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Shogo and the Dai Nippon Butokukai
by Scot Mertz
19 December 2021

The organization known as the Dai Nippon Butokukai (大日本武徳会) was established on 17 April 1895. The first president was the Imperial Prince Komatsu Akihito (小松彰仁, 11 February 1846 - 18 February 1903). At its first official event in October of the same year the membership was at 989 total members from all of Japan. At this first event a title was issued called Seiren (精錬証 - Seirensho for the certificate), which roughly translates to refined or tempered. The original awardees were 17 Kyujutsu practitioners, 15 Kenjutsu practitioners, 6 Jujutsu practitioners, and 3 Sojutsu practitioners.


Kendoka awarded the Seirensho in 1895
Front Row (from R), Yaichiro Umezaki, Yachi Konan, Kanichiro Mihashi, Sonroku Ishiyama, Shiro Tokunou, and Sakonta Okumura.
Back Row (from R), Katsumi Yoshida, Minesaburo Takayama, Nanshiro Matsuzaki, Zenjiro Kagawa, Mamoru Abe, Fujio Hara

This went on until 1902 when the titles Hanshi (範士) and Kyoshi (教士) were established, however the Seirensho was still issued during events for individuals who showed a lot of martial spirit, however it was noted that no single person ever received the Seirensho twice, where the first two titles followed the person and didn't have to be continually awarded.

In 1930 Karate was officially brought into the Dai Nippon Butokukai, however it was under the name Konnote (漢の手, meaning Chinese hand)

Many people believed that Seirensho should stay as an official title like Hanshi and Kyoshi, however in 1934 the Seirensho title/certificate was disestablished, and the Renshi (錬士) title was added to the list of Shogo. However, the first karate practitioner was not awarded this title until 1936, the first was Inagaki Torakichi (稻垣虎吉), which can be seen in the Dai Nippon Butokukai Name book from 1937.

By 1941 the Dai Nippon Butokukai had began listing various other marital arts than the original charter had stated, they were listing bojutsu, hojo, iai, jujutsu, judo, jukendo, karate, Kendo, kusarigama, Kyudo, naginata, sojutsu, tessen, and various jutsu.

In the Butokukai Name Directory you can find a list of all the individuals who received a title, the date of award, address, and date of birth. Deceased Hanshi title owners were also listed out.

In the 1941 listing, the following Karatejutsu people are listed. Kyoshi: Miyagi Chojun, Konishi Yasuhiro, and Ueshima Sannosuke. Renshi: Funakoshi Gichin, Funakoshi Gigo, Higa Seiko, Mabuni Kenwa, Nagamine Shoshin, Otuska Hironori, Shinzato Jin'an, and several others.

It should be noted that the Dai Nippon Butokukai never established which belts should be worn with these titles. The belts were largely due to the impact that Judo, in particular Kano Jigoro, had on early karate development and acceptance.

-1884 Kano Jigoro introduced the Dankyuisei system (Dan/Kyu system) to Judo.
-1886 Kano Jigoro introduces the black belt for Dan level and white belt for Kyu level.
-1924 Funakoshi Gichin adopted the Dankyuisei from Judo and awarded 6 Shodan ranks and 1 Nidan.
-1930 Kano Jigoro established the Kohaku Obi (紅白帯) for his Kodansha (高段者/High Ranked Students).
-1937 Colored Belts were introduced by Kawaishi Mikinosuke. The belts were dyed darker as rank progressed.
-1943 The Aka Obi was introduced in Judo for 9th and 10th dans and was based on kanreki.*
-1945 Karate's Rank system went from 5th dan to 10th dan

In 1946 the Dai Nippon Butokukai was dissolved by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers as part of the post war treaty. More than 1300 officials associated with the Dai Nippon Butokukai were purged, they were ostracized, lost their jobs, and were forbidden from employment in any government position.

In 1953 a new Dai Nippon Butokukai was established, but never gained any of the government backing or prestige that the previous organization enjoyed.

The there were several renshi designed belts in mainland Japan over the years. Yamaguchi Gogen sensei used a red on one side and white on the other belt design for renshi. The more common red/white and black on the back was designed in the late 1960s. All of these belts were established after the pre-war Dai Nippon Butokukai was already abolished.

In Okinawa, while the titles are used, the belts are not always used. In Okinawan karate you will typically see the red/white and red obi for ceremonial use, but some individuals do teach in them. There is no renshi belt used in Okinawan karate. Most commonly you will see solid black belts with stripes to represent each of the titles. One stripe is a Renshi (6th dan), two stripes is a Kyoshi (7th-8th dan), and three stripes is a Hanshi (8th dan to 10th dan). Each organization awards them for different things, however holding a rank does not mean the individual has earned the title. There are usually other requirements for separating oneself outside of the herd.

Gambatte Kudasai!!!
Scot


References:
History of the Belt System - Matt Sheridan
Dai Nippon Butokukai Name Directory - Andreas Quast
Dai Nippon Butokukai - Wikipedia
Research on the Process of Establishing Martial Arts - Masatoshi Sugie

* Life begins at 60 - Daniel Morales - JapanTimes
* This concept is seen in karate as Red belts representing 1 lifetime of training (60 years of continuous training)
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