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    Cultural confusion in MA titles

    Naw, I'm not talking about western senseis, sifus, senpais, sigungs, hanshis, etc. Everyone gets that (well, maybe aside from the sokes).

    What I wanted to ask is if anyone here has ever, for example studied a CMA under a 'sensei', or a JMA under a 'sifu' - with no apparently reasonable explanation for the the confusion over the title?

    I was just thinking back to a schoolfriend who studied 'kung fu' and he was always talking like "My sensei says...".

    EDIT: Also funny stories. Like the self-proclaimed Grandmaster (mentioned here somewhere) who insisted that his students refer to him as 'kyoto'.
    Last edited by Larus marinus; 12/29/2009 8:34pm, .

    #2
    I have heard of such bastardization used by legitimate sifus for the simple reason they can't stand gwailor (Westerners) slaughtering the cantonese/hokkien/mandarin/etc dialect/language with their mispronunciation.

    My old Baguazhang instructor rather I called him instructor because he hated my Peranakan (Straits Chinese) ass slaughtering of the cantonese pronunciation of "sifu". His older students called him sensei.
    lol.

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      #3
      The only time I'm really perturbed about an MA title is when someone refers to his teacher as his master.

      Edit: I actually came across someone like this not too long ago. I ended up popping him in the kisser so hard that he couldn't suck his "master's" dick for a whole week.
      Last edited by Holy Moment; 12/29/2009 8:48pm, .
      Dan Severn loves raping people.

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        #4
        Originally posted by Holy Moment View Post
        The only time I'm really perturbed about an MA title is when someone refers to his teacher as his master.
        I think that some people's minds are just wired up to want/need that. As if they're not doing it right or getting anything out of it unless they've got someone to be ultra-respectful to and speak in a military fashion towards whilst following orders.

        It's not just a MA thing. You see it in the workplace sometimes - the guy who never refers to the manager as anything other than 'boss' or 'sir' and considers his word to be as the word of God...

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          #5
          Originally posted by Whathappened View Post
          I have heard of such bastardization used by legitimate sifus for the simple reason they can't stand gwailor (Westerners) slaughtering the cantonese/hokkien/mandarin/etc dialect/language with their mispronunciation.

          My old Baguazhang instructor rather I called him instructor because he hated my Peranakan (Straits Chinese) ass slaughtering of the cantonese pronunciation of "sifu". His older students called him sensei.
          lol.
          Oh sweet jesus christ, your sifu was right, you can't speak Cantonese for shit.

          People take the titles WAY too seriously. That "BOW TO YOUR SENSEI!" shit gets on my nerves. Okay, so it's culturally expected that you perform ojigi when greeting a Japanese person, but it doesn't mean Mr Whitey in his Japanophile Dojo should really expect his students to do the same. It's just stupid ritualism from another culture, that doesn't fully apply to you. Secondly, sensei literally means 'teacher'. The most ubiquitous example is school teachers. This relationship is as casual as it can get in any working relationship of this manner I suppose. So why do martialists always take the idea of sensei as something sacred?
          Lord Krishna said: I am terrible time the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world; Of those heroic soldiers presently situated in the opposing army, even without you none will be spared.
          Bhagavad Gita 11:32

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            #6
            Funnily enough most martial arts guys adamant on the Japanophilia can't speak Japanese for shit. I'm thinking those Ninja/Karate guys who try to utilise Japanese phrases and idioms who don't fully know what it means and are certainly mispronouncing it.

            E.g. I had someone correct me that "No, it isn't pronounced 'oss', it's pronounced 'uss' (oooss)". If that were the case, why is the Romanji 'osu', assface?
            Lord Krishna said: I am terrible time the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world; Of those heroic soldiers presently situated in the opposing army, even without you none will be spared.
            Bhagavad Gita 11:32

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              #7
              I think a lot of the problem is people buying in to the Western pop-culture/entertainment media image of what a "martial arts master" is supposed to be. That conjures everything from the hippie vision of a Shaolin Monk ("Master Po" in the '70s Kung Fu TV series) through to Yoda ...

              On the other hand, I don't mind the importation of certain cultural rituals/protocols in a martial arts class. Yes, from one POV it's LARPing; from another, it's paying due respect. Unless that's spelled out, though, it's easily misinterpreted.

              The term "master" is very controversial in WMA circles, despite the fact that qualified, senior teachers of fencing have been referred to as masters (meister, maestro, maitre, etc.) for centuries. It never implied a guru-like master/servant relationship between teacher and student; in fact, historically, fencing students were often of a higher social class than their instructors. To be a "fencing master" simply meant that one was a respectably senior practitioner; an expert who was worth learning from.
              Check out the Bullshido.net Western Martial Arts Forum for all things Western, martial and arty.

              Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence (est. 1899)

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                #8
                It happens all the time. A friend of mine runs a school here in NY and it is a Kempo (CMA) school, and he uses all Japanese terminology, unless he is talking about the head of his system, and then it is Sifu.
                I feel like you eye-bawlin' me, dawg!

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                  #9
                  Sometimes, a traditional school continues the use of such terms and protocol to preserve cultural context.

                  Be that as it may, I find that schools without current, direct lineage to the "old country" are usually the most heavy handed about it. And as has been stated above, some do go overboard on these titles and procedures.

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by socratic View Post
                    Oh sweet jesus christ, your sifu was right, you can't speak Cantonese for shit.

                    People take the titles WAY too seriously. That "BOW TO YOUR SENSEI!" shit gets on my nerves. Okay, so it's culturally expected that you perform ojigi when greeting a Japanese person, but it doesn't mean Mr Whitey in his Japanophile Dojo should really expect his students to do the same. It's just stupid ritualism from another culture, that doesn't fully apply to you. Secondly, sensei literally means 'teacher'. The most ubiquitous example is school teachers. This relationship is as casual as it can get in any working relationship of this manner I suppose. So why do martialists always take the idea of sensei as something sacred?
                    Glad to see you've given the matter some thought; a word on the literal meaning of sensei though: as is often the case with Chinese characters, this is subject to multiple interpretations. Basically, it's something along the lines of "person born/who lived before you" and you can see how that applies to it's usage in Japanese for the people we'd call teachers, doctors (medical and otherwise), and other erudite individuals (famous animators, for example) which I think answers your question about sacredness.

                    Until multilingualism really starts catching on I would think going with whatever the local language's equivalent words are would be the most pain-free experience.
                    Last edited by DARPAChief; 12/30/2009 10:16am, .

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                      #11
                      + rep if you are a ke?po instructor and you start demanding that your students call you by your title of 'Daihatsu'. As dumb as people are, I do not think anyone will catch on.
                      SEANBABY:

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                        #12
                        Originally posted by X_plosion View Post
                        Sometimes, a traditional school continues the use of such terms and protocol to preserve cultural context.

                        Be that as it may, I find that schools without current, direct lineage to the "old country" are usually the most heavy handed about it. And as has been stated above, some do go overboard on these titles and procedures.
                        I've found that the schools without current direct lineage to CMA aren't heavy-handed about the cultural context—instead they happily ignore it utterly in order to create a dubious rhetoric of respect and servitude that doesn't exist in the actual cultural context.

                        e.g., anyone who pops up online with a nickname like "SifuBob"

                        And, of course, students, who after three weeks of taking classes, refer to their instructor as "sifu."

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                          #13
                          Could this be a consequence of customer expectations (if not demands)? Yaknow, the whole 'I'm taking my kid to kung fu lessons so he can learn humility and respect whilst getting toughened the fuck up' thing?

                          Yeah, of course these are things that the kids should be learning at home from the age when they're old enough to understand - but it's hard to deny that this 'sensei/sifu/etc. is an expert in this and can do it better' ethos is out there in society.

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                            #14
                            Originally posted by Larus marinus View Post
                            Could this be a consequence of customer expectations (if not demands)? Yaknow, the whole 'I'm taking my kid to kung fu lessons so he can learn humility and respect whilst getting toughened the fuck up' thing?

                            Yeah, of course these are things that the kids should be learning at home from the age when they're old enough to understand - but it's hard to deny that this 'sensei/sifu/etc. is an expert in this and can do it better' ethos is out there in society.
                            That's a whole problem I've heard from my Western friends.
                            It's like expecting the swimming instructor to turn your girl into a beach babe and solve her lack of respect for people in general all that for a low low price of $89.00 (or the going rate) per month

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                              #15
                              Originally posted by Larus marinus View Post
                              Could this be a consequence of customer expectations (if not demands)? Yaknow, the whole 'I'm taking my kid to kung fu lessons so he can learn humility and respect whilst getting toughened the fuck up' thing?

                              Sure. I don't know much about training children in CMA, but people definitely want to LARP bowing and scraping for a complex of reason, and many people are happy to take their money while providing that service. I also wonder if there is some consumer confusion between JMA and CMA, with CMA in the US aping what seems to me to be the more obviously militaristic ethos of JMA for similar reasons.

                              There's a lot of enthusiasm for gongfu in China, but in the same way there's a lot of enthusiasm for Tony Soprano and Wrestlemania and country songs about shootin' yer cheatin' man and hip-hop gangsta stuff in the US. Historically, it was not considered something for the top of society, but for outliers and the bottom. As such, it tends to be more laid back, and in the usual training method not necessarily what some yuppie wants for little Madicyn and Braithwaite.

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