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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Default Renshi, Shihan, and Kyoshi - meanings?

    What do the terms Renshi, Shihan, and Kyoshi mean or translate as?

    I always thought Shihan meant something like "master instructor", been there I heard the term Kyoshi which is used for higher ranking dans.

    In one organization I was with Shihan was used for anyone over 4th dan.

    In another organization, renshi was used for 3rd dan to 5th dan, shihan for 6th and 7th, and kyoshi for 8th and higher. Also in this organization the titles were separate from the dan ranking. Meaning just because you had tested for 3rd didn't automatically make you a renshi.

    How are the terms used in your school or organization? Do they automatically go with a set rank or are they based on something else - years of teaching etc?
    Blaine Benson

  2. #2
    Senior Member Gene Williams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benson
    What do the terms Renshi, Shihan, and Kyoshi mean or translate as?

    I always thought Shihan meant something like "master instructor", been there I heard the term Kyoshi which is used for higher ranking dans.

    In one organization I was with Shihan was used for anyone over 4th dan.

    In another organization, renshi was used for 3rd dan to 5th dan, shihan for 6th and 7th, and kyoshi for 8th and higher. Also in this organization the titles were separate from the dan ranking. Meaning just because you had tested for 3rd didn't automatically make you a renshi.

    How are the terms used in your school or organization? Do they automatically go with a set rank or are they based on something else - years of teaching etc?

    Well, this can start arguments but, "renshi" generally means a trainer/instructor. Sort of like a Gunnery Seargent. Most ryu, I believe, give this title at around yondan or godan. A renshi will typically take a class through drills and hard work. He is supposed to polish and refine fundamentals.

    "Kyoshi" means teacher. It is generally a higher designation, generally thought of as rokudan or higher.

    "Shihan" also means teacher. It is more commonly used in karate, whereas "kyoshi" is heard more in kenjutsu and koryu groups.

    You are correct in that a rank does not automatically include a title. Some thought is given to who is actually qualified to be a "trainer" or a "senior teacher." There are plenty of fine high dan who have no title at all. Some just don't want to teach or are not good teachers. I would not award just anyone a renshi or shihan title.

    Now, all that being said, titles such as these are way over used in the West. Americans, in our marketing and BS craze, have latched on to these things like a baby on a boob. I don't recall hearing these titles that much in the Okinawan ryu, anyway. Sensei is good enough for most. In this country, when I see someone with all that red and white around their belly, I become immediately suspicious, especially if the belt has to be a size 10. In our ryu, those belts are only worn at big seminars where not everyone knows who the renshi and shihan are. It makes it easy for them to spot them in a crowd. I also like to stay away from terms like "master." It is so over used it makes me want to vomit.

  3. #3
    Member Nyuck3x's Avatar
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    Ray Baldonade
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    Isn't it also true that such titles are not used in informal settings
    and that these titles are mostly used for documention? It's a little
    like calling yourself Sensei. (?)

    Most Okinawan teachers that I know of usually just go by Sensei.
    example: "Chibana Sensei" not "Chibana Hanshi".
    Ray Baldonade
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Gene Williams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nyuck3x
    Isn't it also true that such titles are not used in informal settings
    and that these titles are mostly used for documention? It's a little
    like calling yourself Sensei. (?)

    Most Okinawan teachers that I know of usually just go by Sensei.
    example: "Chibana Sensei" not "Chibana Hanshi".
    Yes, that is correct.

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    Junior Member
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    Default

    Gene thanks for your in depth reply.

    Is there a more literal translation of renshi, shihan and kyoshi? Would it be something like in the West - assistant professor, associate professor, professor in an academic setting?

    I have heard shihan in karate schools. Renshi and kyoshi are new ones to me that I have heard in jiujitsu setting, although I know of at least one local Okinawan school that uses the term kyoshi.
    Blaine Benson

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gene Williams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benson
    Gene thanks for your in depth reply.

    Is there a more literal translation of renshi, shihan and kyoshi? Would it be something like in the West - assistant professor, associate professor, professor in an academic setting?

    I have heard shihan in karate schools. Renshi and kyoshi are new ones to me that I have heard in jiujitsu setting, although I know of at least one local Okinawan school that uses the term kyoshi.

    No, they do not translate as professor, assistant professor, etc. Please do not get into that silly, fraudulent nonsense about "doctorates in the martial arts." That is steaming straight out of the bull.

  7. #7
    Junior Member
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    I wassn't saying they translated directly to assistant professor, professor, etc.. I agree it is silly for people to call themselves a "professor" in a style.

    What was trying to ask is do the different terms translate into a tiered rank structure?

    Or do kyoshi and shihan both mean just simply "teacher"?
    Blaine Benson

  8. #8
    Senior Member Gene Williams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benson
    I wassn't saying they translated directly to assistant professor, professor, etc.. I agree it is silly for people to call themselves a "professor" in a style.

    What was trying to ask is do the different terms translate into a tiered rank structure?

    Or do kyoshi and shihan both mean just simply "teacher"?


    Well, it isn't exactly a tiered structure like rank. The academic terms are not good equivalents. Let's say, "renshi" is a trainer/polisher, and "shihan/kyoshi" is a teacher of teachers.

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    My understanding is,Shihan is a permission to teach certificate.Sensei is giving his blessing to the student to teach away from the home dojo and saying that the student understands and can teach his style.Renshi,Kyoshi,and Hanshi are more in the dojo recognition.One gold stripe,Renshi,5th&6th dan instructor.Two gold stripes,Kyoshi,7th&8th dan,teacher.Three gold stripes,Hanshi,9th&10th dan,teacher of teachers.So if you see little old guys walking around with little gold stripes,they may not be shodans or nidans.

  10. #10
    Newbie
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    question

    Sorry, this has left me a little confused! I used to find this a source of confusion.

    Eventually, with much pestering of teachers and reading of books, I came to the understanding that the titles of Renshi, Hanshi and Kyoshi are specifically limited to being a recognition of learning, while Shihan was specifically a mandate to teach (kind of like Menkyo Kaiden, but of course not that huge a thing in so much as the latter symbolised inheritance of the style/ryu and implied that the receipient had learnt everything the originator/current head of the style had to teach).
    If that was confusing, I will try and clarify: For example, a godan or some one with equivalent grade, and truckloads of teaching experience may be recognised by the head of the style/organisation - or by the organisation as a whole - as Shihan, i.e. - a Senior Sensei, or instructor of instructors. In contrast, someone with godan or similar grade - who does not necessarily have much teaching experience (relatively speaking) - may be awarded the rank of Renshi, and further Kyoshi and Hanshi with further learning, by only their teacher, who is generally the head of the style or organisation. Often two students of an instructor could hold the same rank and yet one hold the title of Renshi and one the title of Shihan. This could simply reflect that one (Renshi) stayed on with the original/head instructor and spent more time learning and a small amount of time assisting his instructor, while the other (Shihan) spent a great deal of time teaching and thus 'spreading' the style outside of the Hombu dojo. While the former would not have had the chance to gain equivalent experience in teaching and contribute to the style by promoting it among many, he/she would presumably have a greater understanding of the master's teaching having spent more time training directly under the master.
    I guess it could be summarised by saying that the Renshi/Kyoshi/Hanshi system is a recognition of learning as opposed to a regonition of teaching-experience and contribution. The former may generally be less common (except among those who are busy recognising themselves) than the title of Shihan, as it is not often that a student will choose to/be allowed to stay on and train directly under the instructor after being graded to godan or similar rather than starting their own class.

    Well, that was what I had come to understand......now, I'm confused again!!

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