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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shihan Menkyo - Masters Licenses (Part 2)... Do we go too far in addressing Senseis with Shihan Licenses?


Have you ever run into a situation where the sensei demands that you call them by their Shihan Menkyo title?  Or even been told by your senpai or junior instructors to refer to certain senseis as "Shihan" "Renshi" "Kyoushi" or even "Hanshi?"  How about using these titles without understanding the full meaning of the title and using them constantly in the dojo?  Well this post is about this growing problem in Martial Arts that has been neglected or just ignored because of the lack of information on the subject. It is unfortunate because there have been talks, just recently, about Martial Systems and possible Martial Cults (thanks +Tony Vivolo) that possibly take advantage of prospective students or others who use these titles to economically gain from the general level of ignorance from beginner practitioners.

A proper sensei would be humble enough recognize that he or she doesn't need to put the additional pressure on their students to force them to call them something other than "sensei."  In Japan, I have never heard a single sensei within Kagoshima Goju Kai or even the Japan Karatedo Federation Goju Kai refer to themselves as other than "sensei."  Of all the great senseis that I have met and studied with, including Eibu Kan Soke (founder) 8th Dan Hanshi (JKF Goju Kai), Yoshihiro Hisanaga, Seiwakai great, 8th Dan Hanshi (JKF Goju Kai), Seiichi Fujiwara, and Okinawa Kyokai's 8th Dan Hanshi (JKF Goju Kai), Masataka Muramatsu, they only refer to themselves as just a plain instructor.  The only time is either in print, listing in CV, or when introduced at seminars,etc. Let me remind you that these senseis are currently leaders of Goju Ryu in Okinawa and mainland Japan.

Even in their own respective dojos, these instructors are not overly addressed as "shihan" or "hanshi."  While I understand, as a Japanese-American, that we try to use the title to give the honor to our respective instructors... but let me tell you through experience and observance, sometimes all this does is make the instructor feel uncomfortable, especially if the instructor understands the level of responsibility and the ramifications it holds if they choose not to follow the ideals and the spirit behind the Shihan Menkyo conferrment. (please refer to Part 1 of this post to see what each of the Shihan Menkyo titles represent).

So instructors out there... I ask you humbly... put yourself in the position of some of these greats.  These are the same senseis who do NOT tell or instruct you to bow to them, the same senseis who do not tell you what you can and cannot do because it is understood, the same senseis who teach and educate your regardless of what level you are and continue to push you to your limits without ever giving up, the same senseis who do not expect anything back from you except for mutual respect, dedication, and the willingness to learn... do you think that the same senseis want you put them higher on a pedestal? 

Instructors, put yourself in their shoes... if you crave the attention and crave the power that goes with the attention then... Naha, we have a problem.  (please read +Tony Vivolo's article on Martial Systems and Martial Cults)