By Erik Hofmeister
Respect and manners is the first precept for Yoshukai karate. We use titles and formal forms of address when addressing or referring to various students. While it is always preferable to be precise, the intent is important- if you make a slip up here and there, that’s just fine. For those who want specific instructions, here they are.
Referring to someone
These rules are probably the least stringent. I prefer using a title which makes it clear as to the context in which I am speaking about that person. For example, when speaking of my Kyuki-Do training or Hapkido and referring to Ken Blumreich, I will use Sabumnim. But when referring to him in Yoshukai or judo, I will use Sensei. You may refer to some people solely by title, such as Soke. Use of an English honorific (Mr./Ms) and last name is the ‘minimum’ level of respect for this type of reference, as long as it is about martial arts.
Addressing a letter
For addressing a letter or email, I go with the most formal title available. For example, when writing to Mr. Lecut for The Way newsletter, I address it as “Dear Shihan Lecut”. When writing to Master Culbreth, I will use either “Dear Master Culbreth” or “Dear Kaicho Culbreth”. For Shodan and Nidan ranked students from other schools, I will use either “Dear Sensei X” or “Dear Mr. X”, as this latter is accepted within our organization for all ranks.
Addressing an individual
Use of “Mr./Ms.” and last name is always appropriate in a WYKKO context. I tend not use formal titles like Shihan or Sempai, but do address Master Toyama and Culbreth as “Master”, and certainly do so for Soke. “Sensei” without a last name is generally referring to your direct instructor- Sensei Serrian for Athens Yoshukai and Sensei Hines for Clarke County. “Sensei Lastname” is generally used when addressing any other black belt. An exception can be made when you are working directly with a blackbelt. For example, when Master Toyama is instructing me at a camp, I will often address him as “Sensei”. This is appropriate because that is that person’s _role_ at that time (situational authority vs. positional or rank-based). Within our dojo, for non-blackbelts with a civilian title besides Mr./Ms., we will usually use that, for example “Dr.”.
At the end of the day, many of these are personal preferences and are not codified. You will never go wrong with addressing someone as “Mr./Ms. Lastname” in WYKKO. The protocol described here is a more elegant, sophisticated approach.