PDA

View Full Version : Friend or Teacher



JS3
10th August 2006, 16:31
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.

My question is as a society are we becoming more socially lax
or just don't care about showing respect.
For example I was taught to always address someone older than
me as Mr., Mrs. or whatever until they told me otherwise.
This is something I do till this day, Also I am reminded every time
I go down south that some people still use Sir and Ma'am (sp) for
someone they don't know.

I believe that using these titles bring some sort of "order" to things
a kind of "knowing your place" feeling like the saying goes,
“Familiarity breeds contempt”

I am reminded of what one of my instructors said:
“I am not your friend, I am your teacher” kind of falls in line
with the idea of being a parent to your kids and not their “friend”.

Basically what I’m asking is are we so eager to be everybody’s friend
that we sacrifice our roles as teachers and students?

Just a thought.

(Mods if this is in the wrong forum please move it to a more appropriate
place.)

Jason Chambers
10th August 2006, 16:47
Freindship has its place in the Budo heirarchy. A mentor of mine reminds that "Budo begins and ends with Reiho (manners)". In other words, when dealing with matters involving martial arts, be respectful and use appropriate titles. When shooting the bull, it should not be required, unless your teacher has a "god complex".

JS3
10th August 2006, 17:08
Freindship has its place in the Budo heirarchy. A mentor of mine reminds that "Budo begins and ends with Reiho (manners)". In other words, when dealing with matters involving martial arts, be respectful and use appropriate titles. When shooting the bull, it should not be required, unless your teacher has a "god complex".

I completely agree.
I was wondering, as with anything else, where do you draw the line.
What was the age difference between you and your mentor?
I am almost 40 years younger than my instructor, and calling him
by his first name as if we where life long buddies just seems inappropriate.
Even when we are "shooting the bull" there still is that sense of a student
and teacher relationship.

I guess the devil is in the details.

Jason Chambers
10th August 2006, 17:50
He is 3 or 4 years my senior... but age shouldn't matter in Budo. A senior in the dojo is still a senior regardless of age.

Texasmic
10th August 2006, 18:27
I completely agree.
I was wondering, as with anything else, where do you draw the line.
What was the age difference between you and your mentor?
I am almost 40 years younger than my instructor, and calling him
by his first name as if we where life long buddies just seems inappropriate.
Even when we are "shooting the bull" there still is that sense of a student
and teacher relationship.

I guess the devil is in the details.
I don't have a rule on what my students may or may not call me. I am uncomfortable with the term sensei so I discourage that.

Most of them call me Mike, but sometimes they call me Mr. Philippus, and almost always address me with a sir.

But I don't insist on anything in particular.

Like I always say "You can call me whatever you want just don't call me late for supper!" :)

~edit if they do call me sensei which happens once in a while I don't usually say anything. It is not that big a deal to me.

Neil Yamamoto
10th August 2006, 18:34
For me, it's pretty simple. I don't accept anyone as a student unless I see traits in them that I would seek in someone as a friend. Now, whether we become close friends or not doesn't really matter. In some cases you do, in some you don't.

What matters is the student accepts you as a mentor in what you are teaching, and you do what you can to live up to that. As a student, you try to understand what your sensei is trying to communicate to you and try live up to expecations. Essentially, "Don't be a jerk." goes both ways.

What can easily happen is the line gets too blurred for some people. I'm treated slightly differently on the mat by the guys in the TNBBC than off that mat when we are at the pub. I tend to think it's a matter of the instructor determining the line, and the instrucor's behavior, skills, and personality encourages or discourages how the student behaves. Frankly, it's no different than leadership skills in any group.

I view the subject as extended family by choice, with some hard filtering of who gets to be in that family. I have blood relatives I can't stand, and don't associate with, other blood relatives I respect and spend time with. In the dojo and student setting, I try to make sure the % of those I do want to spend time with is as close to 100% as possible. Can't always be right though, so you just do the best you can to get those who share similar goals and mindset as to what the purpose of training is for with the group.

Texasmic
10th August 2006, 18:45
For me, it's pretty simple. I don't accept anyone as a student unless I see traits in them that I would seek in someone as a friend. Now, whether we become close friends or not doesn't really matter. In some cases you do, in some you don't.

What matters is the student accepts you as a mentor in what you are teaching, and you do what you can to live up to that. As a student, you try to understand what your sensei is trying to communicate to you and try live up to expecations. Essentially, "Don't be a jerk." goes both ways.

What can easily happen is the line gets too blurred for some people. I'm treated slightly differently on the mat by the guys in the TNBBC than off that mat when we are at the pub. I tend to think it's a matter of the instructor determining the line, and the instrucor's behavior, skills, and personality encourages or discourages how the student behaves. Frankly, it's no different than leadership skills in any group.

I view the subject as extended family by choice, with some hard filtering of who gets to be in that family. I have blood relatives I can't stand, and don't associate with, other blood relatives I respect and spend time with. In the dojo and student setting, I try to make sure the % of those I do want to spend time with is as close to 100% as possible. Can't always be right though, so you just do the best you can to get those who share similar goals and mindset as to what the purpose of training is for with the group.
What he said :)
http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/7283/ozzu5.png (http://imageshack.us)

Kchef
10th August 2006, 19:30
My kids started training at my dojo before I did and because of that I developed a different sort of relationship with my Sensei at first. He asked that I call him Steve and I had my boys call him Sensei. They have always done so from the beginning. After a number of months he convinced me to take up Karate again after a long absence and so I did.

I now am trying to break my habit of calling him by his first name. I'm doing okay but I still slip every now and then. He is only about 10 or so years my senior but I believe that out of a sign of respect I should call him Sensei. My wife calls him Steve.

K. Allen

ken harding
11th August 2006, 07:30
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.

JamesD
11th August 2006, 11:49
Basically I approach like this (or try)

Teacher--Sensei

Sr. Student--Mr. [last name] (exceptions if person has said so)

Same rank--1st name.

Keikai
12th August 2006, 11:22
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.

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


Simple really.

I feel the same. If a title is used to ensure respect then that, to me, is a narrow approach to what I am teaching. Earning student respect is a matter of doing the right thing when teaching by way of technique and life philosophy. Even my young students use my first name and as a school teacher, who always has students use the term Mr, I have no difficulty with this in the dojo. I'm there to have fun too.

I only knew my sensei by his first name for many years and only when he became involved with international organisations that basically insisted on titles did we change, but only on the mats. Interestingly enough he trained under Japanese teachers in the 1920's and 30's and never knew their first names. Always addressed them as Sensei.

If all that counts is the title then is all that you have to offer?

Greg Palmer

Tsutsumi Ryu Ju Jutsu

Norbert Funke
12th August 2006, 23:55
As long as the relationship is respectful, I believe the name can be anything from Sensei, Ms., Mr. or Sir Mam or even firstname. It is probably the way we address our teacher in our behaviour that matters more then the actual name.. Having said that, I personally like the way we address each other in our Dojo, it is more formal, so a Sir and Mam is the usual together with Ms or Mr for the students.

Trevor Johnson
13th August 2006, 21:39
What I've learned for the teacher is

-In class it's sensei.
-In the dojo, not during class, sensei works fine too.
-In the supermarket, in a pub, at a birthday party, don't use sensei or you get a wince and a really strange look. That plus the really strange looks from everyone around you...

JamesD
14th August 2006, 12:33
What I've learned for the teacher is
-In the supermarket, in a pub, at a birthday party, don't use sensei or you get a wince and a really strange look. That plus the really strange looks from everyone around you...

Bowing can have the same effect.

NLMontana
16th August 2006, 00:02
Not to get totally esoteric (although I obviously will with THAT intro), but the students teach us as much as we teach them. I find myself addressing them as respectfully as they address me: To them, I am Shihan Montana. To me, they are Shihan Pat, Debbie, David, Bonnie, etc., etc. That is why my school is called Masters' Dojo. (Yes -- I teach Kung Fu & Tai-Chi, but I also teach Reiki, so I don't have to call it Masters' Kwoon.)

And after teaching, I go home and pray everyone lives up to the title, including me. (And yes, I do bow to my Self in the mirror. Totally ridiculous.)

Thank you, Masters.

IronMan
27th August 2006, 04:32
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.

Initiate
29th August 2006, 04:52
Quite sane. Who is the master? Whom is the teacher? Respect is the core of manners.

a student, Rick Bradford

Dan Keding
29th August 2006, 17:35
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,

gendzwil
29th August 2006, 18:13
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.

Trevor Johnson
29th August 2006, 21:58
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.

Norbert Funke
29th August 2006, 22:53
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.

pgsmith
29th August 2006, 23:49
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! :)

JamesD
31st August 2006, 03:19
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.

IronMan
8th September 2006, 04:42
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.

Gary Wado
8th September 2006, 21:50
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

epramberg
20th September 2006, 02:34
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.

ichibyoshi
24th September 2006, 08:03
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

Lt_Action
24th September 2006, 15:02
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 :D

Inazuma
25th September 2006, 10:58
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 :p ) 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?

Enfield
25th September 2006, 11:32
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.

Inazuma
26th September 2006, 13:16
Yeah, that's what I thought, it just seems to me that some of the people use Sensei as a special term to denote a martial art teacher specificly...

Friends don't need to be equal, just friendly :P

trevorg
28th September 2006, 20:57
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.

My question is as a society are we becoming more socially lax
or just don't care about showing respect.
For example I was taught to always address someone older than
me as Mr., Mrs. or whatever until they told me otherwise.
This is something I do till this day, Also I am reminded every time
I go down south that some people still use Sir and Ma'am (sp) for
someone they don't know.

I believe that using these titles bring some sort of "order" to things
a kind of "knowing your place" feeling like the saying goes,
“Familiarity breeds contempt”

I am reminded of what one of my instructors said:
“I am not your friend, I am your teacher” kind of falls in line
with the idea of being a parent to your kids and not their “friend”.

Basically what I’m asking is are we so eager to be everybody’s friend
that we sacrifice our roles as teachers and students?

Just a thought.

(Mods if this is in the wrong forum please move it to a more appropriate
place.)

I believe there is a difference between being friendly and being a friend of.
In the class it is important the student respects the teacher and addresses him as such. Personally, I dont have much time for formal address outside the dojo,at least I dont like it when I am addressed although there would be occasions when I dont know the teacher that I would address him as sensei.
Generally, though, I dont care what people call me outside the dojo.

I also believe in acting friendly but I would never make friends of students in the same way that I have never socialised outside of work or have friends from work. That is just my way, I comparmentalise everything so I have my home life, work and dojo lives.

In the end, its horses for courses. A student may be with a teacher for a long time and develop a friendship. The class may be very small and therefore more intimate. The teacher may be gregarious. A teacher may prefer formality, or not. It doesnt really matter as long as the student is learning properly and respects the teacher for the knowledge that s/he is passing on.

Inazuma
29th September 2006, 08:36
Weren't the Ryuha (or is it Ryu, I alway get confused with the terms) not just a training unit but also a socio-political entity?

Does anyone know how that affected the Teacher-Student interaction previously, or how it translates into modern day interaction? (Again, I know next to nothing about the post-restoration/modern martial arts, and just slightly more about the Koryu, but I want to learn!)