The "Professor" Rant
by, 08-31-2011 at 16:54 (4413 Views)
Having been a long-time practitioner of the martial arts, and keen observer and participant in our community, I have seen titles and rank fads come and go, but one that just grates me is the use of the title of "Professor" in certain arts. What brought on this rant is I just received a call from a gentleman that will be relocating to our area who is interested in training at our dojo. He said that his goal is to be a "Professor" of Jujutsu. I honestly cannot tell you the number of times I have heard this, or met someone who uses the title of "Professor", most of which cannot write above a third-grade level.
I work in academia, and I know what it takes to be a real Professor. So when I hear someone referred to as "Professor" in a martial arts sense, it makes me insane. Do they have any idea how absolutely stupid they sound?
I have over the years tried to figure out where in the heck this stupid title came from, and the closest I can come is that is all started with Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo.
We know from our history that Kano Sensei held no rank in Judo in his lifetime. Yes, you read that correctly, no rank. Ziltch, zero, nada. It was not until after his death that he was recognized as Junidan (12th Dan) by the Kodokan, a special rank reserved only for him. Generally, Kano Sensei was simply referred to as Sensei, and maybe in some cases, Shihan.
So where did the "Professor" thing come from? Well, it's pretty simple, but it's not because of martial arts, it's because he was a real, no BS Professor in an academic sense. In addition to being the founder of Judo, Kano Sensei was a educator, and held actual professorial rank at several universities. In addition, he also served as Japan's Minister of Education.
I know from my dealings in the world of academia, that once a person has been awarded the rank of Professor, it is a title they are entitled to use even outside of academia, and it is not uncommon to refer to a current or former professor as "Professor InsertName".
I speculate that Kano Sensei was probably referred to as Professor Kano by his colleagues and students because he was a professor in the world of academia, and it is common (especially in a very formal class-based society as Japan) to address a person by their professional title. So somehow us ignorant Westerners heard Kano Sensei being referred to as Professor Kano, and not knowing any better, decided this must be a martial arts title. Now that we know better, we still see folks running around calling themselves "professor" and embarrassing themselves. Today we have a whole army of professors in a variety of arts who are the living legacy to ignorance.
So to all of the folks out there calling yourselves "Professor" in a particular martial art, I hope you now understand why folks like me snicker and laugh at you. You may be the greatest thing to have ever walked on the tatami and have amazing martial arts skills, but you show how incredibly ignorant you are to use a title that was never intended for martial arts. At least make up some silly title like "Tashi" and pretend it's a real title, but don't hijack a something from another community (like academia) and call it your own.
End of rant. I feel better now.
Late Note and Correction: In a private discussion with Cliff Hargrave, one of our moderators here on Budoseek, he said that in the Brazilan culture, "Professor" is a generic title for teacher. I checked that out with two independent, non-martial art, extremely smart Brazilians I know, and that is absolutely correct. According to one of my Brazilian sources, the direct translation of "teacher" to Portuguese is "professor". So it's use in BJJ makes sense from a cultural and language aspect, and as BJJ is an art unique to Brazil, use of Professor makes sense within that context. So thanks to Cliff and to my two unnamed Brazilian sources!
Outside the BJJ context, it's still idiotic.