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Use of "Sensei"

This is mostly for my own students.

My own students usually refer to me as "Sensei" in conversation or possibly "Goodin Sensei" in a more formal context. They are very good about this. I also follow the same formalities with my Sensei. My students would also address my Sensei as "Sensei."

The point I want to make is that my students would also address my friends who are Sensei of other styles or Japanese martial arts as "Sensei." They would not address them as "Bob" or "Sally" as this would be impolite.

In our own style, heads of dojo are usually addressed as "Sensei." Thus, if a person was the head of dojo in Florida and visited our dojo here in Hawaii, we would refer to him or her as "Sensei."

In our own dojo, we have three generations of "Sensei." There are times when my Sensei in Hawaii, myself, and my son, who is the head of our dojo, are all present at the same time. In that case, the students could refer to any of us as "Sensei." To avoid confusion, the students could use our name, such as "Goodin Sensei." However, since my son and I are both "Goodin Sensei," and since my son is only 25, students might sometimes refer to him as "Charles Sensei." This might not be the best protocol, but it works in our dojo.

For a student, it is always better to err on the side of politeness. I think this is true in life too.

To me, "Sensei" is not just a title, it is a term of respect and affection. To me, to be a good Sensei is the highest accomplishment in Karate... like being a good parent.


Charles C. Goodin