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You (or your child) have recently achieved a karate promotion. 

As part of that promotion, you may have requested a certificate of rank. 

Here, you’ll learn what your certificate says in Japanese.

But first, you’ll need to understand how it’s written. 

How To Read Japanese Characters

In English, we read horizontally from left to right, top to bottom.

Traditional Japanese characters are written in vertical columns. 

You begin reading from the far right, top to bottom. 

Once you finish a column, you go back up to the top of the page, reading down the next column. 

This form of writing is referred to as tategaki in Japanese. 

An Example Certificate

To understand the diagram, match the corresponding number to the element on your certificate.

1. Certificate

The two large symbols on the far-right side are the Japanese kanji for “certificate.” 

2. Name

The first bit of English on the right side is your certificate is your name. 

3. Rank

Immediately to the left of your name is your rank. 

Colored belts count ranks backward from black belt level—the higher your kyu rank is, the further away from black belt you are. 

You can read more about how belts work in karate

4. Martial Art

Listed next is your “budo,” or martial art.

In our case, our budo is Shinmei Shorinryu karate. 

5. Association

Metamora Martial Arts is a member in good standing with the International Okinawan Budokai. 

6. Group

We also belong to the International Shinmei Shorinryu Karate Jutsu Renmei. 

7, 8, and 9. Leaders

The next two lines, respectively, pay tribute to Mike Hancock, soke (the head of our style), and Amy Hancock, soke dai.

The next three lines pay tribute to Mr. Hancock as soke of IOBK, Shinmei jiujitsu (grappling and submission holds), and Shinmei kobudo (weapons). 

10. Date & Certification

The last two lines indicate the date the individual achieved their rank. 

Some Additional Notes

You’ll likely be more used to the English parts of the certificate located on the left-hand side that include:

  • Name
  • Martial art
  • Rank / title
  • Date
  • The signature of Hanshi Matt Molineux, the current head of IOBK and our style of karate
  • My signature

If you’ve got any additional questions about what’s on your certificate, please let me know. 

Until then… congratulations, once again! 

Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is the head instructor for Metamora Martial Arts. He's practiced and taught martial arts for 20+ years, holds black belts in karate and tai chi chuan, and is also a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise.