Sōke (宗家), pronounced [soːke], is a Japanese term that means
"the head family [house]." In the realm of Japanese traditional
arts, it is used synonymously with the term iemoto. Thus, it is
often used to indicate "headmaster" (or sometimes translated as "head
of the family" or even "grand master".) The English translation of
sōke as "grand master" is not a literal translation but it does see
use by some Japanese sources. It can mean one who is the leader of any
school or the master of a style, but it is most commonly used as a
highest level Japanese title, referring to the singular leader of a
school or style of martial art. The term, however, is not limited to
the genre of martial arts.
Sōke is sometimes mistakenly believed to mean "founder of a style"
because many modern sōke are the first generation headmasters of
their art (shodai sōke), and are thus both sōke and founder.
However, the successors to the shodai sōke are also sōke themselves.
Sōke are generally considered the ultimate authority within their
art, and have final discretion and authority regarding promotions,
curriculum, doctrine, and disciplinary actions. A sōke has the
authority to issue a menkyo kaiden certificate indicating that someone
has mastered all aspects of his style.
In some schools such as
Doshu Grandmaster (martial arts) Sensei
^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary
^ Iwanami's Japanese Kojien dictionary
^ Soke: Historical Incarnations of a Title and its Entitlements by
William M. Bodiford
^ Kashima Shinryu. "