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Sensei's Sensei...

In our dojo, my second son is the Sensei. I am his Sensei. My Sensei (here in Hawaii) may return to the dojo later this year. I also have a Sensei in Okinawa.

So who is the "Sensei?"

In the dojo, the students call my son Sensei. They call me Sensei too, and would call my Sensei Sensei too. We are all "Sensei."

I think that it would be nice to have terms that showed the father, grandfather, greatgrandfather progression. In Chinese martial arts, this is sometimes shown by the terms sifu, sigung and sijo (as I understand it) . I do not think that there is such a geneology based system in Japanese martial arts.

You can also have uncles. My good friend and sensei, Sensei Pat Nakata, is a Sensei. I call him Sensei. But he is not my students' Sensei. He is like their uncle. He is the senior and friend of their Sensei.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like titles and am not suggesting that we need more. I just wish that there was a simple way to clarify the Sensei role when there are multiple generations in one dojo.

But then again, "Sensei" is an excellent term and a title we should all aspire to. To be a good Sensei is the most we can hope for.

When I am not sure of the correct title, I always try to call my seniors "Sensei."

Does this make sense?


Charles C. Goodin