoin, shihan, renshi, kyoshi, hanshi, or soke, 9 times out of 10 you'll be called sensei.
    However, the difference between, for example, a shidoin and a shihan is huge.
    For (one simple, specific) example: in Mugairyu Iaihyodo a shidoin is 3dan or above, who has been approved to lead a practice, or in other words "teach". A shihan is generally 7th dan and is responsible for overseeing the teaching and development of all students. So what English do you use? We don't actually call Naganuma-sensei "Naganuma-shihan", though he may be referred to as such in the 3rd person, when relevant.
    There's just no clean, easy way. Some people say:
    sensei = teacher
    shihan = professor
    soke = master
    But I think that's an oversimplicifcation, and doesn't adequately communicate in English the meaning of "shihan". It's the same problem with a shodan being called a "black belt", and the implications in English with a black belt being someone capable of teaching a martial art because of some sort of mastery.

    Regards,

    renfield kuroda

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    I would have to disgree a little as some Ryu don't use the term Soke. So i would not rank these two words

    My particular Ryu uses the term Shihan. It was suggested to me that I use the term. I really see no point.

    I have also heard the term Shihan used in refering to ones own teacher

    As the same words are used in both education and in M.A in Japan I suppose its all rather confusing.

    I am a Kyoju, was contracted before as both Koshi/Kyoshi and all of us regardless of who we teach are Shidoin.

    Hyakutake Colin

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    Thank you Hyakutake Collin and Renfield Kuroda for your replies,

    As with many other things, it appears that the difficulties that one encounters when trying to Angelicize titles or terms, leaves much to be desired.

    Would it be safe to say that in Japan there is a better understanding of what these titles denote in terms of achievement and contribution than here in the US?

    I also still wonder if the original problem here was one of transaltion or of making assumptions about a translation based on Dr. Kano's visit.

    I for one am all for sticking with the original Japanese titles that are used in one's art of study. For those folks who have a need to Anglecize, I have always respected the Judo teachers who refer to themselves as "coaches". In it's best usage here in the US, coaches are folks who train and instruct people in more than just their given activity, providing much of the personal guidance that a good Sensei does. I am not trying to argue that the word coach captures all the nuances of the word Sensei, I'm just stating my preference for martail arts teachers who are going to use English titles.

    Thanks for all of the great food for thought.
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    Default Re: Where does the professor thing come from?

    Originally posted by Bruce Mitchell
    someone related that they referred to themselves as "Professor" because that is the Japanese translation of Shihan ... My dictionary translates professor as Kyoju. Do I need a better dictionary?
    "Kyoju" and "Jun Kyoju" are used as the names of teaching certificates within the Urasenke tea system. They've been rendered to English to me as 'master instructor' and 'first-degree instructor', respectively (with the latter being the lower of the two). Regardless, individuals holding either certificate remain 'x-sensei' when addressed by juniors.

    I think some folks have already pointed out that there's something lost in translation with a lot of these terms of 'rank'. To each their own, I suppose, though I find the whole Capitalized Translated Title approach a bit odd.

    John Seavitt

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    Don Cunningham Guest

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    If I remember correctly, this wasn't caused by translation or mistranslation of any budo-related teaching title from Japanese. Prof. Jigoro Kano, a man very fluent in English, simply used his English academic title as a professional educator and graduate of a legitimate university when visiting outside Japan. The error was in assuming this title of professor was somehow related to his judo. From everything I've read, Dr. Kano was opposed to any such martial arts titles or ranking being presented to him. Yet, many who have tried to emulate his martial arts accomplishments have also appropriated the "professor" title, probably from basic ignorance of the Japanese culture.

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    Fencing instructors were called professors in the 19th century, and the title is orthodox within Danzan Ryu. You might check OED, as the term should be analyzed there.

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    Originally posted by hyaku
    I would have to disgree a little as some Ryu don't use the term Soke. So i would not rank these two words

    My particular Ryu uses the term Shihan. It was suggested to me that I use the term. I really see no point.

    I have also heard the term Shihan used in refering to ones own teacher

    As the same words are used in both education and in M.A in Japan I suppose its all rather confusing.

    I am a Kyoju, was contracted before as both Koshi/Kyoshi and all of us regardless of who we teach are Shidoin.

    Hyakutake Colin
    Exactly my point: there's no one-to-one translation, and even the Japanese words don't "mean the same thing" in Japan!

    For example for Mugairyu Iaihyodo, one can be many things at once:
    Naganuma-sensei is 7dan menkyo kyoshi shihan denshobucho
    Tanaka-sensei is 6dan renshi shihan denshobuin
    Niina-gosoke is 9dan menkyokaiden hanshi 16th soke
    For the record, I am 3dan shidoin yoseibuin (sounds so impressive! My mom is so proud!)

    My personal beef w/English translations are the terms "Black Belt" and related to that the misuse of shihan and shidoin.
    At least as far as Mugairyu Iaihyodo goes, a shidoin is an "assistant instructor"; in the sense that we can lead practice and correct students, but only so far as we have been instructed by shihan. A shihan is a real teacher (a superset of shidoin, if you will); we call them xx-sensei (shidoin are just xx-san or xx-bashocho) and they teach, shidoin just 'lead practice' and can 'teach' only as much as we are allowed by shihan.

    This whole thing in the US of opening a dojo as "black belt" really tickles my pickle. OK, my obi is black so I guess I do have a black belt. And in some styles, a shodan is only earned after years of intense training and mastery, whereas in other styles a shodan = 'ok, you got the basics w/o tripping over your own sword (too much), now you're ready to really start learning' but the "black belt" image is just too much of a generalization...

    Regards,
    renfield kuroda

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    Don Cunningham Guest

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    ...and the title is orthodox within Danzan Ryu.
    I was under the impression that Danzan Ryu was a Hawaiian spinoff from Kodokan Judo. Their use of the "professor" title is a perfect example of the misunderstanding regarding Dr. Jigoro Kano's academic accomplishment and title versus his judo.

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    Danzan Ryu is not really a spinoff of Kodokan, as Okazaki didn't go to Japan to study Kodokan until he was 2-dan or thereabouts. And, as many of the early DZR teachers were Issei or 1.5s, their translations are probably pretty close to how the Japanese themselves thought about the things. If so, then this is a better example of the Hawaiian Nisei expression, upon hearing haoles using Japanese terminology when perfectly valid English cognates exist, namely, "What's the matter, you flunk third grade? The word has a meaning, use it."

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    Danzan Ryu is MOST DEFINITELY not a "spin-off of Kodokan Judo". I don't mean to imply that such a thing would be bad, but that's simply not the case with DZR. Seishiro Okazaki developed Danzan Ryu mainly from training in Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu under Yoshimatsu Tanaka in Hawaii (or Kichimatsu, there's some dispute as to the reading of his name), but he spent extensive time training in other arts, some of which were not Japanese in origin. He did make a tour of Japan later in his training, stopping at the Kodokan. Jigoro Kano awarded him 3rd Dan based on his skill. Danzan Ryu is a synthesis of mainly several koryu jujutsu ryu, but there's a smattering of "other stuff" in there too (Hawaiian Lua, for example). I think the thought that it's linked comes partially from the coincidence of Okazaki naming his dojo (not the art, as is another common misconception) the "Kodenkan."

    In Danzan Ryu, the term "professor" came about, as I know it, from the colloquial use of the term by Okazaki's early students to refer to Okazaki. Ironically, they also called him "The Old Man", although probably not in direct address. I guess it's good that's not the term that's being used for the higher ranks! After Okazaki died prematurely from a series of strokes, his students set about to elect a successor, since he had named none. The title "professor" was intended to indicate the head of the system (soke?). Eventually, the leadership of Danzan Ryu split with different organizations coming into being, each recognizing separate leadership and thus more professors came into existence.

    Currently, the AJJF (one particular organization devoted to Danzan Ryu) has several professors, and the term connotates as much about the martial prowess of the individual as it does about their dedication to the ryu and their role in the political leadership of the organization.

    Whew....rambled a bit there, but I can see where the title thing plays havoc with people's conceptions of each other. Just like a belt color isn't necessarily a basis for an opinion on a person, the title their art/organization bestows on them isn't exactly a measure of that person either. Now, those that go out a declare themselves a professor of Joe's Backyard Streetbrawling Ryu, well, that's another story altogether...

    Regards,

    Tom
    Tom DeAngelo
    "If you fall down seven times, get up eight."

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    Default Title went from Master to a more modern title of Professor in some systems

    The traditional title went from Master to a more modern title of Professor Bobasan 11/2016

    As the story goes from a few high ranking Professors in DanZan Ryu due to the mistranslated Japanese testimony of the trial of Terry Lee a student of Master James Mitose of the Kenpo Jujitsu system the title Master had too much baggage for the Dojos in the states.
    In 1953 Terrys teacher was referred to as Master Mitose of the style Kenpo Jujitsu. Terry thought that Master Mitose was mad at a person who owed him money and terry went to collect it and ended up in a murder that was unintended by Master Mitose who was wrongly convicted. The term Master in the trial made Master Mitose sound like he had mind control over his student but Terry was using the title Master as a proper title of respect not out of subservience.

    Stopped using Master title and adopted Professor


    Along with the suspicion and anger over the Emperor following Japanese from WWII the term Master was thought un American (Noting that Professor Okazaki was an exception and he taught many US service men he was still held in an internment camp in Hawaii). The master term was related to master-slave terms of past American history along with the Terry-Master Mitose murder conviction and In 1969 the Manson Murders,with the reports of brain washed followers, put an end in some Martial Arts to using the older terms of Master and some turned to a modern American title of Professor.

    The title of Professor (following Doctor Kano’s Kyu Dan Rank system),usually after 4th or 5th Dan rank comes the title of Shihan (which is also a title for expert or senior instructors it can also be translated as "master instructor" or teachers of teachers).The Yodan or Godan usually is taught all the arts of the entire system and is awarded the title of Professor (now from 5th to 10 Dan). The title of Professor is in recondition of time in the Ryu, continued service and propagation of the system.

    Last edited by bobasan; 24th November 2016 at 14:48.

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