“How do I address a Judo Shodan?” Hello all. I hope you are in enjoying the season, it’s been pretty nice up here in the North East part of the US. I start todays post with a question. A question I received via my page, so today I try my best in answering it.
I recently, after a long journey, longer than some, shorter than others, received my black belt, shodan rank in judo. What a special day it was for me. It was a culmination of work, time, dedication and sacrifice that lead me to earn this rank. More on that another time. I realized I was now part of this other group, shodan.
Amongst other shodan I was greeted differently. These other shodan, being shodan for longer than I, began greeting me in a way, mutual respect, using the term Sempai. Sempai? Lets go deeper!
Sensei, Sempai and Kohai
Sensei Literally the word Sensei means teacher or instructor and therefore can be defined as a person who is qualified sufficiently to teach. He or she should feel that they have progressed sufficiently along ‘The Way’ that they are able to pass on some of what they have learned.
A person who has reached Dan grade status should have sufficient knowledge to teach but may not in fact carry the required attributes to do so. For example a person who has attained a Dan grade based upon his or her abilities in Shiai (contest), may be weaker in their ability to communicate and lack the knowledge.
Through the passing of time the term Sensei seems to have become, in some Dojo, one that refers to a Dan graded judoka and not strictly a teacher.
The term is further confused with the introduction of the word, Sempai.
Sempai is a term that describes a senior student or more experienced person. From roku-kyu (beginner) to ik-kyu (brown belt) would be example of Kohai. Kohai, is someone who is less experienced to another. Sempai may be, or in fact most likely is, involved in assisting in coaching Kohai, yet they will not qualify as Sensei. The spirit of martial arts generally suggests that one should be prepared to pass on knowledge to other, less experienced people.
Senpai and Kohai are terms applied to the mentor system in wide use in Japanese culture; often found at all levels of education, in sports clubs, businesses, and informal or social organizations.
So to wrap it with a little bow. If you’re a beginner, everyone above you is a Senpaiand mutually shodan to shodan acknowledge each other as such. The person teaching the class and head of the school, club is the Sensei.If you clean up and roll up the mats, you more than likely are the Kohai!
Well I hope this helps. I hope this answers your question. Now go train. As Always, Workout, Drink be Merry.