A legitimate head of a martial arts system in the Japanese language is known as a "Soke"  an heir to the art or system is known as a Soke Nidai meaning second generation Soke. Sandai means third generation Soke and so on as the Japanese spells and calls their number system.

Although number one in Japanese is Ichi. It is not used for the first generation Soke because he would be the founder of that particular system.

Thus he is called Soke "Shodai"  A Shodai can never have a rank in his own system. He founded it, thus there is no one authorized to promote him.

Thus anyone who calls himself a tenth dan in his own art is a fraud! After all, who can promote him to any grade? Its his system, not another's to promote him in !!! 

But, because he is the founder of his own art. He is authorized to promote up to and including tenth Dan/Degree black (Red Belt).

A Soke Shodai is above the rank structure in his own art.

If a Soke Shodai claims to be a tenth Dan/Degree, it must be in another art or he should be the "Heir" to the system and he should have black belt certificates from Shodan through Judan (10th Dan).

The question is, How can you found your own art. The answer is simple and yet very complexed. Anyone can found their own system without having any knowledge of any martial arts what so ever.

This is where Sokeship associations come in to play. If someone has worked many decades and achived high black belt grades and wants to found their own system, they can apply to a Sokeship association for the following.


Here a group of other founders can recognize you as being one of their own. But what if they are all frauds and never held a high ranking black belt?


Here the same group of founders can give you a certificate, meaning you are certified through their Sokeship association, board, organization, federation and anything else they want to call it.


Here, again any Sokeship board can claim they can do this for the new Soke Shodai. But can they really? Yes they can because they are accrediting you and your art through their association.



Here a group of Head-Family Soke (One who has earned tenth dan in a legitimate martial arts system and then inherited the system from the founder or second or higher generation heir Head-Family Soke).

This is the ultimate in full accreditation. There is nothing higher. All members of the S.M.K. go through an exhaustive and extensive background check into their martial arts and criminal background.


13794 West Waddell Road.  Ste. 203-183  Surprise, Arizona   U.S.A
Rev. D. Jeffrey, Dai-Soke / President




The Soke Menkyo Kai was founded in 2000 to help fill a void in the martial arts

community. Many have sought to receive true accreditation for the many years of

training in the martial arts / ways which have lead to them founding their own martial arts system.

The problem faced was not knowing where to turn. Many looked to associations where they only received "Recognition" by founders recognizing founders or just recognition from a group of martial arts masters.

Now through


One can receive what one truly deserves. Full accreditation  as a



What is "Head - Family Accreditation" ??

Imagine one training for many decades in one art/way and earning the highest grade possible and then inherited the system as Soke. That is known as a Soke "Head - Family."

Head - Family Soke of the Soke Menkyo Kai are not founders recognizing founders, but real and true accreditation for the founder and his system.  

Donald Jeffrey holds two Head - Family Sokeships as well as two founderships. But thats not all.

The Soke Menkyo Kai has several Head - Family Sokes as members as well.

All S.M.K. membersalso personally have formed a brotherhood and are united together in

bringing real accreditation to the martial arts and ways.

One may have noticed that over the years our website has not changed much. This is because

accreditation is accreditation and there is nothing new about it.



A martial arts belt is just a belt. But with all the differant colors, color combinations and stripes, all martial arts belts

have particular meanings, esspecially within their respective systems.

Back over a half a century ago, I started my training in Judo (1969) and changed to karate shortly after.

I remember back then that a "Black belt" (A Shodan/1st degree) although it meant you were a serious student,

it also meant you knew your stuff. You could defend yourself against multiple men attacking you.

It was without a doubt, the mark of a real man.

You were able to break a 1-2" thick pine board with your fingertips and a cinder patio block with a knifehand. 

Sparring in our school was where we fought by the percentage of your full strength and there was no protection equipment!

As a kyu level student, you did not dare ask when you would receive a darker color belt as oppossed to your white belt.

You just did what you were told without question and practiced and practiced on your own at home as much as you could. After

my third week of training, there were blisters on the balls of my feet as well as my knuckles. This was from all the

pivoting and knuckle pushups on a wooden floor.

There were no mats. When you practiced throws, you landed on a wooden floor. the first fifteen minutes of class was

our warm up time. Today, one would call it punishment. Knuckle pushups, then draging your feet from one end of the dojo

to the other while punching the wooden floor, always with your first two knuckles.  Laying on your back, raising your legs up six

inches and then, holding them there, then moving them up and down ever so slightly. When it came time where you

felt you could not do it anymore, he came the Sensei, jumping on each students stomach and then upon reaching the end of

the line, he would run back over the top of his students stomachs again.

Stretching was not like taking a break. Here we would have our Sensei pushing on us, so as to increase our stretching !  I would like

to add here that I was eleven years old !  There were no childrens classes, there was just class.

I trained with adults and was treated as such.  There was no consideration for my age and I was expected to do what everyone did.

There were no excuses. I trained for two years (As a white belt) before I received my first promotion to green belt.

When I was a green belt, the school held a tournament.

Keeping in mind that there was no protective equipment for karate and cups were not designed to wear for kicking in 1974.

And I knew I could not beat two other green belts that had entered. They were men and much better than I was.

But I kept eyeing the third place green belt trophy sitting amoungst all of the trophies at the awards table.

Sure enough, when it came time to spar, I bowed in and took a jump front kick right to my chest that sent me flying across the room.

I was so shaken up that when it came time to bow in again I had no idea where I even was.

Nor do I remember how I was struck, all I knew was that I didn't win the first place. My opponents name was Mark.

He was a man in his late twenties. I had figured he would win first place and he did.

My second place sparring came so quick, I also don't remember how I lost, but I did. His name was Jack, He was in his early twenties

and even larger than Mark.

I was able to get enough rest to regain my witts about me when it came time for the third place trophy.

Yes, the one that I had been eyeing the whole time. The only thing that was in my way was a

twenty seven year old man named Cliff.  Being only thirteen, I felt I was at a slight disadvantage, but no matter,

I was taking home that trophy.  

To make a long story short, I did take home that trophy. I beat Cliff two to nothing.  



What Happened to Ryukyu "TI."

I will put this as simply as I can. Before Japan militarily controlled Ryukyu, it was a very busy port between many asian countries, such as the Philipines, China, Taiwan and Japan to name a few.

During that time (Up through the early 1800's) Ryukyu had Ti masters who guarded the king. The king also had others patrol the country and man the docks to keep order and handle unruly sailors.

The warrior art of Ti or hand was passed from father to first son and the first son was automatically brought in as the kings bodyguard and or palace security, patrol and the docks. 

Although the art of Ti was secret and kept from the general population on Ryukyu. There were always some that were willing to teach it to relatives and friends.

Upon Japan taking over the kingdom, all weapons were banned. You can also bet any hand to hand fighting was also band and with samurai in charge, discovery would have been an instant death sentence.  

When Ti was discovered, the Japanese were told that it was not a combative art, but a physical exorcise for self defense only and personal growth.

This explanation fell right into the new way Japan began to think about the martial arts. Namely, the code of bushido. They bought it hook, line and sinker.

In the 1920's  the Japanese


owned and controlled Ryukyu for whom they called Okinawa. They controlled it militarilly.  Although Ryukyu "Ti" later to become known as "Karate," Was practiced hidden from the Japanese sight and remained secret. There were no "Ryu" or system name to diffientiate what one teacher was teaching from the next. It was who you trained under which is how one could tell the differance. 



History of the Karate Ranking System

The following essay is taken from the writing and research of Hanshi Richard Kim (Butoku-kai). In this 1993 exposition, Kim details how the dan/kyu (degree) system was adopted by modem budo organizations, promulgated by the Butoku-kai, and codified in its final form for Japanese karatedo by the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organizations (FAJKO) as well as the All Okinawan Karatedo Federation (AOKF).

Important facts have been put in italics and colored in blue.

Soke Don Jeffrey’s comments have been entered in italics and colored in red.

While some of these early events are shrouded in mystery, this much we know for certain: On April 12, 1924, Gichin Funakoshi, the "Father of Modern Karate," awarded karate's first black belt dan upon seven men. The recipients included Hironori Ohtsuka, founder of wado-ryu karatedo, Shinken Gima, later of gima-ha shoto-ryu, and Ante Tokuda, Gima's cousin, who received a nidan (second degree) black belt. Like Gima, Tokuda had trained extensively in Okinawa before coming to Japan. The others were Kasuya, Akiba, Shimizu and Hirose. Bestowing these belts was a highly personal, yet formal ceremony in which Funakoshi is said to have handed out lengths of black belting to each of his pupils. Still there is no evidence that Funakoshi himself had ranking in any budo under the dan/kyu system.

Funakoshi was greatly influenced by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, and originator of the dan/kyu system. Kano was a highly respected individual, and Funakoshi prided himself on being an educated and "proper" man who rightly believed that he was acting correctly. Kano's system was not only being applied to judo, but to other budo as well under the aegis of the Butoku-kai and the Japanese Ministry of Education. Funakoshi, then, just adopted the order of the day: a ranking system officially sanctioned by Japan's greatest martial arts entities. Funakoshi's own rank was of no consequence, since it seems that belt ranking was really just something for the students, not for headmasters.

For its part, the Butoku-kai issued instructor's licenses: the titles renshi (the lowest), kyoshi, and hanshi (the highest). It would be a while before the dan/kyu system became universal in karate. By the end of the 1930s, each karate group was called upon to register with the butoku-kai for official sanctioning, and in 1938, a meeting of the Butoku-kai's official karatedo leaders was held in Tokyo. Its purpose was to discuss the standards for awarding rank within their art. Attending, among others, were Hironori Ohtsuka of wado-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni of shito-ryu, Kensei Kinjo (Kaneshiro) and Sannosuke Ueshima of kushin-ryu, Tatsuo Yamada of Nippon kempo, Koyu Konishi of shindo-jinen-ryu, and a young Gogen Yamaguchi of goju-ryu. Most of these men were founders of their own styles, and as such automatically became the highest rank that their agreed-on respective standards allowed. Yamaguchi assumed leadership of goju-ryu because, we are told, goju-ryu's founder, Chojun Miyagi, personally asked him to take the leadership of the style in Japan. At this same time, Funakoshi finalized the grading standards for use at his shotokan dojo.

Of course, the Butoku-kai continued to sanction head teachers directly. This was not without controversy, however, since Konishi sat on the board that awarded Funakoshi his renshi and Konishi had been Funakoshi's student. Of course, Konishi had inside ties to the Butoku-kai by virtue of birth, something the Okinawan Funakoshi could not have.

Back on Okinawa, the dan/kyu system did not become universal until after World War II. It was not unknown there, however, some individual teachers did utilize the black belt.

Judo had been practiced on Okinawa at least since the 1920s. In fact, it was at a Judo Black Belt Association (Yudanshakai) meeting on Okinawa that Miyagi and Shito-ryu's Kenwa Mabuni demonstrated karate kata (forms) for Jigoro Kano garnering praises from the judo founder. Miyagi, it should be noted, became the first karate expert given the title of kyoshi (master) from the butoku-kai in 1937. Miyagi was then appointed chief of its Okinawan branch.

Post WW-II Ranking Federations

After the ravages of war in the Pacific, the surviving karate leaders had to begin anew. With the Butoku-kai administration shut down for years to come, each karate group was on its own. The acknowledged leaders of each faction, as well as individual dojo heads, gave out dan ranks based upon all original sanctioning by the Butoku-kai or mandates inherited directly from the ryu's founder.

Rushing in to fill the vacuum left by the Butoku-kai, various dojo coalesced to perpetuate the art and legitimize its members' ranks. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, each new association, including the Gojukai, Shito-kai, Chito-kai, Shotokai and Japan Karate associations codified their rules and issued rank accordingly.

Generally, several instructors created a board of directors or council to govern the association. Some officer, be it the chief instructor, president, director or chairman would have signature authority on menjo (rank certificates). In this way, the senior-most members would attain their rank by being acknowledged and "signed off" by the board or committee. Even though the board members or officials had no formal training in the fighting arts they were issuing rank in.

This was also true in Japan whereas Funakoshi was issued a fifth dan (Godan) by a board of Japanese martial artists (Butoku Kai) that never studied any form of karate.  

Other times, a senior member of one faction would attain high enough rank from the faction-head to then go out and form his own style or organization. Supposedly, the famous Masutatsu Oyama received his eighth dan from Goju-kai head Gogen Yamaguchi. Oyama later formed his own style.

Recognition by the Japanese Ministry of Education was the ultimate sanction for individuals and groups on mainland Japan. New associations -- both in Japan proper and in Okinawa -- appeared around this time. These became recognized authorities in granting rank, much in the way the Butoku-kai had acted previously.

As with the single-style clubs, the head instructors often assumed the rank for which they were qualified, based on criteria they wrote themselves.

Thus, education administrators of the Japanese Ministry of education were now issuing ranks along with dojo heads. The question here remains how many promoted themselves ??

One of the first was the All Japan Karatedo Federation, which seems to have started shortly after World War II as a confederation of headmasters such as Funakoshi, Chitose, Mabuni, Yamaguchi and Toyama. They standardized the dan/kyu system to some extent, and with this group the modern Japanese karate ranking system became the norm.

This unity did not last however. For example, the ranking was not consistent from group to group in the upper levels. The shotokan associations such as the JKA and the Shotokai only issued rank up to godan (fifth dan) at this time. As a result, some groups had ceased to participate by the early 1950s.

Even more reminiscent of the Butoku-kai was the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF), known as the Kokusai Budoin. Originally named the National Japan Health Association, the IMAF was launched in 1952 by powerful martial artists from several disciplines. From judo there was Kyuzo Mifune, Kazuo Ito and Shizuo Sato. From kendo came Hakudo Nakayama and Hiromasa Takano, and from karatedo there was Hironori Ohtsuka.

The founding of IMAF is what changed black belt (Yudansha) grades from the highest being that of Godan or fifth degree black belt to tenth degree.

Its first chairman was Prince Tsunenori Kaya. From the start, IMAF was set up by senior martial artists to preserve and promote various budo to create a mutually supportive network. A ranking system consisting of first through tenth dan, as well as the title system of renshi, kyoshi and hanshi, was adopted. Now highly respected and skilled instructors could have a direct avenue for promoting their own black belts.

Several karateka including Gogen Yamaguchi, Hironori Ohtsuka (I and II), and more recently, Hirokazu Kanazawa of shotokan, received their highest grades through IMAF. That being the tenth (10th) Dan/Degree.

Okinawa's Ranking System

For Okinawa, the dan/kyu system did not really take hold until 1956, with the formation of the Okinawa Karate Association (OKF). Chosin Chibana, first to name his system shorin-ryu, was the first president. According to the historical data of the Shudokan (another Japanese group started by Kanken Toyama in Tokyo).

Chibana and Toyama were officially recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education to grant any rank in the art of karate, regardless of style.

Chibana helped organize the OKF, and it was then that the mainstream Okinawan groups, on a widespread basis, began differentiating their black belt ranks as other than simple teacher and student demarcations.

Toyama issued several certifications to various dojo heads in Okinawa and Japan. These were usually shibucho (superintendent), from the feudal area commander title diplomas.

These certifications set up the individuals so named as head of their own branch of the All Japan Karatedo Federation and, by extension, of their own groups. Eizo Shimabuku, founder of the shobayashi-ryu/shorin-ryu (a Kyan-type tomarite/shurite shorin-ryu blend), traces his own tenth dan to a Toyama certification. Shimabuku's assumption of the tenth dan, and his wearing of a red belt, was not without dispute, and it was controversies of this type that led most Okinawan leaders to eschew the red belt altogether.

The AJKF did not last as a unified group of different styles in Japan. Toyama's foray back to Okinawa did lead later to the formation of the AJKF-Okinawa Branch with the organizing help of Isamu Tamotsu. Tamotsu became a student of Okinawa's Zenryo Shimabuku (of Kyan-type shorinryu) and would become known as the soke (style head) of the Japanese faction of Shorinji-ryu. In 1960, the Okinawan branch of the AJKF organized with Zenryo Shimabuku as president. A constituent group of this AJKF was the Okinawa Kempo League headed up by Shigeru Nakamura and Zenryo Shimabuku as a loose confederation of various technique sharing dojo.

Like other associations, the AJKF Okinawa Branch provided for the ranking of its member instructors. It operated as a rival to the Okinawa Karate Federation. However, it did not last long either and its member schools drifted away and formed other alliances. Its emblem did not die, however. The same patch is still used by Tsuyoshi Chitose's Chito-kai. The center karate leaders continued on their own or became part of other groups, using authority inherited mostly from members of one of the original Okinawan organizations, the most significant is the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Rengokai (originally forming under the name Okinawa Kobudo Federation in 1961). The Rengokai was organized by Seitoku Higa (of various lineages related to shorin-ryu) and Seikichi Uehara (molobu-ryu) in 1967.

One of the most significant events in the use of the dan/kyu system in karate was the formation of the FAJKO in 1964. All the major groups and factions of Japanese karatedo were brought under FAJKO's umbrella. By 1971, a ranking structure was adopted that standardized all the systems within Japan.

After the birth of FAJKO, the JKA upgraded its own ranking requirements to conform. Sixth and eighth dans were awarded in the JKA back in the mid-1960s, and Hidetaka Nishiyama in Los Angeles was one of those upgraded at that time. In other words, with none of them even knowing the system, they just promoted him because they wanted him to have a higher rank.

 Though not all groups participate in FAJKO these days, most still are tied to that organization in terms of rank structure and sanction. Others, not so tied, have

conformed to the FAJKO criteria and standards nonetheless.

Shortly after FAJKO was launched, the Okinawans formed the All Okinawa Karatedo Federation as a successor to the old OKF. Members of both the OKF and AJKF-Okinawa Branch became part of the new association. Some of Okinawa's most mainstream karate leaders formed the AOKF board. These included Shoshin Nagamine, Zenryo Shimabuku, Meitoku Yagi of gojuryu, Kanei Uechi of uechi-ryu and Yuchoku Higa of shorin-ryu. They adopted a dan/kyu and renshi, kyoshi, hanshi system almost identical to FAJKOs.

The All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Rengokai certified as hanshi several senior karateka who were style or group heads in their own right. These included Shinsuke Kaneshima of Tozan-ryu from shurite, Hohan Soken of matsumura shorin-ryu, Shinpo Matayoshi of matayoshi kobudo Kenko Nakaima of ryuel-ryu, ShianToma of shorin-ryu (Kyan type) and motobu-ryu, Tatsuo Shimabuku of isshin-ryu, Shosei Kina of uhuchiku kobudo, and Zenryo Shimabuku of shorin-ryu.

It is clear that karate ranks sprang from several original sources -- a relatively modem construct on an old martial art. It was issued by individuals and institutions with set standards that were recognized by other prestigious groups and individuals. And this is the crux of the matter: For rank to be recognized, it  must be recognized within karate's mainstream community.

It must be based in tradition, and linked to a body or sanctioned individual who is perceived as beyond reproach. The standards by which rank is achieved and given must be recognizable, and conform to already existing norms in the Okinawan/Japanese martial arts hierarchy. Anyone can print up or write a fancy certificate, but absent of any governmental or legal guidelines, it is the recognition and acceptance by existing groups and institutions that give each ranking group or individual its legitimacy.

Thus, one can see how politics played a large role in Karate ranks. People with no knowledge of karate whatsoever were on boards that promoted people in their own system. This had gotten so bad that some may have even promoted themselves!

The Soke Menkyo Kai maintains that the only true way for one to receive full accreditation of the founding of a martial arts system is via the “Head-Family” way of accreditation.

As stated many times throughout our web page, a Head-Family Soke is one who reached the highest grade obtainable, that being tenth dan or tenth degree black (Red) belt and then inheriting the system he is a tenth dan in.

The Soke Menkyo Kai is one of the very few accreditation agencies that can issue this type of accreditation. It is not recognition and it is not certification. Full accreditation is above this play on words.

The Soke Menkyo Kai is proud to have several Head-Family 10th Dan Soke Heirs as officers for this very thing.