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AFF
5th August 2003, 13:00
Dear all:

I have had this argument with my classmates and I would like to know what do you think.

Our Aikido club is very young and we have two main instructors: 1 shodan and one 1st kyu.

I have learned that the word "Sensei" is applied to somebody who is at least Shodan and who is the teacher, and anybody else teaching should be called "Sampai" not Sensei.

Am I wrong?.

Best.

Alina

larsen_huw
5th August 2003, 13:10
Hi there Alina,

I'm sure if you asked 20 different people you'd get 25 different answers! :)

However, in my experience the person actually teaching the class is referred to as Sensei, whatever their grade. The term Sempai would apply to anyone who was helping out with the class rather than actually teaching it (demonstrating techniques to new students, correcting lower grades, etc.).

This is just my experience of this issue. Hopefully some of the more experienced members and those who speak Japanese will be able to help further and give a definitive answer on the subject.

StanLee
5th August 2003, 15:52
I'd always thought that a sempai was a senior student. There are threads about on ebudo on the responsibilities of a sempai or a sempai and kohai relationship (senior and junior).

Mitch Saret
5th August 2003, 18:23
Not being part of Japanese culture my response is purely from experience and definition.

Sensei, in martial arts use, is a teacher, any teacher. Literally, however, it means one who has gone before. In daily use I have seen and heard applied to any position where someone is senior and "mentoring" someone new.

Sempai/kohai martial arts wise is a bit confusing. I have even seen where Senpai is awarded when you reach a certain rank. In reality though, it simply should refer to who is senior to who. In a typical dojo everyone has someone that is junior to them except for the newest white belt. To that new white belt everyone is sempai, including the white belt who started last week. Even among black belts there is sempai/kohai, depending on who was awarded thier belt first. The toughest example would be three people in line being awarded their shodan. Following a military rule, the first in line is sempai to the other two. The one in the middle is kohai to the first, sempai to the last. The last one is kohai to the others.

That may me a bit altruistic, and nitpicky, but there it is. Kind of like the military, if you were trying to determine who was senior in rank.

MarkF
6th August 2003, 02:32
I've been the senpai at times, but I never heard that word for it. I occasionally heard Asst. Instructor, and other words I can't use here. Out of more than fifty students, there has to be one that doesn't like you. That's a given.

With my long term teacher (the only person I called sensei, and that was pretty rare, as well), I became the senior by default. I simply began to teach, first the juniors, then leading the class in warm-ups, then finally teaching classes the teacher couldn't make for various reasons, including complete exhaustion from his job as a landscape architecht, or gardener. Auto breakdows were fairly common, too.

It all began once, shortly after receiving being graded, my teacher called the YMCA to tell them to send the students home as he couldn't be there. Without a thought, I told the messenger, "There can be a class. I'll take care of it." No one objected, and even the more highly graded visitors joined in doing the warms ups, and ukemi. After that, I was invited to my teacher's house for dinner on occasion. It took flight from there. I've found those who have the commitment to act on their own with only the perceived damage a case like that could have on even one student, taking the initiative to lead does work out sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't, but it may one day.

As for senpai or sensei, well, use the terms judiciously, with a hefty helping of sir or mister, etc. I think westerners using their own language to do this sound better than does sensei. Senpai is a description and should only be used when referring to one, or many. Otherwise, hey, being polite works just as well in English.


Mark

Sandifer
7th August 2003, 02:11
As some one noted there are several answers to this mainly dependent upon the affiliated association protocols. I've trained in Aikido schools and anyone of the 3rd to 1st level kyu are refered to as Sempai/senpai so-and-so when speaking about them. As Mark noted sempai is a refernce to position and you typically don't address them as sempai so-and-so. However, in another dojo I am affiliated with they any black belt (yudansha) who is not the schools head instructor is addressed as Mr./Ms. so-and-so or sempai so-and-so.

Yet, again, within a separate dojo I am also affiliated with any one of black belt rank is called so-and-so (last name) followed by the address of sensei ie. Johnson sensei, Harris sensei, etc. with the refernce to the head instructor simply being SENSEI.

In the case of this Aikido class if it is a fully autonomous dojo then it should be determined well ahead of time who is the head instructor. If it is just a branch of another dojo and it is agreed that both the Shodan and the Ikkyu are the equal instructors regardless of rank then both should probably be called sensei with there (first or last) name preceding the title sensei. I would certainly hope there is no public bickering between the two instructors or unharmonious co-teaching happening during classes. That would send a bad message to the students.

One more thing about sempai's the most senior sempai typically the person in charge when the Sensei is absent is called the Dai-Sempai in traditional dojos. He/she may or may not be yudansha.

If matters are not cleared up I strongly suggest following up discreetly with teachers' teacher or association.



Sandifer M. Deer

HinodeBuddha
11th August 2003, 00:14
Just my two cents:

The only person you need to ask is your senior instructor. No one eles's opinion matters.

Prince Loeffler
11th August 2003, 01:10
Hi All,

What would be the advantage or disadvantage of using japanese titles such as sempai and kohai in western dojo ?

Mitch Saret
12th August 2003, 19:38
To answer Prince's question, none. Unless you are trying to maintain a Japanese "air" about your dojo. In my school we are considered a semi traditional school. When you reach 4th kyu, halfway to black belt, you get to wear black pants. You started out with an all white uniform. When you reach BB you get a black top. Part of the transformation process.

kenkyusha
12th August 2003, 21:35
Originally posted by Prince Loeffler
Hi All,

What would be the advantage or disadvantage of using japanese titles such as sempai and kohai in western dojo ?
Kohai, isn't a proper form of address... at all... ever :nono:(despite the habits of Sean Connery's character in that Crighton adaptation).

More seriously, sempai is fine as a form of address but tends to be used as a kind of 'mini-sensei' apellation, which doesn't quite seem correct (where are Earl Hartman or Guy Power when you need them?!?!?).

Be well,
Jigme

PaulP
13th August 2003, 01:16
The clubs that I train in, only the chief instructor is called Sensei. Assistant instructors and senior ranks are called Sempai, we have a 4th dan in the club and she is called Sempai. My previous clubs any one with a Black Belt is called Sensei. Your chief instructor should set the rules of etiquette.

Prince Loeffler
13th August 2003, 16:57
Originally posted by Mitch Saret
To answer Prince's question, none. Unless you are trying to maintain a Japanese "air" about your dojo. In my school we are considered a semi traditional school. When you reach 4th kyu, halfway to black belt, you get to wear black pants. You started out with an all white uniform. When you reach BB you get a black top. Part of the transformation process.

Thanks Mitch. The only title we use is Sensei, and that's reserved for the high ranking instructor and the chief instructor only. In our dojo..only two hold this title. However, now only one will be called sensei due to the recent passing of the other sensei.

As for the Black pants/black top, we do not have this. Only sensei can wear the black pant. All students and instructor wear white gi or dogi only. However, I was able to convince sensei if we could wear Black gis for sunday's training ( Black Belt only training) due to the fact that I am tired of cleaning blood , sweat and most of all tears off my gi every sunday:D

Prince Loeffler
13th August 2003, 17:07
Originally posted by kenkyusha
Kohai, isn't a proper form of address... at all... ever :nono:(despite the habits of Sean Connery's character in that Crighton adaptation).

More seriously, sempai is fine as a form of address but tends to be used as a kind of 'mini-sensei' apellation, which doesn't quite seem correct (where are Earl Hartman or Guy Power when you need them?!?!?).

Be well,
Jigme

Hi Jigme,

I mean to term the kohai in the same context. Yes, I saw the movie and read the book and often wondered if the japanese saw this film as comedy genre.:p

On a serious note, I often hear the title Sempai in Kyokushin School. In fact I know some kyokushin people who uses the title in thier business cards.

Me, personaly I don't care what my students call as long as it is NOT soke, shihan, sensei, master, renshi, grandmaster, Doctor, 8th time world champion..etc :D

I often tell my students just to call me. "the martial artist CURRENTLY knows as Prince":D

Mitch Saret
13th August 2003, 19:30
:laugh: reminds me back in radio....when I was calling him "The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince" ! excellent!

Prince Loeffler
14th August 2003, 05:14
Originally posted by Mitch Saret
:laugh: reminds me back in radio....when I was calling him "The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince" ! excellent!

Careful Mitch, Your age starting to show :D Anyway, probing deeper into this. I checked my dictionary.

Joshu in japanese means Assistant
Sensei or Kyoshi in japanese means Instructor

Somehow the word "joshu" and Kyoshi" is unheard of. Then what is the proper japanese title for assistant instructor ?

Thanks

Mekugi
14th August 2003, 06:09
My two cents:

Sensei - A Teacher.

Sempai - A Senior

Kohai - A Junior.


The Kohai/Sempai relationship....

As Sempai you can be your Kohai's sensei, but at the same time be a Kohai to other sensei, who would of course be your Sempai.

HinodeBuddha
15th August 2003, 03:56
The Japanese word for Assistant instructor is fuku-shidoin.

I think though that no matter what word you use to define instructor or asst instructor or senior student or junior student it is a waste of valuable training time. In the Japanese language you can say all of these in more ways than you can imagine. There will always be someone that flows against your grain. Part of your training is to get past that.

The senior instructor should take charge of this situation before a permenant perforation is created.

I don't mean to be rude or step on toes. My apologies if I have done so.

Prince Loeffler
15th August 2003, 05:11
Originally posted by HinodeBuddha
The Japanese word for Assistant instructor is fuku-shidoin.

I think though that no matter what word you use to define instructor or asst instructor or senior student or junior student it is a waste of valuable training time. In the Japanese language you can say all of these in more ways than you can imagine. There will always be someone that flows against your grain. Part of your training is to get past that.

The senior instructor should take charge of this situation before a permenant perforation is created.

I don't mean to be rude or step on toes. My apologies if I have done so.

Dear Lyle,

First and foremost, thanks you for the info above. Secondly the questions I raised were simply asked due to my own curiosity. The topic on this thread, I would safely assumed has nothing to do with implmentation of dojo ettiquete or training.

I am sure that you have had moments where you can't seem to find any answers to. This thread or board is such a perfect medium for martial artist to be able to share and discuss martial arts.

Again thanks for sharing.

HinodeBuddha
15th August 2003, 22:09
Humbly I offer my apologies if I offended anyone. That was not my intention.

AFF
16th August 2003, 00:23
Dear all:

Thank you very much for all this useful information about the use and meaning of the terms Sempai/Sensei.

Cheers!

Alina

gendzwil
28th August 2003, 18:38
OK, here's my .02 (.015 US): sensei is a term which translates roughly as "one who has gone before". In practice it means teacher. In Japan, you would call your college professor sensei as well as your martial arts instructor. From the translation, you can understand that sensei implies a relationship. Suppose Mr. Smith is the 4th dan instructor of a dojo and Mr. Jones is his visiting 6th dan instructor. Mr. Smith's students would call him sensei or Smith-sensei. But Mr. Jones would simply call him Smith-san. Jones would only refer to Smith as sensei in the third person when speaking to the students. So the address goes like "Smith-san, can you teach the beginners today?", then (to the beginners) "Smith-sensei will now demonstrate basic techniques".

Now in addition to a relationship, sensei in martial arts also implies a certain level of competance. If you are 2nd dan and teaching because you're the only one available, we would not refer to you as sensei, just as a practice leader. If you were making your students call you sensei, that's correct from a relationship view but everybody would think you pretty pretentious. In kendo, we don't really think of someone as sensei until 4th dan minimum, and even most people who are 4th or 5th dan don't think of themselves as sensei particularily. If you are a 4 dan person in a dojo in Kyoto you're just another shmoe. But if you're 4 dan in Fargo, you da man and you get the honorific with all the responsibility it implies.

At 6th dan, everybody agrees that you are a sensei, ie despite the relationship implications of the word, you meet the requirements of someone with enough technical knowledge and experience to properly run and teach a club on your own. In Canada if you are under 5th dan you require a 5th dan or higher advisor in order for you club to have membership in the federation.

What is most definite about "sensei" is that it is a term you apply to someone else, not yourself. If you were introduced to Jones-sensei, you might say "Are you Jones-sensei?" and he would reply, "Yes, I am Jones". -sensei and even -san are honourifics and you never refer to yourself by them.

Regarding sempai/kohai - in Japan a sempai is anyone who started before you or who is older. Kohai is someone who is the junior of the relationship. Thus you can be a kohai and a sempai at the same time. As the senior, you are required to watch out for and teach your juniors. As a junior, you are required to help the seniors in whatever way you can, usually menial tasks. In Japan this relationship is often severely abused at the expense of the kohai side. We can be glad we don't have this kind of system here.

In common usage in North America sempai is either one of the senior students or the most senior student.

What sensei, sempai and kohai are most definitely not are titles associated with a particular rank. I cringe when I see schools which equate shodan==sensei, complete with a sparkly arm-patch that says "sensei". If you're going to misuse the terms that badly, just use english.

Anders Pettersson
28th August 2003, 20:06
Nothing to add, was just happy to se a good post.

Neil Gendzwill just posted a very good and accurate explanation in my opinion.
http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/images/icons/icon14.gif http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/images/icons/icon14.gif

/Anders

AFF
28th August 2003, 20:42
Just a quick question:

I understand in the US somebody will start training tomorrow in my dojo will be my kohai. Even if that person is 30 years older than me?

Is the same in Japan?

Thanks.

Alina

gendzwil
28th August 2003, 21:24
Originally posted by AFF
I understand in the US somebody will start training tomorrow in my dojo will be my kohai. Even if that person is 30 years older than me?

No. In Japan, age usually trumps dojo experience. Case by case I think but that would be the general principle. I'm not sure what happens when someone who is 1 year older is dealing with someone with 1 year more experience :)

You can also see the ageism in the examination process - older people do not have to meet the same standards as younger people. They are given credit and respect for their age.