Karate Dan Ranks: Can we add them? 段位は加算できるのか

I saw an article in one of the Mixed Martial Arts sites and it made me laugh. The title is “This master has TWO 10th degree black belts in MMA”. The article reads

Shang-Men-Rem Prof. Gilberto Pauciullo (photo right) has hitherto unequaled qualifications in martial arts. His 22 10th degree black belts include five in Jiu-Jitsu alone, and one in mixed martial arts.”

Very impressive, huh? Well this is not the end of the extra ordinary story.

Believe it or not, the article introduces us to a more impressive (?) master in India who seems to be super human. The article continues like this, “However, the accomplishments are dwarfed by those of  Grand Master Dai Soke Supreme Grand Master Dai Soke Prof/Dr. Jgdish Singh Khatri (PhD) M.A. (IGF): With 45 years of documented study of the martial arts, Supreme Prof/Dr. Jagdish Singh Khatri (PhD) M.A. (IGF) has earned 43 10th degree black belts, and two 12th degree black belts.” 

Here is a photo of this very impressive martial arts master from India.

If you are bored and happen to have some extra time, you may want to read the entire article. Here is the link:


I am sure the readers are thoroughly impressed with these masters and some (maybe a few?) of you may even want to join their dojo. Now all joking aside, we know these characters are most likely bogus. However, it is also true that most of us would be impressed if a karateka has a dan rank from other Japanese martial arts such as Iaido, Kenjutsu, Jujutsu, etc. In fact, I respect those who are dedicated to martial arts and are able to master more than one art.

The mastery in multiple martial arts is not a strange thing in Japan. We are well aware that the samurai had to learn 18 different martial arts to prepare their fighting skills.

For those who are interested, those 18 arts are Kyu utsu (archery), Ba jutsu (horse riding), So jutsu (spear), Ken jutsu (sword), Eiho jutsu (swimming), Batto jutsu (sword drawing), Tanto jutsu (knife), Jutte jutsu (Jutte weapon), Shuriken (dart), Fukushin jutsu (needle spitting), Naginata jutsu (halbart), Ho justsu (rifle), Totte or Torite or Hojo jutsu (rope binding), Ju jutsu, Bo jutsu (stick or cane), Kusarigama (lock sickle), Mojiri or Mojigiri (gimlet or awl) and Shinobi or Nin jutsu.

Having said that I must bring up a very important fact that many of us are confused about and sadly misunderstand. There is a mystery or a trick of numbers. Depending on the situation, you can or cannot add some numbers. Many people get confused as they mix up the situation of can and cannot. Maybe my explanation here in itself is confusing. Let me clarify this by using some simple scientific examples.


Here is a photo of two glasses of water. For the sake of argument let us say each glass contains 50ml of water. Now, if you pour the water from each glass into one large bottle or a pitcher, how much water will it be there? It is simple, isn’t it? Yes, we will have 100 ml of water provided you did not spill any. This is straight forward and no one has a problem with it. This is the clear case where we can add the numbers.

Then, let’s think about another situation of this same water where we cannot add the numbers. Say the temperature of the water in each glass is 20 degrees C. What would be the temperature of the total water when you combine both glasses? Will it be 40 degrees (20 + 20) after mixing? I am sure you will say “No”. If it (additing the temperature) was scientifically true, then I can boil water (100 degrees) by adding two cups of water that are at 50 degrees each. I am sure you agree that this is not the case and these numbers cannot be added.


Let’s take another example. Here is a photo of two Alkaline 1.5-Volt batteries. If you use two batteries together, a flashlight will last twice as long than when using only one battery. The length of power, say 1 month or whatever, in other words, the amount of active time, is a case where the numbers can be added.


On the other hand, the voltage of each battery, 1.5V, is the number you cannot add if used in parallel connection. I am sure you expect the total voltage to remain at 1.5V even if you put two batteries together. This is the same no matter how many batteries you may put together. Even if you connect one thousand batteries the total voltage will never be 1500V. If you had believed that it did, you will be labeled as stupid or are ignorant of science. You will agree that this is the example of numbers that cannot be added. (note: the voltage can increase if the batteries are connected in series.)


I have explained that there are some numbers that can be added and some others that cannot be added. So far, I am sure you have no problem following me. Now, I suspect you can guess what I want to tell you next.


Correct. The numbers for the dan ranks cannot be added. We must understand this very clearly as this is where many of the people are being tricked. Let’s consider a situation that happens often. A karateka may earn a certain dan rank, say, Godan or 5 dan in one Shotokan organization.


This person may change their affiliation and the new organization may grant him also a Godan or 5 dan. In this situation he has two Go dan diplomas but he cannot claim that he has a 10th dan. I am sure you agree to this but we tend, mistakenly, to get impressed. This is the problem.


I explained the situation of the two ranks from two different organizations of the same style. How about if the styles are different, say Shotokan and Goju ryu, or Shito ryu, etc? It is true that it will take a lot of talent and dedication to earn dan ranks from two different styles. Despite that, we still cannot add the dan ranks. That karateka does not have a 10th dan.


This becomes much clearer if the dan ranks are from different martial arts. If you have a Go dan from Shotokan karate and say Ni (2) dan from Iaido or Jujitsu, even though you can joke that you have a 7 dan total but you will never be considered as a 7th dan karateka or martial artist.


There is nothing wrong with collecting the dan ranks. They definitely show the depth of that person’s dedication and possibly their expertise in martial arts. However, the ugly point I dared to bring out is the trickery of using the total numbers to impress others, while the total number may not have much meaning itself. In short, we do not need the high dan rank number to impress people. What we really need is the ability to perform in our martial arts.


If your objective of karate or martial art happens to be to impress others, then do so with your performance. Mine is different, however, and I believe the ultimate objective of karate (and martial arts) is the perfection of not only your karate performance but also your character. How about you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *