When you reach senior belt you are expected to guide the junior belts when they are beginning Karate such as showing by example. To advance from one rank to the next, students typically complete tests in which they demonstrate their proficiency in the various aspects of the art before a panel of judges or their teacher. View Karate Fundamentals ( kihon きほん ) »

Karate Rank

Rank is used in karate to indicate experience, expertise, and to a lesser degree, seniority

In 1924 Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, adopted the Dan system from the judo founder Jigoro Kano using a rank scheme with a limited set of belt colors. Other Okinawan teachers also adopted this practice. In the Kyū/Dan system the beginner grades start with a higher numbered kyū (e.g., 10th Kyū or Jukyū) and progress toward a lower numbered kyū. The Dan progression continues from 1st Dan (Shodan, or 'beginning dan') to the higher dan grades. Kyū-grade karateka are referred to as "color belt" or mudansha ("ones without dan/rank"). Dan-grade karateka are referred to as yudansha (holders of dan/rank). Yudansha typically wear a black belt. Normally, the first five to six dans are given by examination by superior dan holders, while the subsequent (7 and up) are honorary, given for special merits and/or age reached. Requirements of rank differ among styles, organizations, and schools. Kyū ranks stress stance, balance, and coordination. Speed and power are added at higher grades.

Minimum age and time in rank are factors affecting promotion. Testing consists of demonstration of techniques before a panel of examiners. This will vary by school, but testing may include everything learned at that point, or just new information. The demonstration is an application for new rank (shinsa) and may include kata, bunkai, self-defense, routines, tameshiwari (breaking), and kumite (sparring).

List of Kyū ranks

Some martial arts refer to the kyū ranks entirely in Japanese. Kyū ranks progress using a descending order system, so 1st kyū is the highest. For example, the first kyū outranks the 2nd kyū. The Dan ranking system starts after 1st kyū. Essentially, the kyū is the number of steps before reaching mastery whereas the dan gives steps into mastery.

Pre-1st kyū and pre-2nd kyū are used in examinations of languages, because it is often hard to pass the examinations at 1st and 2nd kyū.

Grade Pronunciation Japanese
1st (Highest) Ikkyū 1級 / 一級
Pre 1st Jun-Ikkyū 準1級 / 準一級
2nd Nikyū 2級 / 二級
Pre 2nd Jun-Nikyū 準2級 / 準二級
3rd Sankyū 3級 / 三級
4th Yonkyū 4級 / 四級
5th Gokyū 5級 / 五級
6th Rokkyū 6級 / 六級
7th Nanakyū 7級 / 七級
8th Hakkyū / Hachikyu 8級 / 八級
9th Kyūkyū 9級 / 九級
10th Jikkyū / Jukkyū 10級 / 十級
Non-Grade Mukyū 無級

The lowest kyū is sometimes called "Mukyū" (無級) which means "Non-Grade" in English. The lowest kyū depends on organizations. For instance, the United States Judo Federation has 12th kyū as the lowest grade for junior class, and 7th kyū as the lowest for adult class.

In Japan, the difficulty is classified into three categories as in the following list.

Grade Pronunciation Japanese
Highest Jōkyū 上級
Middle Chūkyū 中級
Beginning Shokyū 初級

Colored Belts

In some styles, students wear white belts until they receive their first dan rank or black belt, while in others a range of colors are used for different kyū grades. The wearing of coloured belts is often associated with kyū ranks, particularly in modern martial arts such as karate and judo (where the practice originated). However, there is no standard association of belt colours with particular ranks and different schools and organizations assign colours independently; see Rank in Judo for examples of variation within an art. However, white is often the lowest ranked belt and brown is the highest kyū rank, and it is common to see the darker colors associated with the higher ranks, i.e. the closest to black belt.

The system of using different colored belts to mark rank is not universally accepted in the martial arts. Supporters of the belt colors point out their use as a simple visual key for experience, such as in matching opponents for sparring, allowing opponents to somewhat accurately judge each other's skill, and to split them for competitions. Those who oppose the use of coloured belts are also often concerned that students will worry too much about relative rank, and become arrogant with trivial promotions and differences, while supporters feel that by providing small signs of success and recognition, students are more confident, and their training is more structured, and that the ranking system encourages higher ranked students to assist lower ranked ones, and lower ranked students to respect their seniors.

Seniors and juniors

The relationship between senior students (先輩 senpai) and junior students (後輩 kōhai) is one with its origins not in martial arts, but rather in Japanese and Asian culture generally. It underlies Japanese interpersonal relationships in many contexts, such as business, school, and sports. It has become part of the teaching process in Japanese martial arts schools. A senior student is senior to all students who either began training after him or her, or who they outrank. The role of the senior student is crucial to the indoctrination of the junior students to etiquette, work ethic, and other virtues important to the school. The junior student is expected to treat their seniors with respect, and plays an important role in giving the senior students the opportunity to learn leadership skills. Senior students may or may not teach formal classes, but in every respect their role is as a teacher to the junior students, by example and by providing encouragement.


This article uses material from the Wikipedia articles "Karate", "Kyū", and "Japanese Martial Arts", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.