Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ, by Tim Jurgens (2006)

Below are the questions and answers reconstructed from notes taken 21 July at the local izakaya that is so often the stopping point for a quick bite of local cuisine and a refreshing drink after hard training at the Hombu.

Question 1. What are the Kanji characters for Doko Kai and what are their translation to English?

同 = Do This character is most often seen as 同じ or Onaji or same or sameness.
好 = Ko Usually seen as 好き Suki to like. It is made up of the radicals of mother and child to indicated the feelings of like as being like that of a mother for her child.
会 = Kai This means association or gathering.

So Dokokai means a gathering of people who like the same thing. In this case Kobudo. As there were situations where people wanted to gather together to train Kobudo where a certified instructor was not available the Dokokai system was adopted.

Question 2. What is the significance of the strips on black belts and how does it work with our association? How does it compare to schools that use red and white belts?

One Stripe = Renshi 錬士 = 6th Dan 六段
Two Stripes = Kyoshi 教士 = 7th Dan 七段 – 8th Dan 八段
Three Stripes = Hanshi 範士 = 9th Dan 九段 – 10th Dan十段

For Read and White Belts our association does not use them and they are not so common on Okinawa although some schools such as the Shorinkan School do use them. These come from the Judo system more popular in Mainland Japan.

Most likely a striped belt signifies 7th – 8th Dan and a solid Red Belt signifies 9th – 10th Dan. This is not to be confused with some Korean based associations that use a Red Belt as a pre-Black Belt ranking. There is also potentially some significance in how the belt is constructed in terms of whither it starts with Red or starts with White but it may be best to as someone in an association that uses them to get the best explanation.

Additional explanation of the titles above.

Renshi 錬士 The character on the left means hardened. It is used in words such as Neru 練る or Kitaeru known by many people who have trained bone hardening techniques. The right Character 士means person perhaps best know as Bushi武士 and as an alternative writing of 侍 or Samurai. So a Renshi is someone who has been hardened by his or her years of training.

Kyoshi 教士 The character on the left again is significant here. The right character is the same in all three titles. Oshieru 教える means to teach, so a Kyoshi has the meaning of a teacher.

Hanshi範士Again focusing on the left as the right is the same the character is also used in Mohan 模範 which means perfection. This leads us to the meaning of one who has attained perfection. This is usually a title reserved for only persons who have spent decades training and it is unusual to see anyone below their 70’s with this title.

Now it is most interesting to note that the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai does not use the striped belt system. There are several photos of some of our members with striped belts but in those cases the belts were from their Karate Associations. As the grades between Kobudo and Karate are not linked there is no meaning, however as it is a bother and expensive to maintain two belts at times people will just use the belt that is available. It is also of interest to note that our Second President Eisuke Akamine is featured in several well publicized photos wearing a striped belt. That belt was a gift from the Shureido shop in Okinawa and they put the stripes on the belt.

Lastly the titles Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi are relatively new to Okinawan associations and they are not used to a great extent in the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai. Instead the titles used are Shidoin 指導員 and Shihan 師範.

Shidoin 指導員 means one who has a teaching certificate. In our association persons who have attained 3rd Dan 参段can apply for a Shidoin certification. Additionally Dojo Licenses can be applied for at this grade. They are not always requested and are not obligatory to be issued. A person who is training at a major dojo for instance may not feel the need to apply for one. Also a person who may not yet be ready to teach despite having proficiency at the San Dan level may not be issued a license. Shidoin can grade people to two grades below their own.

Shihan 師範 are persons who have received from their direct instructor a Menkyokaiden 免許皆伝. Again this can only be granted by the students teacher and this should be the goal of a serious martial artists. A Menkyokaiden is a license to teach all and is an indication that the teacher has come to a point where he has full confidence in his student’s ability to carry on the art.

First instalment by Tim Jurgens with assistance with getting the characters to come out of the IME right from my wonderful wife Mikako