Traditional Japanese Teaching Titles

In old Japanese martial arts there were three teaching titles which recall the days when a Sensei was someone who trained soldiers (rather like a drill sergeant). The title of Renshi was awarded first. In modern terms this would be at say 4th Dan. The Renshi title meant “polished teacher” and meant one who had honed their teaching skills through teaching many students.

Next came Kyoshi which would be equivalent to say 6th or 7th Dan and Hanshi equivalent to around 8th Dan.

Prior to Shotokan, Shotokai and Wado Ryu, Karate master Gichin Funakoshi of the Shoto Ryu school received the title of Renshi in 1938. It was awarded by the Dai Nippon Butokukai.

Over 70 years later the head teacher of Bushinkai Simon Keegan was awarded the title of Renshi in Shoto Ryu Karate with the endorsement of the national director of the Dai Nippon Butokukai.

The Dai Nippon Butokukai and the Kokusai Budoin (under which Simon graded to 3rd Dan) are among the few Japanese organisations with the credentials to issue these imperial teaching titles.

The red, white and black Renshi belt

The red, white and black Renshi belt: Simon chooses not to wear one, instead wearing his black obi

he character “Ren” means “polished, tempered” and “shi” means “person”. Thus Renshi indicates a “polished instructor” or expert.

The “Kyo” in Kyoshi means “professor” or “philosophy”. Therefore, Kyoshi equals a “professor” capable of teaching the philosophy of the martial arts.

The “Han” in Hanshi means “example, model” and indicates “a teacher that can serve as an ideal model for others”, or a “senior master”.

 

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