How should students formally address you and other instructors in the Shotokan program specifically?
Sensei Jon: The way that I’m addressed is Sensei, Sensei Jon, in my school and a school setting. When a student comes in, he’ll call me Sensei Jon. That’s very typical throughout dojos regardless of your ranking or your classification, in a way. In Japanese, I’m a Shihan, at a Shihan level.
At a belt test, I would be referred to as Hodge Shihan, that’s more formal. At a belt test, that’s a much more formal setting. But normally, in school, when we’re just practicing or you’re corresponding with me, Sensei Jon is adequate.
Sensei Michael: People ask me the same thing. Like in the Ultimate Bo program, they’re like, “Why don’t you go by Hodge Sensei?” Because it’s typical to have the last name and then Sensei in Japanese. In a way, we’ve made it more comfortable for English speakers.
The way that I’ve always been addressed was Sensei Michael. There is a great level of respect for someone who is a Sensei, first of all, because as you see in Japan, teachers overall are revered and respected, much more so than I think we see in some Western nations, because they have great respect for anyone that teaches someone else.
Calling someone Sensei already is incredible, but beyond that, rather than being so formal and distant by using our last names, I’ve always like having the first name because you can have a little bit more of a personal connection and rapport with your student. I think that’s probably why Sensei Jon will go with that, too.
Sensei Jon: That’s right.