Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On April - 10 - 2013

I have been asked about the titles that are used for different level of karate instructors. There are several terms given to karate instructors of different levels. I will try to clear up some of the confusion over these names.

Let`s start with the obvious, Sensei. The term literally means, “one who has gone before”. This is used as the term for instructor or teacher. This term is probably the most common title used in karate. You will also hear the term Sempai used often. Sempai is used to signify a senior student who assists with instruction.  Another term that you may here on occasion Kenshusei. This is used for those students who are enrolled in the Instructor Program. Once they graduated the program, they can official use the title of Sensei.

Shihan literally means “to be a model” but it is only a formal word for sensei or instructor or teacher.  It has however been reserved for instructors who have achieved a higher rank. In the IKD, Shihan is reserved for instructors who have reached the rank of 7th Dan. To be a Shihan you would also have to achieve A level rank as a Judge, Examiner and Instructor.

Shuseki Shihan is a title that is used to signify the Chief Instructor of an organization. Shuseki means “Top position” and therefore it would be give to such instructors as Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai of the IKD or Shuseki Shihan Teriyuki Okazaki of the ISKF. Shuseki Shihan can not be used by the only instructor of a Dojo or organization.

Some organizations use the terms Kyoshi, Renshi and Hanshi. These are bestowed titles but are not often used in karate.

Higher ranking instructors would receive these titles in Japan. Here are the requirements for each title. These are most commonly used by the JKF:

  • Hanshi: 8th dan for more than 2 years, older than 60
  • Kyoshi: 6th dan and above for minimum 2 years, older than 50
  • Renshi: 5th dan and above for minimum 1 year, older than 40


Now the title that I have been questioned about the most is the term Kancho. Shusheki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai is the Kancho of the International Karate Daigaku. What is Kancho? If you search for Kancho on the internet you will find that it is used to refer to a practical joke in Japan. This is not the same Kancho we are using in Karate. So please do not get the two confused. If you are familiar with the meaning of Shotokan you will know that “kan” means building or dojo.  Cho means the head or top (i.e. shacho: president). Essentially, Kancho means Top or Head of the Organization.

I hope that you now have an understanding of these terms.

Categories: Teaching/Training

2 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Is it possible if ‘Kancho’ is translated as ‘Cheif’ or ‘Captain’?

Leave a Reply

Featured Posts

I’m a Sensei!

What makes a person a Sensei? There are a lot of factors involved but what gives a person the ability to call themselves Sensei? Ok, first what does the word mean? Sensei translates to “one who has gone before” or “one who has walked the path ahead”. It synonymous with the term “teacher” but in […]

It is my instructor’s fault!

This happens often, a student or parent complains that the outcome of their testing was not what they expected. The student isn’t successful or gets a low level pass so they blame the results on the examiner or the instructor. Then they either give up, change to a different dojo or different style. The problem […]


Achieving a goal is something that is to be celebrated but don’t fixate on it. As a white belt the main goal is to become a black belt. This is true but each beginner should start off with basic goals, learn how to tie your belt, memorise the first kata and learn all of the […]

2017 IKD World Camp

In 2 weeks, the IKD will hold the 6th IKD World Honbu Camp. The organisation has grown with leaps and bounds over the past few years and recently expanded into Australia. Each year at Camp there has been a theme, last year was kobudo, weapons. This year will have two themes. The Science of Karate […]

Search my site

Twitter Updates

No public Twitter messages.