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Learn Ninjutsu: Japanese Titles of Teaching, Authority, and Respect Used in Ninja Training

One of the most confusing parts of Ninja training, especially for non-Japanese students, is the terms and names for skills, techniques, strategies, and other aspects of the art. It can be a daunting task for the Western student to learn the many Japanese names that naturally developed as part of the art over the centuries.

One area of ​​concern, especially for the respectful student, is making sure you are correctly using the titles of authority and respect reserved for your teachers and seniors. And while pronunciation is a major concern for many, it would also be helpful if they knew what word or title is appropriate to refer to or interact with a particular person. In that sense, this article highlights some of the titles used to extend due respect towards their teacher and older people while participating in training.

Soke- Often mistranslated as “grandmaster”, this is the title of the “head of the lineage”. Soke is a position, not a rank. In fact, the soke of any particular school or lineage is “outside” the concept of rank, and it is the person from whom the rank extends or flows. So there is only 1 Soke within a lineage.

sensei- This is the term that is generally used and most easily recognized in the context of Japanese martial arts. The term simply means “teacher” and can be used to identify anyone who gives you a lesson.

Shidoshi- This is a teaching title, used especially with Ninja training. One possible definition is “master of the warrior ways of enlightenment.” However, if you look at the basic components of the word, “SHI” and “DOSHI”, you will find a meaning of “teacher of teachers” or a teacher of teachers, rather than the common idea of ​​a teacher of students – as implied by the word “sensei”.

Shihan- This is not an official rank or self-imposed title, as many believe, but rather an honorific used to identify someone who is an excellent “role model” and worth following. As soon as you would call yourself a shihan, I would introduce myself to someone as “Role Model Miller”.

Kansho- While there may be several Shidoshi or sensei within a given school, there is only one at the head of the group. So, just as Soke is the “head of the lineage”, a Kansho (sometimes written as “kan-SHI”) is the “head of the school” or “head of the dojo”. ).

Senpai- In contrast to the word “KO-hai”, which means “junior student”, sempai refers to any student older than you in rank. The kohai are the third-year or “newer” students, and the sempai are the seniors. But again, this term is relative to YOUR position in relation to the other students within the dojo environment. When you joined, all students who were already members of the dojo were, by default, your elders, regardless of their rank. Just as you will be the sempai, or senior, or whoever joins after you.

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