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Thread: Friend or Teacher

  1. #16
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    My approach as a student is pretty simple:
    - The man under whom I study Aikido is Sensei
    - Any master is sir or ma'am, regardless of age
    - Avoid using names with other students in training, to avoid issues with formality and to keep conversation minimal

    My approach as a teacher, for my students and myself, is also pretty simple:
    - I am not a master, so I am not sensei, just Josh (to keep conversation minimal)
    - My art is not a formal martial art, so treat all other students with respect, even if you are on a first name basis

    I guess that this is a non-answer answer, but my only real consistency is:
    Call people what you feel comfortable with, because the art itself is more important than the significance of the name.
    Joshua D Stein
    "If you have the right leverage you can lift the world."

  2. #17
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    Quite sane. Who is the master? Whom is the teacher? Respect is the core of manners.

    a student, Rick Bradford

  3. #18
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    Neighbors,

    This discussion treads on difficult ground but the conversation is important. Difficult because I think that each dojo handles the matter of titles and relationships between student and teacher in a different way.

    I have trained with teachers who prefer to be called by their first name or by sensei and then their first name (eg. Sensei Bob). I found that these teachers were more inclined to develop friendships between themselves and students. I have been in dojos where every black belt is addressed as sensei in and out of the dojo even by students who are in a different art. I know some dojos that discourage friendships between black belts and lower ranks and some that encourage a tight esprit de corps among all students.

    I think that it is totally up to each teacher to define the boundaries that lie between them and their students. I personally see nothing wrong with developing strong friendships with students in an appropriate way. I think that it is a great injustice to both the teacher and the student to lose a possible friendship that could become a lifetime bond only because of some archaic mindset.

    respectfully,
    Dan Keding
    Storyteller - Author - Musician
    Iaidoka MJER

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JS3
    Just reading around the forum and I started thinking.
    There are basically three schools of thought regarding
    how to address your instructor:
    1 Sensei
    2 The highest title they have (Renshi, Kyoshi, Dai-Ni-Soke)
    3 Just casually by their first name.
    You won't get #2 in kendo. Everyone up to hanshi hachidan is quite happy with "sensei". Those are the sorts of titles you use to introduce someone, for example "Our special guest today is Haga-sensei, he is hanshi hachidan". And from then on, people call him "Haga-sensei" or simply "sensei".

    Our dojo is pretty casual. My instructor gets "Ken" or "sensei" but he usually prefers "Ken" and introduces himself that way. I've yet to meet a Japanese person that calls themself by any title, it's usually just "Hi, I'm Yoshida" or whatever. If I see a dojo where people refer to themselves by title or anything more grandious than "sensei" is used, I'm immediately suspicious.

    My own students call me Neil, although I get sensei from time to time. Like most other kendoka of my rank, I'm not yet comfortable with that. "Sensei" has always been my seniors, not me.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

  5. #20
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    I know several teachers who think that excessive formality, that is, use of sensei and sempai outside the dojo, can lead to a cultish mentality. The informality, for them, means that you focus on the training, and don't idolize the teacher from whom it comes. Doesn't mean you can't respect them, but worship's not healthy.
    Trevor Johnson

    Low kicks and low puns a specialty.

  6. #21
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    Here is an interesting thought. I noticed that the japanese culture blends also into this question on its own. You would not find a posting like this on a football forum. As we all know, the Japanese are used to being very formal. Thats probably why this formality also finds its way into the Dojo.

    Just the many members answering to this thread shows how important this topic for everyone is. It also acknowledges that there is some formality found in every Dojo, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the style of the instructor.
    Norbert Funke
    日本人では無い
    http://saw.wikia.com

  7. #22
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    Norbert,
    I think your reference to Japanese culture is at the root of things here. We are all practicing Japanese arts. However, being westerners, we do not really understand the culture behind these arts. The vast majority of the people practicing the Japanese arts have no real desire to understand the culture behind them. Because of this, we end up with dojo that run the gamut from military/cult style formality, to those with very little formality at all.

    Being Japanese, it is impossible to nail down a single explanation. Anything having to do with Japan has multiple definitions and uses depending upon a myriad of situations. All you can do is what your instructor leads you to do. If it makes you uncomfortable, switch instructors!
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norbert Funke
    Here is an interesting thought. I noticed that the japanese culture blends also into this question on its own. You would not find a posting like this on a football forum. As we all know, the Japanese are used to being very formal. Thats probably why this formality also finds its way into the Dojo.
    I think some of this also has to do with the fact that we studying "Martial" arts.

    Perhaps we're trying in some cases to bring some of that mentality into our practice as well.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Initiate
    Quite sane. Who is the master? Whom is the teacher? Respect is the core of manners.

    a student, Rick Bradford
    The teacher is my teacher. The man who owns/runs the dojo in which I train. The master is the man who has dedicated his life to learning and practicing the art.

    I am, however, a rather simple human being, so I use the terms as I feel they best fit.
    Joshua D Stein
    "If you have the right leverage you can lift the world."

  10. #25
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    When I started teaching, my Chief instructor warned me of the "Pit Falls" of becoming too "Friendly" with students.

    His point was that close friendship can cloud your judgement about a student's ability and progression.

    The "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" thing.

    At our Dojo, we observe common etiquette between instructor and student, but at the same time we are not "draconian" about our approach.

    Different students respond in different ways. Some like a tough "grammar school" education whilst others benefit from being taught in a more "sympathetic" manner.

    In my opinion, treating your students like close friends or family members, is not good in the long term for either party.

    Just my view though

    Gary Needham

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken harding
    I don't insist on being called sensei simply becuase I'm not Japanese. I've had students who come from so called "traditional" dojos who want to do it and if they are happy then that is fine.

    I've a name though and it can be used.

    Respect between student and teacher need not be about title, one wins respect from students by doing and showing things, explaining and sharing knowledge.

    If that makes me socially lax then so be it but bear in mind if I train under a Japanese teacher such as Suzuki sensei then I'd use sensei (call him Hanshi and I think he'd throttle me even though he is one). Likewise if I go into a dojo with a western instructor who wishes to be addressed as sensei then I will out of respect for the fact I am in his or her dojo.

    Simple really.
    I have noticed that this is a bit of a cultural thing. American teachers (including my Koryu Jujitsu instructor) tend to be comfortable being called by their first name, whereas Japanese teachers (like my Wado Kai instructor) want to be called, "Sensei", even outside of class. I guess that it just has to do with your cultural comfort zone.
    Eric Peter ("Pete") Ramberg

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith
    Norbert,
    ...We are all practicing Japanese arts. However, being westerners, we do not really understand the culture behind these arts...
    I find in kendo things are pretty consistent from dojo to dojo. A high percentage of kendoka (esp. in my neck of the woods, being in the Eastern hemisphere) have been or aspire to go to Japan for training. My sensei is an 85 y.o. Japanese man. We have many high ranking sensei visit us from Japan. Every club has at least one Japanese member plus several Aussies who are fluent in or actively studying Japanese. All this means we have a pretty good grasp of the cultural reasons behind Japanese reiho.

    High-ranking Japanese sensei visiting from Japan will NEVER introduce themselves as sensei. This does not mean you have permission to call them anything but sensei, you don't. Unless they expressly say, "just call me Tadatoshi". Which they won't.

    I'm not comfortable with sensei, but I realise it is important for my students to have a sensei, and so I have to live up to it. Sensei is not who I am, I am just Ben. But in the dojo it is important that I am sensei.

    Last thing: I'm a bit with the poster who recommended retaining some distance between teacher and student. It's not always possible. I have one beginning student who is 5-dan in another art. He and I share a lot in common and so friendship is very easy. This however makes it very hard to turn around and criticise something about his technique. For his part he accepts this with good grace and it is a measure of his character that he can properly submit to becoming a beginner again.

    b

  13. #28
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    I've always automatically used "Sensei *last name*" for two reasons.

    1. It's simple and everyone knows who you mean when you just say "Sensei".

    2. It's kind of a show of respect for me, or an acknowledgment of what they have achieved within their respective arts. Not everyone can become an instructor.

    Kind of like calling someone who as earned a doctorate "Dr. *last name*". More just an acknowledgment that they have achieved something great.

    Personally though, whenever I get around to teaching, I could care less what any one calls me as long as they're there to learn
    Anthony Ray Ferguson

  14. #29
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    Default Title..? Title, ahhh, I can never think of one, help...

    Isn't Sensei a suffix added to a name in order to signify Hierarchical-Social roles? used as a politeness suffix as well in Japanese?

    Does using it signify 'distance' between student and teacher in the Dojo (like the army distance kept, by one of the means, with forbiding the soldiers to use the sergeant's actual name)?

    I understand the difficulty in retaining discipline while being cordial within the training hall, but surely a balance can be found that transcends the pettiness of boot camp (I hated distance in boot camp, and I still think it's less then useful), there's no need to keep personal distance in order to be a good teacher, as long the the teacher himself/herself (don't wanna be sexist here ) is able to make the line and keep it. Other then that I don't see why teachers and students can't be friends after keiko, socializing is an important part of a Ryu (from what I understood I may be wrong, if I am please correct me).

    I actually have no experience with a gendai dojo, what is teacher/student relationship like mostly?
    -Amir Barak

    "You get what you pay for, But I had no intention of living this way" - Adam Duritz

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inazuma
    Does using it signify 'distance' between student and teacher in the Dojo?
    Nope. It simply notes the status of whoever is being refered to as "sensei." It in no way precludes warm or friendly relationships.

    Friends don't have to be equals.
    Kent Enfield
    Kentokuseisei

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