Gradings & Advancement

 

This page contains a guideline of the kinds of requirements that must be met for each initial grade. There will be some variations in this criteria between States and countries at the discretion of either Chief Instructors or individual Sensei's and Grading Examiners.

 

The basis of these criteria, with subtle differences, are largely common to all Shotokan organisations around the world. That means that a properly certified grade awarded by any qualified K.U.A. examiner should be recognised by all Shotokan organisations in all countries.

Misconceptions and Truth

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" - Confucius.

 

Many people who have never trained Karate view the coloured belt system unrealistically. The assumption is that coloured belts are the pit stops along the journey and that Black Belt is the target destination. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Black Belt (Shodan) is actually the START of the journey. The coloured belts before that are merely preparation for the journey.

 

To date, there are 10 grades of Black Belt and the journey is life-long. On this web site, we only deal with information relevant for the preparation phase up to the first Black Belt grade.

 

In Okinawa of last century, where Karate was developed into what we have today, there were no coloured belts. Colour was introduced by the Westerners that adopted Karate training in their own countries.

 

Originally, the whole Gi (uniform), including the Obi (belt) was white, signifying the purity of the spirit, and a Karateka (student of Karate) would wash the Gi after each training - but not the Obi. Over time, the Obi would get more and more dirty while the Gi remained white, thus people would identify the level of time and experience within training that a Karateka had by the darkness of the Obi. The blacker the Obi, the more experienced at Karate. That is where the symbolism of the "Blackened Belt" became synonymous with the presumption of Karate skill.

This graph charts the average progress of a student in an ideal training environment.

 

10th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: White. Some Dojos may incorporate a black, red or yellow stripe.

Kihon: Ability to stand with good posture and respond to direction is all that is required at this level.

Kata: Not required at this level.

Emphasis: Balance and Spirit.

9th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Yellow with white stripe. Some Dojos may use a white belt with a coloured stripe.

Kihon: Basic stances, basic upper body defences, basic punches.

Kata: Not usually required at this level although an introductory kata is recommended.

Taikyoku Sho-dan is a good kata for this level - Click Here to View Diagram

Emphasis: Balance and Spirit.

8th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Yellow. 

Kihon: Basic stances, basic upper body defences, basic punches & strikes, basic kicks.

Kata: Heian Sho-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Basic and structured partner sparring. Go-Hon (5 step sparring) recommended.

Emphasis: Good form.

7th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Orange. 

Kihon: Basic stances, basic upper body defences, basic punches & strikes, basic kicks.

Kata: Heian Ni-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Basic and structured partner sparring. Go-Hon (5 step sparring) recommended.

Emphasis: Form and focus.

6th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Green

Kihon: Basic stances, basic upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, basic kicks with better form.

Kata: Heian San-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Basic and structured partner sparring. San-Bon (3 step sparring) recommended.

Emphasis: Examinee should be able to execute any Kihon techniques in any direction. The accent should be on form, focus and hip action. Stances must be correct and appropriate for the technique being used.

5th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Blue. Some Dojos prefer to use Purple for both 5th and 4th Kyu grades.

Kihon: Basic stances, combination upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, advanced kicks and combination kicks.

Kata: Heian Yon-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Basic and structured partner sparring. San-Bon (3 step sparring) recommended with an introduction to Ip-Pon (one-step sparring incorporating both basic and advanced techniques).

Emphasis: The accent should be on form and speed. Examinee should be able to execute any Kihon techniques in any direction. Stances must be correct and appropriate for the technique being used.

4th Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Purple.

Kihon: Basic stances, combination upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, advanced kicks and combination kicks.

Kata: Heian Go-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Structured partner sparring. Ip-Pon (one-step sparring incorporating both basic and advanced techniques).

Emphasis: The accent should be on form, focus, speed and flow.

3rd Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Brown. Some Dojos identify the 3 different Brown grades by the addition of a stripe at the tips.

Kihon: Basic and advanced stances, combination upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, advanced kicks and advanced combination kicks.

Kata: Tekki Sho-dan - Click Here to View Diagram

Kumite: Jiyu-Ip-Pon (one-step free form sparring incorporating advanced techniques).

Emphasis: The accent should be on a dynamic combination of form, focus, speed and flow.

2nd Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: Brown. Some Dojos identify the 3 different Brown grades by the addition of a stripe at the tips.

Kihon: Basic and advanced stances, combination upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, advanced kicks and advanced combination kicks.

Kata: Tokui Kata (Favourite) Other than Heian or Tekki.

Kumite: Jiyu-Ip-Pon (one-step free form sparring incorporating advanced techniques).

Emphasis: The accent should be on a dynamic combination of form, focus, speed and flow.

1st Kyu

 

 

Belt Colour: 1st Kyu - Brown. Some Dojos identify the 3 different Brown grades by the addition of a stripe.

Kihon: Basic and advanced stances, combination upper body defences with counter-attacks, advanced punches & strikes, advanced kicks and advanced combination kicks.

Kata: Tokui Kata (Favourite) Other than Heian or Tekki, and not one used for any previous grading attempt.

Kumite: Jiyu-Ip-Pon (one-step free form sparring incorporating advanced techniques).

1st Dan

 

 

Belt Colour: Black.

Dan gradings are traditionally conducted in closed sessions where only those grading and those examining are permitted. The content of those gradings will, for now, remain confidential.