Mister (Miss), Master...what's in the term SBN?

Discussion in 'Korean Martial Arts - General' started by IcemanSK, Mar 14, 2010.

  1. IcemanSK

    IcemanSK El Conquistador nim!

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    Here in the US, we seem to be confused about the term sa bum nim & the English word master. I'm looking for clarity amongst my KMA brethren to better understand the Korean term SBN versus how the term master is used here in the US among KMA folks.

    My understanding, correct me if I'm wrong on this.
    1) SBN does not translate as master in Korean.
    2) SBN only refers to the main teacher of a dojang: not just any BB who is 4th Dan or higher. (Based on the Kukkiwon requirement of being 4th Dan or higher to open a school: Your mileage may vary).
    3) The owner of a dojang (often not the main teacher) would be the kwan jang nim.
    4) SBN is a title of function, rather than rank.

    In my nearly 30 years of training, I've never gotten a clear understanding of the term. My first instructor (a Korean) was a 5th Dan KKW. We called him Mr. Kim & SBN, but if someone asked "who is your master?" "Mr. Yun Kil Kim," was our reply. His business card even said "Mr. Yun Kil Kim, Master Instructor."

    Certainly, one can call themselves whatever title they wish. I'm not calling anyone out on what they were told. I'm just trying to understand the translation of SBN.

    I have other questions about this. But I'll start with getting a better understanding of this so far.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Omar B

    Omar B Senior Master

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    I was never clear on it either but when I was doing a Korean style (Choi Kwang Do) we refereed to our SBN and his two sons who also taught as "Coach." But then it was not a very formal dojang. But I like using Coach.
     
  3. shesulsa

    shesulsa Columbia Martial Arts Academy

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    This is my understanding for my style:

    Jo Kyo Nim: Assistant Instructor
    Kyo Sa Nim: Instructor (has own club/school)
    (Boo) Sa Bum Nim: Head Instructor
    (Soo Suk) Sa Bum Nim: Chief Instructor (owns dojang)
    Kwan Jang Nim: Master Instructor
    Kwan Jang Nim or Dosa Nim: Master
    (Soo Suk) Kwan Jang Nim - Chief Master
    Kuk Sa Nim: Grand Master
    Kuk Sun Nim: Chief Grand Master
    Do Joo Nim: Supreme Grand Master / Owner of style
     
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  4. granfire

    granfire Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have not heard anybody address somebody with 'Master' But refer to it in context, like 'Master Soandso held class' or whatever the case. It's usually Sir or Ma'am around here talking to the person.
     
  5. Dave Leverich

    Dave Leverich Black Belt

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    Kwan Jang (nim) is generally referring to the head of a Kwan or style. IE. Chung Do Kwan, has one 'head' which is the Kwan Jang of that 'gym'.

    I've been introduced as Sa Bum Nim from one Korean master to another, not sure if they meant master/instructor etc. We never used to use 'master' except for like 7th dan+ back ages ago. Honestly I think 'master' and all the chief/senior/grand etc, are more of an American blend that then went back to Korea. (could be wrong, just seems more 90s+).
     
  6. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    I believe, and I could be mistaken, that the term actually means teacher/father. Whatever it means, I am pretty sure that it does not translate as master.

    Daniel
     
  7. FearlessFreep

    FearlessFreep Senior Master

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    AFAIK the term actually just means "school owner" and can apply just as well to the guy who owns the gym who hands you the towels coming in but has absolutely no training or experience. However in MA terms it has come to mean much more.

    But then, I've heard the terms used to designate both position and rank: Kyo-Sah-Nihm is either an Assistant Instructor or it means a 1-3 Dan. Sah-Buh-Nihm means either Instructor or 4-6 Dan. Similarly I've seen the terms change. In the more formal kids/families classes they refer to our head instructor was Kwan-Jah-Nihm, however when *his* instructor comes in town, our instructor goes by Sah-buh-nihm and his instructor takes on the term Kwan-Jah-Nihm. So that seems to be more position than rank based. But throughout that, I've been crossing between TKF and HKD so...

    The OP is likely to get as many, valid, answers as there are schools :)
     
  8. DMcHenry

    DMcHenry Blue Belt

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    Each style/art/school may decide on their own titles and varies quite a bit.

    Looking them up in a Korean Dictionary, KyoSa (nim) is a teacher, SaBom (nim) is a master instructor/teacher/coach, and a KwanJang (nim) is a school or building owner.

    As previously stated, most I've come across in the US us the term Kyosa for instructor, Sabom for master, and KwanJang for the head of the kwan, or Grandmaster. From my understanding, in Korea there wasn't specifically a term for "Grandmaster". {shrug}

    You just have to go by what ever your organization uses for titles.

    For general "Mr." is songsang (nim).
     
  9. FearlessFreep

    FearlessFreep Senior Master

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    Soke? :)
     
  10. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    So far as I know, this is the case with pretty much all Asian arts. Grandmaster was a term invented when arts were imported to the west.

    Good to know!

    Daniel
     
  11. SahBumNimRush

    SahBumNimRush Master of Arts

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    Well I do not profess to use the terms "properly," but in our association we use:

    Jo Kyo Nim: Assistant/Junior Instructor (typically 1st dan)

    Boo Sah Bum Nim: Instructor (2nd and 3rd dan)

    Sah Bum Nim: Head Instructor (the one instructing the class, 4th dan and higher, i.e. If there were two 4th dans, a 5th dan, and a 7th dan at one class, the 7th dan is the only one who assumes the title as Sah Bum Nim)

    Kwan Jang Nim: Head of the Association

    None of which denote Master, Grandmaster, etc.. . Although to be a Sah Bum Nim you have to be a Master Instructor (Association Master is 4th dan, Master is 5th dan and higher)

    Grandmaster is the Head of the Association, so there's only one grandmaster, and sometimes none. We never regarded our Kwan Jang Nim as a Grandmaster until he tested for 9th dan, and we had a couple Master Instructors under him.
     
  12. MSUTKD

    MSUTKD Purple Belt

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    I have transliterated the terms for all of you. Read and learn.


    先生

    Xiān shēng – Chinese Sen sei – Japanese Sŏn saeng – Korean

    The word for teacher (先生) is formed with a combination of two characters. The first (先) is composed of the radicals (儿), two legs walking, and (之) progress. The second radical (之) is actually altered from(屮) a growing plant and (一) the horizon. The second character (生) is composed of the radicals (屮), a growing plant and (土) the earth. The interpretation hidden in these characters is the quintessential definition of a teacher: one who has grown and walked ahead of the new growth or one who has gone before. The teacher is defined by his or her experience, which has been gained by going before the student.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________


    師父
    Sī fù – Chinese Shi Chi – Japanese Sa bū – Korean

    Another word for teacher commonly used in Chinese styles is (師父). This word is composed of two characters (師) an (父). The first character contains two radicals (阜) hills or legions and (匝) encompassing. The interpretation of this abstract concept is something that can encompass legions, a master or teacher. The second character is (父) father; thus a teacher who is as close as a father.


    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    師範
    Sī fàn – Chinese Shi han – Japanese Sa bŏm – Korean

    In many Korean styles the term for teacher is (師範). The word is composed of two characters (師) teacher and (範). The second character contains three radicals (車) cart, (竹) bamboo and (氾) water springing ahead or law. An interpretation of this character is a teacher following the cart or an example. This word suggests an exemplary teacher, or one who teaches teachers.

    ron
     
  13. Miles

    Miles Senior Master

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    Don't think you can get any clearer than the etymological explanation from MSUTKD. I believe the USCDKA refers to a "master" as a "teacher of black belts" and a "grandmaster" as a "teacher of masters." I believe that is as close an English approximation as one can get from the original Asian concept.
     
  14. Master K

    Master K Green Belt

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    Well said Master Southwick!
     
  15. Nibla

    Nibla Yellow Belt

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    You guys pretty much have it down. In current setting, it's used more as teacher/master.
    The 'Nim' part if anyone's unaware, is just a polite term, and can be left out if used between close friends.
     
  16. MSUTKD

    MSUTKD Purple Belt

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    Not can be left out but SHOULD be left out. You should NEVER refer to yourself as nim. You do not say , “I am Sabum – nim” you say, “I am a taekwondo sabum.”

    Korean is not that difficult a language to learn, Chinese characters are very hard but really fun and also revealing. Everyone tries to copy cultural elements from martial arts without understanding them. My advice would be to study language for it is the gateway to culture.

    ron

    p.s. Using a internet translation program will only get you so far and most of the time it gives a very sterile, incomplete translation. Use that only as a tool for one word standard text.
     
  17. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    So essentially, teacher/sensei would be [FONT=&quot]sonsaeng [/FONT][FONT=&quot]전생[/FONT][FONT=&quot] (hanja [/FONT][FONT=&quot]先生[/FONT][FONT=&quot])[/FONT] and sabum(nim) is master teacher/shihan.

    Daniel
     
  18. Master K

    Master K Green Belt

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    Just to expand on what Master Southwick has stated. My instructor has taught me that the word “Nim” is used to communicate respect. I was told to think of the word Nim to mean "Sir", "Ma'am", or "Honorable".

    When addressing a senior Sabum to use the word Nim. For instance, if you are a 4th Dan and are speaking to someone who is a 5th Dan, then you refer to that person as Sabumnim.

    When addressing a junior Sabum to leave off the word Nim. For example, if you are a 5th Dan and you are speaking to a 4th Dan, then you call them by their last name and add Sabum to the end of it.

    With that said, it is my understanding that some organizations have added in their own intricacies on this. In conclusion, what I have given is generally correct. Although your mileage may vary based upon the organization or school you belong to. I hope this helps.
     
  19. MBuzzy

    MBuzzy Grandmaster

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    Kind of....actually the term sonsaengnim is used more as a general term for someone you don't know. It is most equivalent to "Mr." While it translates to teacher roughly, it is used in every day life as a substitute when you don't know a person's actual title. VERY common, you would use this in schools to address almost any student.

    Sabom is used for the head instructor, but as said, it is different how the term is assigned in every organization. It IS NOT really equivalent to Master though. We use Master as a general term....but unless your organization dictates otherwise, Master really isn't a title in Korea. For the most part, a black belt under 4th dan would be sonsaeng and above 4th would be sabom. Where it gets tricky is when individual organizations have different certifications and tests to carry the title Sabom. In a case where a rank above 4th dan does not carry the title, sonsaeng is appropriate.

    Koreans do frequently use Master as an equivalent for Sabom when translating, but it is not a direct translation, more of a shorthand. Master in English is almost a different concept, closer to Expert than teacher.
     
  20. MBuzzy

    MBuzzy Grandmaster

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    Just to clarify a bit further, you are correct that nim is a term of respect used for those "higher" than you, either in rank, authority, or age. So a 50 year old white belt may use the term nim with a 25 year old black belt. But in everyday life, it is much more based on age. In fact, in Korean culture almost EVERYTHING is based on age.

    But I digress, the point of clarification is that nim is not really synonymous with sir or ma'am. I make this point because it CANNOT stand alone. Nim is what is known as an honorific. There IS NO translation to English. In fact, we don't even have an equivalence for honorifics. Well, in a sense we do. In Korean, there are varying levels of speech.

    Example: If I'm speaking to someone older than myself or someone I don't know (formal), I would say "Craig 입니다" (I am Craig; Craig imnida). But if I was talking to someone I knew or someone younger or my age, I would say "Craig 이에요" (I am Craig, Craig ieyo). They mean the same thing, but in different honorific contexts. This is true with EVERY SENTENCE....even thank you has different levels. Kahmsahamnida, komapsumnida and komawoyo are all different respect levels for thank you....all mean exactly the same thing.

    I say that we have an equivalence in a sense, because you will speak differently to a child than you would an elder or the president....it is just an intrinsic part of EVERY SENTENCE to the Koreans.

    So please don't go ahead saying "Yes, Nim!"....just doesn't work! it is ONLY an ending, not a word on its own. In fact, they don't even use sir most of the time....no need when the respect is dripping from every word!
     

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