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Karate Titles

The Dai Nippon Butokukai, the controlling body for martial arts, accepted karate into the organization in 1931. One of its stipulations was that karate had to have a grading system and test given for degrees. The Dai Nippon Butokukai was established in 1895 by the Japanese government to oversee the martial arts.

In 1902, the organization created two titles to be awarded to outstanding martial artists. These titles were hanshi, the highest award, and kyoshi, which was later changed to tasshi. These titles were initially awarded to martial artists who practiced judo or kendo. After karate was admitted, a third title was created, renshi, which was below hanshi and kyoshi.

In 1935, three karate men received the title of renshi. They were Chojun Miyagi, founder of Goju-ryu; Ueshimi, founder of Kushin-ryu; and Yashiro Konishi, founder of Shindo-jinen-ryu, thus becoming the first karate men to receive a title in karate.

In 1928, Yasuhiro Konishi was selected to be an examiner for candidates for the title of renshi and was on the board of examiners that awarded the title to Gichin Funakoshi. This was ironic, as Konishi was a student of Funakoshi.

At present, most karate organizations use either a five or ten-dan grading system and a ten- or six-kyu grading system. Beginners start as white belts, working their way through the belt colours until they reach black belt. Kyu steps are often referred to as 'boy' level and dan steps as 'man' level.

Japanese Ranking Terms

Ku dan 9th degree Black Belt Ik Kyu 1st Kyu
Ku dan 10th degree Black Belt Ni kyu 2nd Kyu
Hachi dan 8th degree Black Belt San kyu 3rd Kyu
Shichi dan 7th degree Black Belt Yon Kyu 4th Kyu
Roku dan 6th degree Black Belt Go Kyu 5th Kyu
Go dan 5th degree Black Belt Rok Kyu 6th Kyu
Yon dan 4th degree Black Belt Shichi Kyu 7th Kyu
San dan 3rd degree Black Belt Hachi Kyu 8th Kyu
Ni dan 2nd degree Black Belt Kyo Kyu 9th Kyu
Sho dan 1st degree Black Belt Jik Kyu 10th Kyu

Reproduced with kind permission from Chris Thompson.

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