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Aikido Ranking System

The American Butokukan System places great importance on discipline, and the existence of rank and uniforms is a fundamental tool to that end. We welcome those curious about the martial arts and do not require students to purchase a uniform unless they are put up for promotion. At that time it becomes mandatory for all students attending a promotional examination to be wearing a uniform. The uniform must have the American Butokukan emblem worn on the left upper arm, no other patches are permitted. Once a student has purchased a uniform, they are expected to wear it to every class thereafter. The uniform and how it is worn is both an indication of rank, as well as personal character. A sloppy or unkempt uniform is a sign of a sloppy spirit.

Members of the American Butokukan System study karate and aikido concurrently, but test seperately and hold rank seperately in each art. The American Butokukan System uses substantially the same ranking and testing system used by most of the major aikido organizations today. In this system there are six grades (kyu) below black belt, and nine degrees (dan) of black belt. All kyu ranked students wear a white belt and a white uniform, regardless of rank. Black belts, in addition to a black belt, also wear a hakama, a divided skirt worn by samurai of the Tokugawa period.

Note that wearing a hakama as a symbol of rank is relatively unique to aikido. In most of the arts where a hakama is worn at all, it is usually worn as part of a student's basic uniform from the beginning of their training, and does not in any way signify their rank. Examples include traditional schools of iaido, kyudo, and kendo. Additionally, some aikido schools permit women to wear a hakama as part of their basic uniform, while men wear one only upon attaining black belt rank.

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