Info on the real use of Japanese Titles and Ranks
Joined: 16 Oct 2008
Posted: 16 Oct 2008 at 9:57pm
Before anyone has lessons from any instructor who uses a Japanese Rank or Title please consider the following information for your own benefit.
Japanese Martial Art Ranks & Titles
Soke: Headmaster/Head of Family/Father. is a Japanese term often used to indicate "headmaster" (or sometimes translated as "head of the family" or even "Grandmaster".) The English translation of soke as "grand master" is not a literal translation but it does see use by some Japanese sources, such as official translations by the Bujinkan of the title of Soke Masaaki Hatsumi. It can mean one who is the leader of any school or the master of a style, but it is most commonly used as a highest level Japanese title, referring to the singular leader of a school or style of martial art. The term, however, is not limited to the genre of martial arts.
Soke is sometimes mistakenly believed to mean "founder of a style" because many modern soke are the first generation headmasters of their art (shodai soke), and are thus both soke and founder. However, the successors to the shodai soke are also soke themselves. Soke are generally considered the ultimate authority within their art, and have final discretion and authority regarding promotions, curriculum, doctrine, and disciplinary actions. A soke has the authority to issue a menkyo kaiden certificate indicating that someone has mastered all aspects of his style.
In some schools there is a related position called Shihanke meaning "Family instructor" that fills a very similar role. A Shihanke is essentially a second training lineage that exists autonomously from the Soke. In arts where there is a Shihanke and a Soke it is possible for the position of Soke to essentially be a hereditary honorary title in the lemoto system while the Shihanke is responsible for the actual teaching and operation of the school
The widespread use of the term "soke" is controversial in the martial arts community. Traditionally it was used very rarely in Japan, typically only for very old martial arts, although it has become a somewhat common term for headmasters of schools created in the last few decades that attempt to reconstruct or emulate older styles of martial arts. Some modern western soke have used the title Soke-dai as a title for their assistant as the leader of their school. The Japanese character dai used in this context translates as "in place of." Thus, a shihan-dai, soke-dai, or soke-dairi means "someone who teaches in temporary place of" the main instructor, for reasons such as the incapacity of the soke due to injuries or illnesses.
Kaicho: Head of Group/Organisation
Kancho: Head of House/Ownership it usually reflects an ownership role, but often can be both.
Dojocho: is the title for the head of a training hall, or dojo, Dojocho is not always the chief instructor or highest ranked person, but reflects an administrative or ownership role. The person holding this title is often the dojo's owner or someone appointed by the dojo owner.
O Sensei: Senior/Elder/Superior. is a Japanese title used to distinguish between two teachers (or doctors, etc.) with the same name. The elder or superior one is then called osensei, and the other one WakaSensei
Waka Sensei: Waka Sensei: Junior/Younger/not as senior. In most cases, osensei is the father of waka sensei.
Dai Sensei: Master Teacher
Saikoo Komon: refers to Head/Chief Technical Advisor to the group.
Saikoo Shihan: which is teacher of shihans or head/top shihan
Hanshi / Shuseki Shihan: refers to a senior expert considered a "teacher of teachers". This title is used by many different arts for the top few instructors of that style, and is sometimes translated "Grand Master".
Kyoshi: refers to an advanced teacher.
Reshi: refers to a Instructor.
Shihan: merely means Chief Instructor. is a Japanese term, used as an honorific title for expert or senior instructors. The term is frequently used interchangeably with English terms such as "master instructor".
Various martial arts organizations have different requirements for the usage of the title, but in general it is a high title that takes many years to achieve. It is sometimes associated with certain rights, such as the right to give out black belt (dan) ranks in the name of the organization. However, the title is generally distinct from the black belt ranking system (dan).
While westerners want to know specifically what makes a person into a shihan, the process of becoming a shihan can be rather abstruse in Japan. For instance, within the Bujinkan it has been said that you become a shihan when the other shihan start calling you a shihan.
The use of the term is completely style or organization specific. In Japan for instance, within Judo a Japanese teacher automatically became a shihan at sixth dan. One could say your promotion to sixth dan comes when you are ready to be called shihan. In other organizations, for example Shodokan aikido, the title is organizational and less strongly correlated to rank.
Sensei: Teacher/Instructor. is used to refer to or address teachers, practitioners of a profession such as doctors and lawyers, politicians, and other authority figures. It is used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill.
Shisho is another title used for martial arts instructors.
Jokyo / Shidoin: Intermediate Instructor. Shidoin is a Japanese title, often used in budo, The word means instructor and is usually used to designate an official intermediate level instructor within an organization.
Fuku Shidoin: Assistant Instructor. Some Japanese organizations also have this title for junior assistant instructor.
Sempai/Senpai: is used to address senior colleagues or mentor figures, e.g. students referring to or addressing more senior students in schools, or a mentor or more experienced or senior colleague in a business environment.
kohai: is used to address junior colleagues/students
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