Japanese Black Belt Ranks

Japanese Black Belt Ranks

An explanation of Ranks and Titles

First let me welcome you to our website and I hope you enjoy it whether you are a martial artist or novice interested in learning self-defence.

Steve Mcdade

Japanese Jujitsu uses one to ten dan ranks

  1. shodan: first degree black belt
  2. nidan: second degree black belt
  3. sandan: third degree black belt
  4. yodan: fourth degree black belt
  5. godan: fifth degree black belt
  6. rokudan: sixth degree black belt
  7. nanadan: seventh degree black belt (also, shichidan)
  8. hachidan: eighth degree black belt
  9. kudan: ninth degree black belt
  10. judan: tenth degree black belt

Traditional Japanese Grading Requirements

Black Belt Yudansha

1st Dan: Minimum requirement open, dependent on student commitment and grades through the ranking system of that particular Group usually at Least 4 years plus training. The applicant must be over 16 years of age.

2nd Dan: Minimum requirement, 2 years between 1st and 2nd Dan. The applicant must be over 18 years of age.

3rd Dan: Minimum requirement, 3 years between 2nd and 3rd Dan. The applicant must be over 21 years of age.

4th Dan: Minimum requirement, 4 years between 3rd and 4th Dan. The applicant must be over 25 years.

5th Dan: Minimum requirement, 5 years between 4th and 5th Dan. The applicant must be over 30 years of age.

6th Dan: Applicant must have 6 years between the grades of 5th to 6th Dan. The Dan grade must be from either a group or individual. The applicant must be over 36 years of age.

7th Dan: Applicant must have 7 years between the grades of 6th to 7th Dan. The Dan grade must be from either a group or individual. The applicant must be over 43 years of age.

8th Dan: Applicant must have 8 years between the grades of 7th to 8th Dan. The Dan grade must be from either a group or individual. The applicant must be over 51 years of age.

9th Dan: Applicant must have 9 years between the grades of 7th to 8th Dan. The Dan grade must be from either a group or individual. The applicant must be over 60 years of age.

10th Dan: Awarded only by the founder or Technical Committee 5 years after the award of 9th Dan

Differences between European and Japanese Ranking System - after 5th Dan, there are 5 years between Dan grades in Europe.

Titles Awarded In Martial Arts

Shogo are martial arts titles developed by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai. The Kokusai Budoin

Renshi - Polished instructor.
Shihan - Master teacher
Kyoshi - Advanced Master teacher or Professor.
Hanshi - Very senior expert considered a"teacher of teachers".


The character "Ren" means "polished, tempered" and "shi" means "person". Thus Renshi indicates a "polished instructor" or expert. Renshi may be awarded to the modern rank of 4th Dan or above depending on style, the title of Renshi is of Japanese origin and is not used in Okinawa.


Is a Japanese term, often used in Japanese martial arts as an honorific title for expert or senior instructors. The term is frequently used interchangeably with English terms such as "master instructor".

Various martial arts organizations have different requirements for the usage of the title, but in general it is a high title that takes many years to achieve. It is sometimes associated with certain rights, such as the right to give out black belt (dan) ranks in the name of the organization. However, the title is generally distinct from the black belt ranking system (dan). The use of the term is completely style or organization specific.

The process of becoming a shihan can be rather abstruse as well. Within the Bujinkan it has been said that you become a shihan when the other Shihan start calling you a Shihan. However within judo, a Japanese teacher automatically became a Shihan at sixth dan. One could say your promotion to sixth dan comes when you are ready to be called Shihan. In other organizations, for example Shodokan aikido, the title is organizational and less strongly correlated to rank.


The "Kyo" in Kyoshi means "professor" or "philosophy". Therefore, Kyoshi equals a "Professor" capable of teaching the philosophy of the martial arts. Kyoshi may be awarded to the modern ranks of 7th Dan and above depending on style. In traditional Ju-jitsu you were regarded as a professor at 6th Dan and above, however being awarded the title is confirmation and appreciation of status and is often awarded at 7th Dan.


"Teacher of teachers". This title is used by many different arts for the top few instructors of that style, and is sometimes translated "Grand Master". The "Han" in Hanshi means "example, model" and indicates "a teacher that can serve as an ideal model for others", or a “senior master”. Hanshi may be awarded to the modern day rank of 8th and above.

This is a very special title representing the highest levels of martial arts, political involvement as a practitioner, be seen as an innovator, a teacher of and show personal growth an in depth understanding of their relevant style. In certain styles, Shodan (1st degree black belt) implies that all the basics of the style have been mastered.

At sandan the student is deemed capable of teaching independently as a teacher or instructor, often called sensei. At Godan, (5th degree black belt) the budoka may receive certification as a master level practitioner (Shidoin). Generally, the lower dan ranks are validated on the basis of knowledge and physical skill.

The higher the dan rank, the more leadership ability, teaching experience, and service to the style play a role in promotion. For example, in British judo, to gain promotion from 1st to 5th Dan, judo players must demonstrate theoretical technique and competitive skill in graded competitions.

Promotions from 6th to 10th Dan are awarded for services to the sport of judo. In Kendo the dan system was recently changed so that 8th dan is the highest attainable rank. Unlike Judo, all dan promotion within the ZNKR, IKF and its member countries is by examination. Whereas dan grades are awarded for technical ability, there is a parallel Shogo system awarding Renshi, Kyoshi, Hanshi, against suitability as a role model to some members of the kodansha ranks of 6th, 7th and 8th dan. Renshi and Kyoshi are awarded on written examination and Hanshi by election.

There is some debate amongst non-Japanese kendoka about the fairness of the Kyoshi test, which unlike the equivalent for Renshi, must be written in Japanese. Although the dan system is distinctly Japanese, it has been adopted by many other martial arts styles. The dan system and the well-known symbol of a black-belt have been absorbed into common usage to represent a person with above-average or highly-trained skills in a particular discipline.

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