Instructor Titles


These titles are earned based on the level of instructor.  Do not confuse these with actual ranks.


Senpai: an assistant instructor, usually Shodan or Nidan


Sensei: instructor, adult, usually Nidan or higher rank


Shihan: instructor of instructors, usually Shichidan or higher rank

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Ranks, Belts, and Titles


There are 10 kyu (grades) before black belt.


After he or she signs up, the student will wear a white belt (provided with the uniform) signifying that the student is a beginner and does not yet hold a rank in karate.


Upon passing their first exam, the student earns a rank of 10th kyu, represented by a yellow belt.


One will progress upward in rank from 10th kyu to Pre-Shodan, and so on, through the beginning and intermediate ranks. Each of these grades is represented by different belts. The purpose of the belts is to provide the student with short-term goals that reinforce the long-term goal of earning black belt. This system also makes it easy for the instructors to know, at a glance, who should be learning what. It also makes it easy for students to spot potential partners for team drills.


The advanced kyu grades are represented by brown belts. The first, 3rd kyu brown belt, is a plain solid brown belt. At 2nd kyu, a patch is added at the end of the belt. A brown belt with two patches signifies 1st kyu. A brown belt with a black stripe represents Pre-Shodan, the last step before black belt, or Shodan.



Belt System

White Belt

Green Belt

Purple Belt

Orange Belt

Yellow Belt

Brown Belt w/Black Stripe, Pre-Shodan

Blue Belt

Brown Belt w/2 patches

Brown Belt w/1 patch

Brown Belt

Blue Belt w/1 patch

Black Belt, Shodan (1st Degree)

Green Belt w/1 patch

Other Titles

These titles are awarded based on other important roles in the organization or contributions to the art of Karate-do.

Dojocho: an organizational title, like "chairman", for someone in charge of all the dojo locations in a large area. The Dojocho can be addressed as either "Dojocho" or "Cho Sensei.”


Renshi: a title indicating advanced technical knowledge of one's art. Equivalent to a master's degree in the American education system. Must be Yodan or higher rank.


Hanshi: a title indicating expert technical knowledge in one's art. Equivalent to a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in the American education system, and those who are awarded this title, are often referred to as "professor.” Must be Rokudan or higher rank. Those earning this title may wear a special belt at formal functions. The belt is made of alternating red and white panels.


Soke: the founder of a "style,” large school, or organization with its own program, methods, ranking system, and/or syllabus. Kiyohisa Hirano is the founder of Japan International Karate Center (the organization) and Heiwa-do, the style of karate it teaches. He holds the rank of Kudan (9th degree).

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Blue Belt w/2 patch

Brown Belt w/3 patches