Since this weekend my sensei made it more-or-less official that she wants me to start training to take my godan test at the next opportunity, it seems appropriate to begin this new blog with some thoughts about rank in the study of karate.
As with much of the framework of contemporary martial arts, the dan and kyu ranks as we know them today in Japanese arts were invented by Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo, in the late nineteenth and earth twentieth centuries. (The system is possibly based on a ranking system from the game of go.) Going back before that, in the older Japanese arts there was a menkyo, or "license", system, and also the shogo system of titles for teachers (renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi). Some aspects of the menkyo and shogo systems survive to the present day, but in Japanese karate they are secondary to the kyu/dan system.