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About Sensei's Sensei

In Sensei's Sensei..., I wrote about the situation in which there are multiple levels of Sensei in the same dojo or group. I suggested that it might be good to have terms like the ones used in some Chinese martial arts schools. There, the teachers are referred to in terms that are similar to family titles.

In Japanese dojo, titles tend to be hierarchical. We have titles like Sensei, Osensei, Soke, Hanshi, etc. These are not family based -- they are based on a vertical progression. Of course, the term Sensei applies across levels. A Hanshi will also be a Sensei.

My point was not that we need more hierarchical titles. I personally do not like them. I have written many times about my views concerning rank and titles.

When I say that it would be good to have a term that connotes that a person is the friend of the Sensei, and thus is like an "Uncle Sensei," I mean that this would be good because it shows the relationship. When students hear that a person is an "Uncle Sensei," they immediately know that they should show this person the same respect they show to their own Sensei.

A Grandfather Sensei would be the student's Sensei's Sensei. Naturally, a great deal of respect would be owed to such a Sensei.

But I am not suggesting that this would be the type of title that people would wear or get certificates for. It would be a title showing relationships.

Lacking such titles, we will have to be happy ambiguously calling everyone "Sensei." And, of course, Sensei is a title we should all work very hard to deserve.


Charles C. Goodin