English Karate Federation

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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
Jyu dan
Hachi dan
Shichi dan
Roku dan
Go dan
Yon dan
San dan
Ni dan
Sho dan

9th degree Black Belt
10th degree Black Belt
8th degree Black Belt
7th degree Black Belt
6th degree Black Belt
5th degree Black Belt
4th degree Black Belt
3rd degree Black Belt
2nd degree Black Belt
1st degree Black Belt

Ik Kyu
Ni kyu
San kyu
Yon Kyu
Go Kyu
Rok Kyu
Shichi Kyu
Hachi Kyu
Kyo Kyu
Jik Kyu
1st Kyu
2nd Kyu
3rd Kyu
4th Kyu
5th Kyu
6th Kyu
7th Kyu
8th Kyu
9th Kyu
10th Kyu

Reproduced with kind permission from Chris Thompson.

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