People mean well when they address me with an honorific but please call me Stephan, and not ‘Professor’ or ‘Sifu’ or ‘Sensei’ or ‘Guru’ or ‘Master’ or ‘Shihan’ or ‘Kru’ or ‘Sabom’ Or ‘Kwisatz Haderach’…
I don’t like these honorifics because there’s an inherent danger when lofty titles are used to amplify an already reflexive obedience towards a person. And this is especially true in a martial arts setting which is often a hierarchical environment with pseudo-spiritual overtones.
If you received a tennis coaching session from Serena Williams would you call her ‘Mistress Williams’ or ‘Professor Williams’? No!
If world renowned ice climber Will Gadd was teaching you how to climb up a frozen waterfall would you refer to him as ‘Master Gadd’? No!
Of course most BJJ instructors getting called Professor are good people. And most of the time the students calling them just want to show respect. I get it.
But I think it’s perfectly possible to respect someone’s skills and teaching abilities without using language that reinforces hero worship and allows certain unscrupulous instructors to take advantage of people.
Remember, everybody poops. Even the supreme grand pooh-bah of your martial art poops.
And please call me ‘Stephan’.
Here’s my longer and more emphatic rant on the topic of titles and honorifics in the martial arts. It’s episode 350 of The Strenuous Life Podcast in video format…
And here’s the same rant in audio-only format…
P.S. My answer to the inevitable objection that goes, “But the word ‘professor’ just means teacher in Portuguese” is at 7:34 in the video above.
P.P.S. Please consider checking out my latest instructional, The Omoplata 2.0.
This instructional is my super-detailed breakdown of one of my very favorite submissions which will hugely amplify and diversify your guard game.
P.P.P.S. The best way to stay up to date with new episodes I release is by subscribing to The Strenuous Life Podcast in the podcast player of your choice.
Today’s podcast was episode 350.
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Take care my friends,