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Black Belt History

This History comes from the Tracy's Kenpo Karate home page


Dan (step or rank) -- This is the first graded rank!

Shodan .........................1st Dan (Black Belt)
Nidan ...........................2nd Dan (Black Belt)
Sandan .........................3rd Dan (Black Belt)
Yodan ...........................4th Dan (Black Belt)
Godan ...........................5th Dan (Black Belt)
Rokudan .......................6th Dan: ...Belt of Red and White Sections (or Black)
Nanadan (Shichidan) ..7th Dan: ...Belt of Red and White Sections (or Black)
Hachidan .....................8th Dan: ...Belt of Red and White Sections (or Black)
Kudan ...........................9th Dan: ...Red Belt (or Black)
Judan .........................10th Dan: ...Red Belt (or Black)

To fully understand and appreciate the oriental mind in relation to the Martial Arts you only have to look at the TRUE translation of SHODAN! To the western world, achieving SHODAN or 1st Dan Black Belt is the ultimate achievement -- I have arrived, I am now a Black Belt. This after only 18 months.

How differently the Japanese look at Shodan. After years and years of training, (usually starting as a youth), you are finally promoted to Shodan. (SHODAN: Lowest Rank being the true translation!) You are no more than a beginner. Only now, for the first time, may "sensei" consider you ready for training. True training only starts with the Shodan rank! That's why there are no young "masters" (except in the U.S.)! Anyone with less than 20 years of training is considered a beginner in both China and Japan!

Promotion within the white and brown belts were loosely structured, with no requirements that a student make progressive steps. One could go directly from a white belt to 1st black belt -- assuming one had the skill. The thinking was very exact; you were either a ranked belt (black belt) or you were not. For all practical purposes a 1st brown belt held little more prestige than a 3rd brown belt. This was not true of the dan ranks, where each advancement is made one step at a time. The Kodokan also established the minimum age for Shodan (1st Black) as 16. And there were very few of them at that tender age, as there were no weight divisions!

The original belt ranks for females: those who hold Dan or Kyu grades in the girl's or women's division, corresponded to those of the boy's and men's division, using respectively the red, red and white, black, brown or violet (purple) belts, but with a white stripe running lengthwise through the center. This provision is no longer rigidly adhered too.

A separate woman's division was created in 1924. Women could achieve ranking in one of two ways: Randori (freestyle) or Kata (there are nine official Katas).

As a rule, men advanced through the ranks by competing in a promotional Shiai where you were matched against men of your own rank or higher. You continued to fight until you lost. This testing procedure was used through the 4th and 5th Dans. From that point on age became a major factor and promotions were awarded based upon knowledge and dedication to the principles of Judo.

Yellow Belt
Orange Belt
Purple Belt
Blue Belt
Green Belt
3rd Brown Belt
2nd Brown Belt
1st Brown Belt
1st Black Belt
Dan Rankings

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