View Full Version : Ranks?

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06-14-2011, 02:01 PM
I didn't know there were ranks in Aikido! My sensei has never mentioned anything about it, but then again, I've only been practicing for a few months now. Can anyone explain these ranks to me? :)

Adam Huss
06-14-2011, 03:06 PM
I figure if your teacher hasn't mentioned them, then itís not something you need to fill your head with just yet! Itís a sometimes contentious subject that people can get 'wrapped around the axle about.' That being said, there are generally colored belts throughout the first several beginner levels of rank, typically called kyu. Most organizations have their students in the kyu levels from anywhere between five and eight years. Then typically student is awarded a black belt at shodan level. This signifies entry into the 'dan' (pronounced don) ranking system and signifies the student starting their training over, at the beginning, but at a more serious level (it kind of signifies that person is now a serious student of aikido). From there one can advance as a student, which often coincides with increasing teaching responsibility. Most teachers feel instruction is a great way for one to learn about themselves. Some, however, differentiate between training students and teachers and have separate teaching licenses or ranks specific to one's ability to teach, test, and promote.

I am glad to hear your teacher hasn't brought up ranks and testing this early in your training. In my opinion testing and gaining rank should be seen as a fun, and challenging, experience that exists for the sole purpose of providing a fun and challenging experience...vice an activity to serve as a means to an end. Regardless, have fun and enjoy your new training experiences as you receive the fire hose of information coming at you!

Adam Huss
06-14-2011, 03:11 PM
...oh, and generally speaking kyu ranks run somewhere from 10th to 1st kyu and dan ranks run opposite; 1st through 10th dan. Some aikido organizations don't start at 10th kyu though.

Lyle Laizure
06-14-2011, 03:44 PM
The best thing to do is to ask your sensei. Differen't schools/organizations do things differently. Knowing what other schools do isn't going to help you in this situation.

Mario Tobias
06-14-2011, 10:17 PM

The ranks are separated generally into KYU (non-black belt) and DAN (black belt) levels.

Your school will typically have a syllabus of what techniques, at a minimum, you must be able to demonstrate to meet a certain rank. You can ask your sensei if he has this syllabus for your organization.

Taking promotional exams is important and not important at the same time.

It is important as it is part and parcel of the Aikido experience and it somewhat sets objective goals for you to try to achieve since there are minimum requirements set by your organization. But chasing belts for the sake of getting them will get you nowhere. Belt or no belt, think that you are in it for the long haul (ie lifetime). Achieving rank is not the challenge, the journey is.

06-15-2011, 06:39 AM
In some situations, your sensei may not have the authority to grant rank, or may not choose to do so.

06-15-2011, 07:45 AM
Can anyone explain these ranks to me? :)

Your sensei would be the best person to ask about rank in your dojo. Most likely he has not explained it to you simply because you have not yet asked. :)

08-10-2012, 06:58 AM
Depending on where you are you training and with whom. I know that certain places the instructor is a black belt but, may not be allowed to confer rank. I have been fortunate to have been studying and training with a shihan in Tomiki so I had a pretty good grasp on what rank is and somewhat when it may come. Whatever style you are learning, google it and find a home page. It may be generic but, should provide you with what the system is and roughly a time frame spent in each rank. Trust in your teacher they do know and if it has only been a few months into it, what's the rush? Ask for books, literature, or a website.

05-31-2013, 09:08 AM
My school starts adults at the 6th Kyu level, and we wear a white belt until Shodan. As others have said, each school can and will be different.

Chris Li
05-31-2013, 09:11 AM
Here's a little bit more (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido) about the history of ranking.



Janet Rosen
05-31-2013, 12:44 PM
Presumably, two years later she has either ranked or quit ;-)

06-05-2013, 11:47 AM
Here's a little bit more (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-08-05/somethings-rank-black-belts-in-aikido) about the history of ranking.



Great article! Thank you Christopher.
Perhaps you can post it on my thread. Time for change.;)

George S. Ledyard
06-19-2013, 03:41 PM
Ranking is almsot completely relative. If one gets rank within a very well run organization, it might give one a sense of where one stands relative to other folks in the organization. Usually it really just gives one a sense of where one stands relative to the other students within the dojo.

Really, what it says is about how your teacher feels about your training and your support for him or her and the dojo. It is hugely subjective. If one understands that fact, one can keep from taking it too seriously. It's nice to move up the ranks, and certainly, itis nice to get a black belt as that is the moment when a teacher really puts his or her name on you. Most teachers do not wish to have a yudansha that doesn't "represent" well. So getting yudansha rank usually means the teacher feels you are representative of some standard that he or she has in mind for that level as they don't wish to be embarrassed or have the school's reputation damaged. If you are happy with your teacher, that should be enough. If for some reason you are dissatisfied, then a broader awareness of what the quality range is for a certian rank like Shodan might be meaningful to you, but maybe not.

06-20-2013, 01:27 AM
Great post George. Thank's.

I always have a visiting sensei join my dojo when I grade my students. Just to add a little extra tension and have them experience it as a special event. Also in Denmark it is the rule that all yudansha - and most higher mudansha - grades should be taken at one of the two major annual seminars. We have a small country so it's possible to ensure a certain level of quality in this manner. However the different styles of aikido being taught in the different dojo's show clearly at these events and the panel allows for a broad diversity as long as some basic principles are included for each grade.

It's by no means a perfect system - whatever system is? - but it serves a purpose and we get the best from it that we can.

Now let's all go practice..


06-22-2013, 12:31 PM
I really enjoyed Adam's first post in reply to Kaylas original Qx. And ... I laughed out loud for some reason at Janet's response about the 2 years. I wonder if Kayla ever got her answer from her sensei?

After training all this time in all these places because of life-moves, I'm in firm alignment with George's perspective, especially on well-run and established training facilities, not just the promotion-based money machines (only really see those in the Korean art places, TKD, Tang Soo Do, etc. Good traditional arts when practiced "traditionally," but seem to be easily convertible to black belt factories for the low, low price of $150/month plus the costs of your uniform, sparring gear, and accessories "All of which we sell right here for your convenience!").

In the good aikido/judo schools where I've trained, Teacher promotes Student to the rank which Teacher feels will not embarrass Teacher when Teachers colleagues, or Teacher's own Teacher(s) (*gasp*) show up. So, it is relative in the community in which one trains. An exception to this is probably judo, which has some pretty decent benchmarks to keep ranking standards sort of universal, though people in one part of the country don't always seem to equal to people other places, but that might be individual, too.

As Adam said, "most" organizations use the model for rank he described, which I'd modify to say most non-Tomiki organizations. The promotion structure in the Tomiki aikido schools I've been associated with and about which I've learned (through this forum and online) follows those judo thoughts pretty close (if not the judo timelines anymore). But goes from 5th kyu (sometimes 6th) down to ikkyu, then shodan and up to whatever dan grade the person reaches.

The concept of the shodan in Tomiki aikido seems to be one of, "OK, you've got the basic toolkit , so you are ready to actually learn this stuff. Now it gets challenging, because we are going to expect you to both understand and use it without thought."" Sort of like the concept of the proficiency Adam described above at the 5-7 year point, which I would draw a parallel to the sandan level in Tomiki, which is "internalization." If someone comes to class (2 hrs/class) for 3x/week, they can get what we call the basics and receive their 1st degree in a year and a half, but it almost always seems to take at least 2 years, since life gets in people's way all the time. And, people sometimes go backwards in training, or fall in the kitchen and twist a knee, whatever. But, you see the point, one organizations rank is literally different, while sounding the same, as the others.

is that a homonym? Right, homonym. Shodan vs. shodan. Well, sort of.