What Do You Call a Martial Arts Teacher

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What Do You Call a Martial Arts Teacher?

Martial arts have been practiced for centuries, originating from various parts of the world and encompassing a wide range of disciplines. Whether it’s karate, judo, taekwondo, or kung fu, martial arts have gained popularity worldwide for their physical and mental benefits. And just like any other field of expertise, martial arts also have their own unique terms and titles. So, what do you call a martial arts teacher?

The title given to a martial arts teacher can vary depending on the style or discipline being taught, as well as the cultural traditions associated with it. Here are some commonly used terms to address a martial arts teacher:

1. Sensei: This is a Japanese term that translates to “teacher” or “instructor.” It is widely used in various Japanese martial arts disciplines such as karate, aikido, and judo.

2. Sifu: Originating from Chinese martial arts, particularly in disciplines like kung fu, sifu is a title given to a skilled and experienced martial arts instructor. It conveys respect and acknowledges the teacher’s expertise.

3. Kru/Khru: In Thai martial arts, such as muay Thai, the title kru or khru is used to address a teacher. It signifies a person who has gained significant knowledge and experience in the art form.

4. Guru: This title is commonly used in Indian martial arts, such as kalaripayattu. Guru refers to a spiritual guide or teacher who imparts knowledge and wisdom to their students.

5. Professor: In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art known for its ground fighting techniques, the title of professor is often used to address an instructor who holds a high rank and possesses extensive knowledge in the art.

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6. Instructor: This is a general term used to address a martial arts teacher in many disciplines. It doesn’t carry any specific cultural or traditional connotations but simply refers to someone who imparts knowledge and trains students.

7. Coach: In combat sports like boxing, kickboxing, or mixed martial arts (MMA), the term coach is commonly used to refer to the person who trains and guides the fighters.

8. Master: In some martial arts styles, particularly those with a hierarchical belt system, a highly skilled and experienced practitioner may be referred to as a master. This title denotes a high level of proficiency and often comes with great respect.

9. Shihan: This Japanese term is used to address a senior instructor or master in certain martial arts styles, such as aikido or kyokushin karate. Shihan represents a higher level of expertise and often requires many years of dedication and practice.

10. Sabomnim: In Korean martial arts like taekwondo, the term sabomnim is used to address an instructor. It signifies a person who has achieved a high rank and possesses advanced knowledge in the art.

11. Guro: In Filipino martial arts, the term guro is used to address a teacher or instructor. It is derived from the Spanish word for teacher, “maestro,” and reflects the influence of Spanish colonization in the Philippines.

12. Coach/Trainer: In modern competitive martial arts, such as MMA or professional kickboxing, the title coach or trainer is commonly used to address the person responsible for preparing and guiding athletes for fights.


1. What is the difference between a sensei and a sifu?
Sensei is a Japanese term used in Japanese martial arts, while sifu is a Chinese term used in Chinese martial arts. The difference lies in the cultural and linguistic origins of the terms.

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2. Can a martial arts teacher have multiple titles?
Yes, depending on their training and experience, a martial arts teacher can hold multiple titles. For example, a person could be a sensei in karate and a sifu in kung fu.

3. How long does it take to become a sensei or sifu?
The time it takes to earn the title of sensei or sifu varies depending on the martial arts style, the individual’s dedication, and the requirements set by the governing bodies or organizations.

4. Are all martial arts teachers considered masters?
No, not all martial arts teachers are considered masters. The title of master is often reserved for those who have attained a high level of proficiency, usually after years of training and experience.

5. Can anyone become a martial arts teacher?
Yes, anyone can become a martial arts teacher with proper training, dedication, and expertise in a particular martial arts style.

6. Is it necessary to address a martial arts teacher by their specific title?
While it is respectful to address a martial arts teacher by their specific title, it ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences. Some teachers may prefer to be addressed by their name or a generic term like “instructor.”

7. Can a martial arts teacher teach multiple styles?
Yes, many martial arts teachers are proficient in multiple styles and can teach different disciplines based on their training and experience.

8. Are there female martial arts teachers?
Absolutely! Martial arts is not limited by gender, and there are many highly skilled female martial arts teachers across various disciplines.

9. Can a martial arts teacher also be a competitor?
Yes, many martial arts teachers continue to compete in tournaments and matches, even while teaching. This allows them to stay connected to the martial arts community and further refine their skills.

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10. Do martial arts teachers have to hold a black belt?
While a black belt is often associated with expertise and teaching ability, not all martial arts teachers are required to hold a black belt. Some teachers may possess advanced knowledge and skills without reaching the black belt level.

11. Can a martial arts teacher train children?
Yes, many martial arts teachers specialize in teaching children and have specific training methods tailored to their needs and abilities.

12. How should one address a martial arts teacher if unsure of their specific title?
It is best to ask the martial arts teacher directly how they prefer to be addressed. They will appreciate the respect and openness to learning about their specific title or preference.

In conclusion, the title given to a martial arts teacher varies depending on the style, cultural traditions, and individual preferences. Whether it’s sensei, sifu, coach, or master, these titles represent the respect and expertise that martial arts instructors bring to their students. It’s important to address them with the appropriate title, but ultimately, what matters most is the knowledge, skills, and guidance they impart on their martial arts journey.