In your opinion, is belt reciprocity a good or bad thing?

OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
7,249
Reaction score
2,393
FYI, that's mostly a Brazilian thing (because "professor" just means "teacher" in Portuguese). Almost everyone who has called me Professor has been Brazilian.
I think of it because it takes as much time (if not more) to get a black belt in BJJ than to get a doctorate. And when someone with a PHD is teaching, you call them Professor.
At our gym, we mostly go by our first names, but I do get called "coach" a lot. I think it may be partly due to my age and students wanting to show a bit of extra respect to an instructor who is old enough to be their father or grandfather.
And I bet you're a great coach. So you're like a great grandfather!
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
15,196
Reaction score
4,853
Location
San Francisco
Out of interest, does whatever style of martial art you do (as you said "outside") have any titles? Sensei, Hanshi, Sifu, etc?
Do you have the same cringey reaction to those titles

In the Chinese arts the titles indicate a specific relationship between two people, and the same person can have different titles to different people, depending on his relationship to those different people. Sifu is your teacher, although it also gets used as a more generic title for a teacher of martial arts. John is a Sifu of wing Chun or John is my Sifu or Hi Sifu, I am here for training. It can kind of mean father in the sense of one who is your elder and has travelled the road before you and can teach and guide you on your journey. I do not believe it means father in the sense that we use it in the West.

Sigung is your teachers teacher. This term can be a source of cringiness for me when it is mis-used. People often mistake it for meaning grandmaster, but it does not. People often insist on being addressed as Sigung because they do not understand what it means and they want to be addressed as a grandmaster. If you are not my teachers teacher, then I do not call you Sigung even if you might be Sigung to other people, and certainly not if you simply want to elevate yourself to grandmaster. So my teacher is Sifu to me but Sigung to my students. There are further terms to refer to your classmates, both your juniors and your seniors, and your teachers classmates as well. But all of these terms indicate a specific relationship that you have with that specific person. They are not used in a generic sense to mean master or grandmaster even though some people want to use them that way. @Xue Sheng has indicated that in China, people only call Someone a Grandmaster as a form of sarcastic derision. The term gets used here in the West because the culture accepts it and people like grand titles that set them higher than everyone else. Kinda like having an amplifier that goes up to eleven.

So the same person could be Sifu, Sigung, sihing, all at the same time, to different people.

In aikido I am a complete newbie, having trained now for not quite four months. I do not understand the Japanese titles as well, but I call my teacher and the rest of the teaching staff sensei. I believe that how we use the titles is consistent with how they are used in Japanese culture, but I am far from an expert on that.
Do you have the same cringey reaction if the Korean (almost) equivalents were used? Jeff Sabeomnim or Jeff Kwanjangnim. They aren't direct equivalents (and I can explain further if anyone cares), but for this purpose, they'll do.
I dont think that bothers me, I honestly do not have any knowledge of the Korean titles but I was simply assuming that they were being used consistent with Korean culture in the same way the Chinese or Japanese titles are used. In that sense I guess I was also assuming they do not translate directly as master or grandmaster either.
Just wondering if it's the word Master and potential negative connotations, or the use/overuse/abuse of a title
I think for me it is the English words master and grandmaster that I find uncomfortable. I feel they are overused and imply more than is usually warranted and addressing someone in that way just feels off, to me. Of course they have a negative connection to US history as well, but I can contextualize the terms and the they dont automatically have that string attached for me.
 

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
33,963
Reaction score
8,983
Location
North American Tectonic Plate
Sigung is your teachers teacher. This term can be a source of cringiness for me when it is mis-used. People often mistake it for meaning grandmaster, but it does not. People often insist on being addressed as Sigung because they do not understand what it means and they want to be addressed as a grandmaster. If you are not my teachers teacher, then I do not call you Sigung even if you might be Sigung to other people, and certainly not if you simply want to elevate yourself to grandmaster. So my teacher is Sifu to me but Sigung to my students. There are further terms to refer to your classmates, both your juniors and your seniors, and your teachers classmates as well. But all of these terms indicate a specific relationship that you have with that specific person. They are not used in a generic sense to mean master or grandmaster even though some people want to use them that way. @Xue Sheng has indicated that in China, people only call Someone a Grandmaster as a form of sarcastic derision. The term gets used here in the West because the culture accepts it and people like grand titles that set them higher than everyone else. Kinda like having an amplifier that goes up to eleven.


So the same person could be Sifu, Sigung, sihing, all at the same time, to different people.
This drive me nuts, the misuse of Sigung (Shigung) I once asked a guy that insisted on being called Sigung, who is in the seminar circuit, at least on the east coast....."So you're self taught then" after much conversation with him and one of his "Senior" students. They would not stop insisting that I did not understand its use in context in which they were using it... my last word to them was "I understand perfectly how you are using it...incorrectly".... walked way.
In aikido I am a complete newbie, having trained now for not quite four months. I do not understand the Japanese titles as well, but I call my teacher and the rest of the teaching staff sensei. I believe that how we use the titles is consistent with how they are used in Japanese culture, but I am far from an expert on that.
I can't be certain this is how it is supposed to work traditionally, but in my Daughter aikido school, the head/owner of the school was Sensei. All others teaching there, who were his students, were called Sempai by the students they taught
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
15,196
Reaction score
4,853
Location
San Francisco
I can't be certain this is how it is supposed to work traditionally, but in my Daughter aikido school, the head/owner of the school was Sensei. All others teaching there, who were his students, were called Sempai by the students they taught
That would make sense to me as well, so far as I understand it. Our head sensei has referred to the other black belts as sensei because they do take an active roll in helping him teach, so to us lower level students they are also sensei, so that is the term I use.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
15,196
Reaction score
4,853
Location
San Francisco
This drive me nuts, the misuse of Sigung (Shigung) I once asked a guy that insisted on being called Sigung, who is in the seminar circuit, at least on the east coast....."So you're self taught then" after much conversation with him and one of his "Senior" students. They would not stop insisting that I did not understand its use in context in which they were using it... my last word to them was "I understand perfectly how you are using it...incorrectly".... walked way.
I sometimes come across websites for schools that are typically heavily Americanized but may have roots in China, or at least want to believe or pretend that they do. On the website they list the different members of the teaching staff as Sigung for the senior teacher/school owner, Sifu for his senior students who are helping teach, Sihing/Sisuk for the lower level teachers, maybe even instructor for the lowest level. They seem to believe the titles designate a hierarchy of progression which is simply not correct. That lack of understanding is something that would make me walk away from a school if I was searching for a place to train. If they dont even understand those basics, then the quality of their Chinese martial arts is gonna be dismal.
 

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
33,963
Reaction score
8,983
Location
North American Tectonic Plate
I sometimes come across websites for schools that are typically heavily Americanized but may have roots in China, or at least want to believe or pretend that they do. On the website they list the different members of the teaching staff as Sigung for the senior teacher/school owner, Sifu for his senior students who are helping teach, Sihing/Sisuk for the lower level teachers, maybe even instructor for the lowest level. They seem to believe the titles designate a hierarchy of progression which is simply not correct. That lack of understanding is something that would make me walk away from a school if I was searching for a place to train. If they dont even understand those basics, then the quality of their Chinese martial arts is gonna be dismal.
My Yang shifu had a group of students, who were well meaning, but had no clue about titles and CMA hierarchy. After they were there about a year they started calling my shifu grandmaster, he told them to stop, but they continued, until he said "There are no grandmasters in China" Then he looked at me. I then explained it to them, and they stopped, shifu is what they called him from then on.
 

andyjeffries

Senior Master
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
2,014
Reaction score
326
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
In aikido I am a complete newbie, having trained now for not quite four months. I do not understand the Japanese titles as well, but I call my teacher and the rest of the teaching staff sensei. I believe that how we use the titles is consistent with how they are used in Japanese culture, but I am far from an expert on that.
I think it sounds similar to Korean.
I dont think that bothers me, I honestly do not have any knowledge of the Korean titles but I was simply assuming that they were being used consistent with Korean culture in the same way the Chinese or Japanese titles are used. In that sense I guess I was also assuming they do not translate directly as master or grandmaster either.
So to add information then, Sabeom is a qualified martial arts instructor (I don't know the etymology or direct syllable translation, but I'll ask in my Korean lesson on Friday). It was translated to master by someone that speaks both languages. I always think of it as "master copy" of a document (the correct version that new copies are made from) rather than any slave-ownership sort of use of the word. I live in the UK, and here under 16 males are also called Master Name instead of Mister/Mr (they become Mister at 18), so I don't have the same negative connotation that the US often does.

Kwanjang means school owner. Lots of international grandmasters use it to mean grandmaster, but it just means school owner. For when this becomes important, a school owner in Korea could be a business person that has zero experience in Taekwondo. They then hire Sabeoms to teach the students. It's rare, most people in Korea a) have done some Taekwondo and b) wouldn't normally open their own school unless they're a master.

So it would potentially be that a person could have either title or both. And it's correct to use either title (if they have both). In Korea 9th Dans can still be called "Sabeomnim" and wouldn't take offence.
I think for me it is the English words master and grandmaster that I find uncomfortable. I feel they are overused and imply more than is usually warranted and addressing someone in that way just feels off, to me. Of course they have a negative connection to US history as well, but I can contextualize the terms and the they dont automatically have that string attached for me.
Interestingly I think that one potential difference is that I'm a Grandmaster now, but I still call my master-leve students "Master Lastname" in front of the students. In informal settings or away from the student base, we all just use first names. So it's used downwards as well as upwards, if that makes sense.
 

andyjeffries

Senior Master
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
2,014
Reaction score
326
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
I would be very interested in a copy of that PDF, if you were willing to share it.
I had your email from previous interactions, you should have a link to a copy in your inbox (or spam folder).
There's a couple pieces to this. First, the waves may be that folks leave Kukkiwon so they aren't bound by new restrictions. One of the reasons I had originally wanted to go with Kukkiwon when I open my own school is because if my requirements for my school are just Taegeuks and sparring, then I could easily work around that. But now I want to go unaffiliated, so I don't have to deal with drama above me.
100% that's a possibility.
Second, will the dust settle in 2-3 years? Or will there be more requirements? Or will someone say "this isn't working" and undo it, and then 2-3 years more later will they start doing it again?

The Kukkiwon reminds me very much of the officers in the US Army. In the Army, every officer has to implement something at every posting they are assigned, so that they can put on their reports how much of an impact their leadership had.
So you're absolutely on point with this I think. Either the dust will settle (some people will no longer support Kukkiwon and the rest will accept the rules), OR there will be a change in leadership at Kukkiwon and this will (likely quietly) be rolled back.

Not sure how much I want to say publicly, but the current Kukkiwon president is a former politician (who I believe wants to get back to it) and in my opinion has done a lot of changes that haven't been well received or well thought out and I can imagine there will be some rollbacks at the next change of leadership.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
15,196
Reaction score
4,853
Location
San Francisco
I think it sounds similar to Korean.

So to add information then, Sabeom is a qualified martial arts instructor (I don't know the etymology or direct syllable translation, but I'll ask in my Korean lesson on Friday). It was translated to master by someone that speaks both languages. I always think of it as "master copy" of a document (the correct version that new copies are made from) rather than any slave-ownership sort of use of the word. I live in the UK, and here under 16 males are also called Master Name instead of Mister/Mr (they become Mister at 18), so I don't have the same negative connotation that the US often does.

Kwanjang means school owner. Lots of international grandmasters use it to mean grandmaster, but it just means school owner. For when this becomes important, a school owner in Korea could be a business person that has zero experience in Taekwondo. They then hire Sabeoms to teach the students. It's rare, most people in Korea a) have done some Taekwondo and b) wouldn't normally open their own school unless they're a master.

So it would potentially be that a person could have either title or both. And it's correct to use either title (if they have both). In Korea 9th Dans can still be called "Sabeomnim" and wouldn't take offence.

Interestingly I think that one potential difference is that I'm a Grandmaster now, but I still call my master-leve students "Master Lastname" in front of the students. In informal settings or away from the student base, we all just use first names. So it's used downwards as well as upwards, if that makes sense.
Interesting, I am aware but had forgotten the British use of master as a form of address, although I dont think Ive ever been fully familiar with the rules around its use. I dont find it objectionable because I guess I always recognized it as something else. To quote Aragorn in the LOTR movies, we are going to Rivendell, Master Gamgee, to the House of Elrond.

It occurs to me that there are other issues for me on this side of the Atlantic, that contribute to my discomfort with using the word as a title of address in the context of martial arts. The first Ive already mentioned but Ill fill it in a bit more.

In the US, pretty much everything is commoditized and people are looking to make money from it. In and of itself that is not automatically a bad thing. Whom among us would not wish to make a good living doing something that we love? For many of us, that is martial arts. Some people are able to run a solid martial arts business that earns a good living while teaching high quality martial arts. Other schools it seems to me, focus more on making lots of money with little regard to keeping the quality of the training high. Self-promotion (which Americans are shocking good at and often engage in shamelessly) is a big part of the business model in many cases. Everybody needs to position himself to look better than the competition down the street. The liberal use of titles like master and grandmaster, and even senior grand master are rampant in this country. In the US this is entirely unregulated business and there are no laws preventing one from all levels of self-promotion, deserved or not. There is nothing to stop a person with one year of martial training, or even zero martial training, from declaring themselves grandmaster of martial arts and opening a school. If people come through his doors and are willing to pay him for his teaching, he is in business. So it quickly gets out of control. I find it sickening.

The other thing is that America is a land where conservative and evangelical Christianity has a strong hold. In that context one will often hear statements like I only serve one master, and that is Jesus Christ. I am strongly non-religious, but grew up in a conservative catholic family (not what you would call evangelical). That upbringing put me off religion for good. When I hear people use titles like master, I guess it digs up those kinds of connections in my mind, and I just have a very negative reaction to it.

I realize these are all my own issues and dont define the problem beyond myself. But for what its worth.
 

Hot Lunch

Brown Belt
Joined
Apr 25, 2023
Messages
427
Reaction score
180
Interesting, I am aware but had forgotten the British use of master as a form of address, although I dont think Ive ever been fully familiar with the rules around its use. I dont find it objectionable because I guess I always recognized it as something else. To quote Aragorn in the LOTR movies, we are going to Rivendell, Master Gamgee, to the House of Elrond.

It occurs to me that there are other issues for me on this side of the Atlantic, that contribute to my discomfort with using the word as a title of address in the context of martial arts. The first Ive already mentioned but Ill fill it in a bit more.
This is a double-edged sword.

Unlike most European countries, the US does not have a history of royalty, nobility, peerage, etc. No kings, no barons, no chevaliers, no dukes, none of that. The only exception is what you were just hinting at. So the concept of someone being your "better" is completely alien to us, and the instance in this country were it was once in practice is a part of our history that we make every effort to distance ourselves from.

Having to address anyone as a title, period (even if it's not "master") takes getting used to and is awkward to us at first. Even "sensei."
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
15,196
Reaction score
4,853
Location
San Francisco
This is a double-edged sword.

Unlike most European countries, the US does not have a history of royalty, nobility, peerage, etc. No kings, no barons, no chevaliers, no dukes, none of that. The only exception is what you were just hinting at. So the concept of someone being your "better" is completely alien to us, and the instance in this country were it was once in practice is a part of our history that we make every effort to distance ourselves from.

Having to address anyone as a title, period (even if it's not "master") takes getting used to and is awkward to us at first. Even "sensei."
Yeah, I would say there is something to that, and even using the Chinese and Japanese titles has taken getting used to.
 

Balrog

Master of Arts
Joined
Feb 11, 2007
Messages
1,762
Reaction score
469
Location
Houston, TX
Within ATA, everyone tests for rank. There is a standard curriculum and when I was running my school, if someone showed up with (for example) a 1st Degree Black Belt in ATA, I knew exactly what their skill level was and what their background was.

When I had someone show up with a Black Belt in another style of TKD, or a Japanese style, I always offered them the choice of coming in at their rank or starting over as a White Belt. Either way, they had to learn our curriculum from White Belt on up. Every single one chose to start over. And they would breeze through the colored belt ranks, usually double-promoting at testings, because they already knew the basics.
 
Top