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Karate 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 wear 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.

Like many martial arts schools that practice karate or one of its variants, the American Butokukan System uses colored belts to designate rank. There are ten grades below black belt, called kyu, and nine degrees of black belt, called dan. Kyu ranks count down from ten (all beginners start at 10th kyu), then dan ranks count up from one. Note that there is an eleventh rank between 1st kyu and 1st dan; it is black belt candidate and falls outside the standard ten grades. The colored ranks are illustrated in the following diagram:

Rank

10th kyu

9th kyu


8th kyu

7th kyu


6th kyu

5th kyu


4th kyu

3rd kyu


2nd kyu


1st kyu


Candidate

Japanese

Jûkyû

Kukyû


Hachikyû

Nanakyû


Rokyû

Gokyû


Yonkyû

Sankyû


Nikyû


Ikkyû

 

Description

white belt

yellow with white stripe

yellow belt

yellow with green stripe

green belt

green with black stripe

purple belt

purple with black stripe

brown belt


brown with black stripe

brown with two black stripes

 





 

There are no further belt distinctions for black belt ranks. All black belts wear a plain black belt with no stripes or other indications of differences between degrees. The only potential indicator of a black belt's rank is how frayed their belt becomes!

The black belt ranks are named as follows:

1st dan

2nd dan

3rd dan

4th dan

5th dan

6th dan

7th dan

8th dan

9th dan

Shodan

Nidan

Sandan

Yondan

Godan

Rokudan

Nanadan

Hachidan

Kudan

   
 

Finally, there are four other rank indicators in the American Butokukan System. First, only black belts are permitted to wear colored uniforms; if they do so then they wear a gold and black emblem. Kyu ranks may wear only a white uniform with an indigo blue and white patch. Second, upon attaining the rank of sixth kyu, students are taught a different knot with which to tie their belt. Third, a small gold medallion in the shape of the American Butokukan emblem may be awarded (generally no sooner than 2nd kyu) to honor a student who has made substantial contributions to the American Butokukan System. It is worn sewn into the end of their belt, worn facing out on the their left side. Last, a renshi belt may be awarded no sooner than 3rd dan, as a recognition of full teaching certification. A renshi belt is black on one side and half red, half white on the other, and the orientation in which it is worn indicates the rank of the wearer. Rarely worn, it is most commonly used for the purpose of officiating at tournaments.

The rank indicated by a renshi belt is illustrated by the following diagram:

3rd dan

 

4th dan

 

5th dan

Sandan

 

Yondan

 

Godan

black side out


red/white side out, white on top

red/white side out, red on top

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