Why there are no Sensei at my Academy

Titles….. never really been much for them. That’s all.

Ok, well it’s more than that. A guy at The Academy the other night kept calling me “Sensei” and it weirded me out. So I thought I’d drop my view on titles in the martial arts.

Titles denote respect. Well, what happens when people insist on a title is that they are insisting on your respect. I always felt like if I don’t have your respect, us both pretending I do by you calling me some arbitrary title, is kind of fake. Hence I’ve never insisted on it.

Now with the kids program going here at The Academy…. with them, we insist on “Coach” and “yes sir/ma’m”. That’s to teach the kids about respect. And it feels different because there’s a point, a reason. It’s not just an arbitrary ego thing. But now all the parents call us “Coach”. Nobody asked. It just happens. That’s because that’s how they see us. And I’m fine with that. Because it’s not fake. A few of the adult students have heard other adults (parents) saying “Coach” and now they do too. And I’m ok with that because they see me as their coach and it’s genuine. And I never have a problem with the truth! If you see me as a Coach and want to use it, feel free. But Sensei….?

Why not Professor/Sensei?

A few years ago it became the norm to call Black Belts in BJJ “Proffesor”. They started doing it at my alma mater, Easton BJJ. Hell, when I go there It takes me a minute to realize someone’s talking to me when they are saying “Professor”.

Thing is, in Japan they call teachers “Sensei”. I don’t know what they call them in Thailand (I think Arjarn?). So now what? We are a multi discipline school. Don’t get me wrong, BJJ is THE focus for sure. But, all the others are important pieces. At the beginning of class when Im teaching a throw do I insist on “Sensei”? Then later, on the ground , ring a bell or something so everyone knows It’s “Professor” time?

Man, I just like to keep things simple. I appreciate the fact that people want to show their respect. But, in our culture in America, and around the world in the sports culture, it’s universally “Coach”. And I don’t even insist on that. If you’ve been to my home for dinner, if I’ve held your hand in the ER……. Then by all means call me Jay. But if you’re looking for something to call me cause you feel a “need” to. Coach is about all I can handle. So here’s a list to help remind you.

Coach= Acceptable. Means you veiw me as your coach. I’ll take it.

Jay= We’re close.

Mr. Jack= My Daddy/or I owe you money.

Sensei= You better follow that up with full conversational Japanese.

Professor= You think we’re at a University.

Mestre= Can’t stop thinking about that Seinfeld episode

Grand Pooh Bah= You’ve mistaken me for Mandy. That’s her title, and no one else is allowed to use it.