Students>Class procedures>Yes sir! No ma'am!

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Yes sir! No ma'am!


Traditional martial art schools have always required students to always show respect, courtesy, and obedience to their instructors, seniors, and fellow students. Respect is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. You show respect and are courteous toward other people and you expect it in return. You obey your seniors and you expect your juniors to obey you. If you do not receive respect, courtesy, and obedience, then you demand it; you earned your place in the hierarchy of your martial art and your school and the respect that comes with it.

Titles of respect

As a sign of respect, adults should respond to each other with sir and ma’am or Mr. and Ms. (with the last name). I once had a nurse begin taekwondo classes. Physically, her performance was that of a typical beginning student. However, her attitude was lacking. She immediately complained about having to respond to others, including instructors, as sir or ma’am. She said it made her feel as though she was inferior. Responding correctly did not make her inferior; rather, her attitude showed that she thought she was superior. Over time, she probably would have changed her attitude, but she did not come to class again.

When martial artists reach the level of a master, they are usually referred to as Master (with last name). However, yes sir and no ma’am are still used in responses. Some martial arts may use the titles of doctor, professor, supreme grand master, ehaulted one, etc.

Children should respond to their seniors (both in age and rank) with sir and ma’am.

Warning, the following statement is controversial, so you should defer to the way you are taught by your instructor.

Adults should NOT respond to children with sir and ma’am or Mr. and Ms., regardless of their rank—they are children, call them by their given names. This is a controversial statement in view of today’s progressive thinking, but it reflects our societal hierarchy.

In all other ways, our society says children are not adults and should not be held to the same standards as adults; they cannot enter into contracts, they can’t be punished as adults, they cannot be held responsible for their actions, they can’t be sued, they cannot join the military, they cannot vote, they cannot drink alcohol, etc. Children must wait until they are adults to receive the benefits and privileges of adults and then, along with the adult status, they must accept the responsibilities of being an adult. In the martial arts, as in life, children should be treated as children, not as adults.

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