History Dan ranks were applied to martial arts by Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo. Kano started the modern rank system when he awarded 1st Dan (the lowest Dan rank) to two of his senior students (Shiro Saigo and Tsunejiro Tomita) in 1883. Even then, there was no external differentiation between black belt ranks and lower grades. Kano began the custom of having his Dan grades wear black belts in 1886.
These were not the belts Martial Artists wear todayâ€”Kano had not invented the judo uniform yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. They wore the wide belts still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern Gi and its modern belt, with white and black belt ranks. The use of belts to denote ranks were used by different athletic departments within the Japanese school system, most notably for swimmers, prior to their adoption by Kano.
Modern usage in martial arts While the use of the Kyu / Dan system, and colored belts, is common to both Traditional and more modern 'Freestyle' arts, the colour schemes used are not universal.
In modern times, a Dan-ranked practitioner of a style is usually recognized as a martial artist who has surpassed through all of the Kyu, or basic, ranks.
After reaching Dan grade should a person then wish to become a licensed instructor in their art, additional training is required based on the fact that a Dan grade alone in no way constitutes a qualification to teach.
In many styles, however, achieving a Dan rank means that while one is no longer considered a beginner, one is not yet necessarily an expert. Rather it means that one has learned the basics.
The total number of Dan ranks is style-specific, however 1st through 10th are common in most arts these days.
The lower Dan grades can normally be attained through a grading examination or sometimes through competition.
The higher Dan grades usually require years of experience and contribution to the relevant martial art, otherwise known as time served. This may be through instruction or research and publication. These grades can only be awarded by a higher- graded representative of the principal group or sometimes by a steering committee or grading panel.
There is no set achievement level that is universal. Ranking systems are specific to the school or style, so ranks do not necessarily translate across different martial arts styles.
In fact, Dan ranks do not necessarily indicate one wears a black belt. Some of the higher Dan grades may infact wear a red and white belt.
Rank Structure As mentioned above many arts use between one and ten Dan ranks as follows: (The traditional terminology used refers to Japanese styles only. Others, such as Korean and Chinese will vary)
1. Shodan: First Dan / Degree black belt (technically, Shodan is "beginning degree" and Ichidan is "first degree"; the latter term is less commonly used) 2. Nidan: Second Dan / Degree black belt 3. Sandan:: Third Dan / Degree black belt 4. Yondan: Fourth Dan / Degree black belt 5. Godan: Fifth Dan / Degree black belt 6. Rokudan: Sixth Dan / Degree black belt 7. Shichidan: Seventh Dan / Degree black belt (also, Nanadan) 8. Hachidan: Eighth Dan / Degree black belt 9. Kyudan: Ninth Dan / Degree black belt 10. Judan: Tenth Dan / Degree black belt
At 5th Dan the holder may receive certification as a Master, otherwise know as a 'Masters Degree'.
At 8th Dan the holder may receive certification as a Grand Master.