Martial Arts can be awkward when you have a family member who is a significantly higher rank than you are, or is your instructor. As a kid, it was weird when my brother (Dave) and father became black belts. I was around 7 years old, and all of a sudden had to start calling my 12 year old brother Mr. Farquharson during class. He wasn’t Mr. Farquharson to me, he was a jerk-face meany (my insults have improved a little since then). My dad also wasn’t Mr. Farquharson, he was daaaaaad stop you’re embarrassing me (a long, yet necessary title).
A few years later my other brother (Mark), only 2 years older than me, got his black belt. Then we had Mr. Farquharson, Mr. Farquharson, and Mr. Farquharson. It was annoying. I’m still a little annoyed by it. I eventually earned my black belt too, and things evened out a little bit.
But my brother, now known as Master Mark Farquharson (ugh), continued with training and testing while the rest of us just kind of chilled where we were. We were briefly the same rank, I got my 1st degree black belt shortly before he tested for his 2nd. And now he’s a 5th degree master. If I thought calling him Mister was weird, imagine how much more awkward it is to have to call him Master. It’s probably even more awkward for my oldest brother because he started training first, and now has to call his little brother Master Farquharson. Although, I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever heard him say that before.
The middle child is also the Regional Master for the Southwest region of our organization. At major events, people are very respectful to him. And as a little sister, that’s never going to not be weird. When we leave the events, I must do my sisterly duty to endlessly mock him in order to bring him back to normal after a weekend of being treated like someone super important.
Having grown up with the awkwardness, I’ve developed some ways to work around having to call them by their titles.
Don’t say any name
Instead of saying something like: Excuse me Master Farquharson, I have a question, I’ll instead just omit the name. If he’s teaching, and I have a question, chances are he’ll realize I’m talking to him. This is by far the easiest method.
Refer to them by relationship
When talking to other people in karate, I’ll just say my brother. Most people can figure it out with context. It’s not disrespectful, so it works well. If someone doesn’t know that I’m his sister (which does happen because apparently he’s too important to take the time to introduce me to people), I’ll gesture to him or be forced to say my brother, Master Farquharson. That sounds really pretentious though, so I avoid it.
Use a different language
My brother has the ability to completely ignore my existence unless I yell at him or hit him with something. I can’t yell his name to get his attention at events, so instead I trained him to respond to the Japanese word for older brother: onii-san. I usually just shorten it to nii, so worst case scenario people probably wonder why I keep yelling about knees.
Deal with it
Uggggghhh. At the end of the day, the fact is that the dude earned his rank. So during class, and when talking with other students or their parents, I have to refer to him by his legit title. I can get away with cheating at it sometimes, because I’m his sister, but other people can’t. And whenever I hear a student trying to refer to him by his first name, I’ll jump in and remind them to be respectful. It’ll never not be weird, and I’ll never stop making fun of him for it.