Rank Requirements and Standards
The Judokai tries to follow a more traditional Judo ranking system than most clubs. Originally in Judo, adults would remain a white belt until they earned their black belts. However, popular demand and the realistic need for organizations to make money on promotions have pushed the adoption of colored belts throughout the world.
In the days before Jigoro Kano created Judo, there was no kyu/dan ranking system in the martial arts. A more traditional method of recognizing achievement was the presentation of certificates or scrolls, often with the secrets of the school inscribed. Kano started the modern rank system when he awarded shodan to two of his senior students (Shiro Saigo and Tsunejiro Tomita) in 1883. Even then, there was no external differentiation between yudansha (有段者), black belt ranks, and mudansha (無段者), those who hadn’t yet attained black belt ranking.
Jigoro Kano began the custom of having his yudansha wear black obi (belts) in 1886. These obi weren’t the belts karateka and judoka wear today — Kano hadn’t invented the judogi (Judo uniform) yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. These were the wide obi still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern judogi and its modern obi, but he still only used white and black belt ranks. The white uniform represented the values of purity, avoidance of ego, and simplicity. It gave no outward indication of social class so that all students began as equals.
Other colored belts for students who had not yet achieved black belt originated later, when Judo began being practiced outside of Japan. Mikinosuke Kawaishi is generally regarded as the first to introduce various colored belts in Europe in 1935 when he started to teach Judo in Paris. He felt that western students would show greater progress if they had a visible system of many colored belts recognizing achievement and providing regular incentives. This system included white, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple belts before the traditional brown and black belts.
The ranking system at The Judokai is designed to closely follow traditions, correspond with international ranking norms, and openly welcome grapplers from other styles. To achieve this, Judokai Warriors may choose to wear a white belt until they become brown belts or beyond. Consequently, don’t be surprised if you see white belts tearing up the mat with seemingly higher ranked individuals. That is the way it ought to be.
All ranking at The Judokai meets or exceeds requirements of the International Freestyle Judo Alliance and the United States Judo Association, as well as, other common Judo, and BJJ, ranking systems used around the world.
Shodan (初段) is First Degree Black Belt. To become a Shodan at The Judokai, you must demonstrate not only skill, but the ability to teach all aspects of Judo including the Gokyo no Waza (40 traditional throwing techniques) and Katame Waza (traditional grappling & submissions), as well as the Nage no Kata (投の形) (forms of throwing).
Ikkyu (一級) is 1st ranked Brown belt. Traditionally, this was still a white belt rank. An Ikkyu at The Judokai can demonstrate the Gokyo no Waza (40 traditional throwing techniques), Katame Waza (traditional grappling & submissions), and Nage no Kata (投の形) (forms of throwing). For most clubs, this is not required until Nidan. However, once a student at The Judokai reaches Ikkyu, it should be simply a matter of continued perseverance until he reaches Shodan, Black Belt. The Judokai recommends that all brown belts get a lifetime membership with the USJA or other national Judo organization.
Nikyu (二級) is 2nd ranked Brown belt. Traditionally, this was still a white belt rank. A Nikyu has demonstrated long-time commitment to Judo by demonstrating excellent technique and knowledge in competition and practical daily training. A Nikkyu should know how to demonstrate most of the Gokyo no Waza (40 traditional throwing techniques), Katame Waza (traditional grappling & submissions), and Nage no Kata (投の形) (forms of throwing). For most organizations, this is not required until Shodan. The Judokai recommends that all brown belts get a lifetime membership with the USJA or other national Judo organization.
Sankyu (三級) is 3rd ranked Brown belt. Traditionally, this was still a white belt rank. A brown belt is roughly equivalent in experience to a wrestler who has competed 4 years at the first-string, varsity level in high-school or entry level college. A first-string varsity high school wrestler often has more competition experience than a judoka of the equivalent age simply because there are more wrestling tournaments and matches in which to compete. The general difference is the wrestler may not know the terminology and submission techniques of the judoka; however, takedown, groundwork, and overall body positioning techniques should be equivalent. A Sankyu in Judo should understand Kuzushi and be able to differentiate between the use of strength vs. off-balance to make a given technique work. The Judokai recommends that all brown belts get a lifetime membership with the USJA or other national Judo organization.
Yonkyu (四級) is 4th ranked White belt. A this level, an adult or teenager may wear a Green belt. They may also wear a blue or purple belt depending if they have come from another organization and they simply like their colored belt. Students with prior grappling or wrestling experience may get ranked to this level and remain here until they have learned the appropriate level of Judo techniques and terminology. The Judokai recommends that all students at the Yonkyu level register their rank with the USJA or other national Judo organization.
Gokyu (五級) is 5th ranked White belt. At this level and below, adults may wear either a White or Yellow belt. Lil’ Samurai may wear a Green belt. Other Judo organizations may give half-colored belts or stripes to their students. Students transfering into The Judokai from other Judo organizations may, of course, wear their junior-colored belts until they reach the next level. Students with prior grappling experience may get ranked to this level and remain here until they have learned the appropriate level of Judo techniques and terminology. The Judokai recommends that all students at Gokyu level and below join the AAU, USJA, or other national Judo organization.
Rokkyu (六級) is 6th ranked White belt. At this level, Lil’ Samurai may wear an Orange colored belt.
Nanakyu / Shichikyu (七級) is 7th ranked White belt. At this level, Lil’ Samurai may wear an Orange colored belt.
Hachikyu (八級) is 8th ranked White belt. At this level, Lil’ Samurai may wear a Yellow colored belt.
Kukyu (九級) is 9th ranked White belt. At this level, Lil’ Samurai may wear a Yellow colored belt.
Jukyu (十級) is 10th ranked White belt. At this level, Lil’ Samurai may wear a White/Yellow colored belt.
Juichikyu (十一級) is 11th ranked White belt.
Junikyu (十二級) is 12th ranked White belt.
To be eligible for a promotion at The Judokai, candidates must meet the following requirements;
- The candidate must designate The Judokai or one of our affiliates, as their official club of record for grappling arts (i.e. Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, etc.)
- The candidate must be a member in good standing with regular attendance for a minimum of 6 months.
- The candidate must have been an active participant in at least one of our Fight Club tournaments, or another recognized grappling tournament. Candidates with strong competition backgrounds may be excused from this requirement. Candidates who cannot physically compete should assist with tournament administration, refereeing, and/or kata.
- Adult candidates who actively compete must be representing The Judokai in all Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling events in an honorable fashion. Students who are also on Wrestling teams must be properly representing their school’s team in all scholastic-sponsored events.
- Student candidates must be in good academic standing. Permission from parents is required.
- The candidate is responsible for all associated promotion fees including; testing clinic fees, national registration fees, and belt fees.
Most of all, the candidate must pass all requirements and receive sign-off by the promotion board of The Judokai.