Martial Arts Titles used in Japanese and Okinawan Martial Arts

Originally written around 2015 by Matt Sheridan

範士 hanshi. 範 (han) means model, example, or pattern. 士 (shi) means gentleman, scholar, or warrior. A hanshi is thus the model samurai or model warrior.

教士 kyoushi. 教 (kyou) means teacher so the kyoushi is the teacher of warriors, or the warrior that instructs.

練士 renshi. 練 (ren) means to polish or drill. Thus renshi is the warrior that drills, or the polished warrior.

教士 isn’t in most Japanese dictionaries but 教師 (kyoushi) will be. 教師 means professor and I have hypothesized that this is where calling a high ranking black belt a professor comes from.

範士 isn’t in most Japanese dictionaries, but 藩士 (hanshi) might be and is a retainer.

達士 tasshi was replaced with the kyoushi title and in some cases may still be used. 達 (ta) means expert so a tasshi is the expert warrior.

Doushi is another no longer used title. Not sure what the kanji was for it as I have been unable to locate it. It was a lower title than renshi. Perhaps it was 道士 which would be a warrior of the way. However, 道士 refers to a daoist priest. Perhaps it was 同士 meaning fellow or companion, which would say you are referring to one of your peers. Regardless, it is speculation about doushi until I find or am provided the proper kanji.

A note on shihah. 師範 (shihan). We have already seen both characters above. Shihan is thus the teaching model or teaching example.

Published by mattskaratecorner

A martial arts student and instructor. A school teacher and researcher. A curmudgeon with a lot on his mind.

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