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Student Resources

Titles in Traditional Karate

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Shureido Master Belt

The following are the list of teaching grades bestowed on individuals within traditional Karate, based on capability and or rank. These titles are granted to deserving individuals within particular disciplines only after a prolonged and severe examination and evaluation. These ranks are highly dignified, and must be earned, rather than lightly granted.

Seishin Belt image

Seishin "Shoshin" Belt

Sempai

The relative version means Senior Grade and is used to address anyone older or of senior rank. While it can be applied among the yudansha e.g. a sandan might call a yondan by the title of sempai, it is unlikely, since they already have a title which supersedes it. Again, this form of the title is more appropriately used among the kyu grades. The absolute version is used to address people with the grade of shodan or nidan It is however worth bearing in mind that in systems where the titles are conferred rather than automatic, this title can also be applied to the rank of sandan or even yondan until he or she has been conferred the title of Sensei. Everyone from 10th kyu up to 10th dan would call such people (i.e. shodan and nidan holders, and sometimes higher) Sempai.

Sensei

Sensei "Teacher or One who has gone before": This title is by far the most often used title in karate and generally refers to someone of Yon-Dan level (4th Degree Black Belt.) Most will state that this is the most honorable title that a student can use when referring to the senior as their teacher. The title Sensei implies a close bond between the student and teacher's relationship.

Renshi

Renshi: "Polished Teacher" or "Expert Teacher": This is the first of the three generally (most often) used teacher titles. Although this title is independent of rank, it is seldom given to anyone below the rank of Yondan.

Shihan

Shihan: "Senior or Expert Teacher": It is important to understand that the meaning Master as used in the martial arts is someone who has mastered the basic and advanced understandings {Principles} of a particular style or system, thus the title Shihan means someone who has mastered the basic and advanced techniques as well as the principles, concepts, and theory of their respective style of karate. The title Shihan does not mean that this person has stopped learning because they know all of the answers. On the contrary, they are considered to be the most serious and dedicated students in any style of martial arts. The title Shihan is generally considered to be an organizational title alone and has little meaning.

Kyoshi

Kyoshi: "Master Teacher, Teacher of Teachers": This is the second of the three generally (most often) used teacher titles. Although this title is independent of the ranking system, it is seldom given to anyone below the rank of Rokudan and in most cases Nanadan.

Hanshi

Hanshi: "Senior Master Teacher": This is the third and highest of the three generally (most often) used teacher titles. Although this title is independent of the ranking system, it is seldom given to anyone below the rank of Hachidan (8th Degree Black Belt).

Kancho

Literally, the word means Head of the Training hall and comes from the two words kan (training hall) and cho (head, leader). Effectively, this means Chairman. The term Kancho can be used to signify the "head" of the organisation.

Soke

Soke is the lineal descendent of a kinsman or family. The Soke has obligation and duties to the house in which he was born, and is expected to carry on the founder's or successors knowledge and teachings, and even to expand it. For contemporary Soke in the martial arts, this implies that the sensei must first develop a system of sensible, understandable concepts, both technical and spiritual, in order to pass them on.

 

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