Grading’s are just like taking exams at school, college or university. Karate has a simple system of ranking ability, the student or kyu grades are awarded coloured belts, while the graduate or dan grades are numbered. Grading’s in karate are an evaluation of your progress towards the physical and mental mastery of the art of Karate. It is a method of physical, psychological and spiritual development all rolled into one. Karate encourages the unlimited development of your physical and mental powers.
Karate belts are an adaptation of the kyu/dan rank system of Kodokan Judo. The father of Japanese Karate, Gichin Funakoshi who was an acquaintance of the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano introduced the step-up Karate level system to signal a student’s progress in the study of the art.
The colour of a Karatekas belt indicates their rank. Each step forward represents a further accumulation of skills and knowledge. Outside of Japan each ‘minor’ Karate level known as kyu is indicated by a different colour. We also use black tabs within our children’s grading syllabus as an indicator to a step progression.
The belt colours we use within our syllabus get progressively darker through each Karate level towards a Black Belt. This is symbolic of the time when a plain white sash [Obi] was used to tie a plain white tunic together for practice. If a student, back in the day trained frequently enough, the white Obi would eventually darken. This is the reason for the Karate Black Belt symbolising the most advanced Karate level. A Karate Black Belt indicating a rank of first Dan and above. It takes great skill to assess a student for promotion to an advanced Karate level.
A physical test displays physical ability, which is fine up to a point. A written or spoken test goes further and taps into the underlying knowledge of the advanced Karate black belt. Intangible qualities such as emotional confidence, discipline and leadership don’t just come from the amount of time spent at class training. The Examiner must ‘see’ and recognise these qualities in advanced students. The evolution of an individuals skill and knowledge beyond the senior black belt ranks is hard to grade. It is beyond technique. It lies in the person’s insights and their ability to pass on what they know to other students. In our studio our Dan grades wear a silk covered black belt embroidered with both our studio and association name on it, to indicate where they train and the organisation they belong too.