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Rank is a very subjective thing. Some people are promoted quickly while others remain at lower ranks for decades. A lot depends on the sensei, dojo, organization, etc., which again, is very subjective. If you learn from a godan (5th degree black belt), it will be very difficult for you to become a godan yourself. It is possible, just difficult. However, if your sensei is a judan, there is plenty of room for your advancement.

These are petty considerations for serious Karate students. Training polishes the spirit. There is no rank for that.

When I meet another Karate student or instructor, I might notice their rank (relative to mine for certain purposes), but I am more interested in how long they have trained. If they have trained longer than me, irrespective or rank or style, I will consider him or her to be my sempai (senior).

There is no shame in being junior to someone. In fact, I find it preferable. Seniors are much more likely to teach me things. Juniors, traditionally, will be reluctant to "teach" or correct a senior.

I am in an unusual situation with respect to my first Shorin-Ryu sensei. Because he retired many years ago, I have risen to a higher rank than he holds. Of course, he is my senior in every way and would have a higher rank had he not retired. But this points out the weakness of any ranking system. I would never act senior to him... never.

I met a gentleman at a seminar many years ago. I was a sandan at that time and he was a shodan. However, he had trained for many more years than me. As it turned out, his sensei refused to promote him because he had not done something the sensei had requested. Nevertheless, I treated this gentleman as my senior, and still would. He has trained for much longer than me.

I have heard that the higher dan ranking you obtain, the more it costs. Some dan certificates can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. My sensei must be very unusual. When I received my last promotion three years ago, he charged nothing at all.

Rank is a very subjective thing.


Charles C. Goodin