Dojo Titles Used at Shuyokan

Sensei, Renshi, Kyoshi And Hanshi

The title "Sensei" is a Japanese title of respect. It is used to address teachers or professionals such as doctors, lawyers and others. Outside Japan, many people, due to the natural "cultural gap", have little experience with this title and sometimes unintentionally do not use the title correctly. Since this particular title comes from the Japanese culture and they are the authorities when it comes to their own language, those of us outside that culture must strive to use the title correctly by Japanese definition, if it is to be used correctly within each respective American martial arts dojo.

Sensei always comes after a teacher's name and is used like the similar honorific title "san" at the end of a person's name. In the martial arts, we call a teacher Sensei, whether or not we are actually studying under that person, unless we want to be deliberately insulting. The title "Sensei" is attached to the end of a teacher's name at all times – not just in the Dojo. If you hear your Sensei refer to an assistant teacher in the Dojo by their first name, it does not necessarily mean that you should do the same. That individual is the Sensei's student and he or she is your senior and should be addressed as Sensei. The study of the martial arts is a way of life and the same respect that is shown in the Dojo should be practiced in our everyday life outside the Dojo.

Renshi, Kyoshi and Hanshi are classical ranks/titles, as opposed to the more modern day dan grades issued by organizations such as Shuyokan. They are similar to Samurai titles that were given under the auspicious of Japan's Imperial Family during feudal times. Based on each individuals knowledge, teaching ability and the outstanding development of character through the study of the martial arts, these titles/ranks are much more difficult to achieve than the conventional dan grades.

The character "Ren" means "polished, tempered" and "shi" means "person". Thus Renshi indicates a "polished instructor" or expert. Renshi correlates to the modern rank of 4th to 5th dan.

The "Kyo" in Kyoshi means "professor" or "philosophy". Therefore, Kyoshi equals a "professor capable of teaching the philosophy of the martial arts. Kyoshi correlates to the modern rank of 6th to 8th dan.

The "Han" in Hanshi means "example, model" and indicates "a teacher that can serve as an ideal model for others", or a senior master. Hanshi correlates to the modern day rank of 8th to 10th dan.


Shuyokan Library, Kokusai Budoin U.S.A. and the International Martial Arts Federation

Shuyokan Sayings

"Character is not made in a crisis - it is only exhibited. --- Robert Freeman"