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-
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-
Brown Belt w/Black Stripe, Pre-
Brown Belt w/2 patches
Brown Belt w/1 patch
Blue Belt w/1 patch
Black Belt, Shodan (1st Degree)
Green Belt w/1 patch
These titles are awarded based on other important roles in the organization or contributions
to the art of Karate-
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-
Human Potential Manifested in Body, Mind and Spirit
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Blue Belt w/2 patch
Brown Belt w/3 patches