Most Karate styles use a 10 kyu and 10 dan system borrowed from Judo. This system is also used by other Japanese martial arts. The “Black Belt” was designed as a way to show competence in the art, not mastery of it. Achieving 1st dan is the beginning of the journey, hence why kyus count down and then dans count up.
Karate Ranking System
- No grade: white belt, though some schools use white as 10th kyu
- 10th kyu: usually yellow belt
- 9th kyu: usually orange belt
- 8th – 4th kyu: some order of blue, green, purple and sometimes red, and sometimes with two kyu’s per color
- 3rd kyu: brown belt
- 2nd kyu: brown belt
- 1st kyu: brown belt
- Provisional Black Belt: (shodan-ho) “old school” trial black belt, basically meaning that you get your black belt but have to show over time that you have truly earned it. Not often used in modern school.
- Junior Black Belt: similar to provisional black belt but for teen students who have the knowledge of a 1st dan but not the life experience, and physical capabilities of an adult. (this is sometimes a blackbelt with no dan stripe or a bicolor black/white belt)
- 1st – 5th dan: Black Belt (shodan, nidan, sandan, yodan, godan)
- 6th – 10th dan: “Black Belt” that is sometimes bicolored or with additional stripes often red, white, or gold. These dans are almost exclusively given not for learning new katas and moves but fine tuning the art within yourself, helping others though the art, and overall dedication.