Grading - Adults


What is a Grading?


Gradings are formal assessments to review your progress in acquiring skills in the Art of Karate-do. At their simplest level, they may be considered to be like "milestones" in learning. However, it must be remembered that gradings are not the "be all and end all". Not grading does not mean not acquiring skills…it is a means of giving feedback and recognition for your skills.


Gradings are held at either local, national or international level. Adults will mostly undergo continuous assessment. This will apply to all but the following ranks:


  • Red Belt (7th Kyu)
  • Blue Belt (2nd Kyu)
  • Black Belt (1st Dan)
  • Black Belt (3rd Dan)
  • Black Belt (5th Dan)

These grades are considered 'critical turning points' in a practitioner's development and will still be formally assessed through the conventional format of grading.


For all other ranks, grades will either be awarded as and when a practitioner reaches that standard or (more commonly) will be awarded at the end of each training year.


  • Those wishing to attempt 2nd Kyu (blue belt) must attend a minimum of 1 national course in the past one year to allow sufficient independent assessment of progress to take place.

  • Those wishing to attempt 1st Kyu (brown belt) must attend a minimum of 2 national courses in the past 1 year to allow sufficient independent assessment of progress to take place.

  • Those wishing to attempt 1st Dan (black belt) must attend a minimum of 3 national courses in the past 2 years to allow sufficient independent assessment of progress to take place.

  • Those wishing to attempt 2nd Dan - 5th Dan (black belt) must attend a minimum of 4 national courses in the past 2 years to allow sufficient independent assessment of progress to take place.

All other grades may be graded internally within the club without the requirement for external assessment.


Internal gradings are usually held twice yearly (typically in Summer and Winter). External gradings are usually held twice yearly in national courses (typically in Spring and Autumn).


  • Spring - National residential course + grading over a whole weekend
  • Summer - Local grading
  • Autumn - National residential course + grading over a whole weekend
  • Winter - Local grading


Types of Gradings


There are 2 types of gradings for adult karateka:



Kyu (colour belt) gradings


At the end of a kyu grading, there are the following outcomes:


No change in rank You have not acquired sufficient skills to progress to the next rank.
1 kyu grade awarded If you can demonstrate that you are worthy of the next rank up, both in technical skill and in terms of character.
>1 kyu grade awarded
This is extremely rare. However, exceptionally a talented student who can demonstrate the equivalent skill/character for that level of progression may be awarded more than 1 kyu grade advancement in one grading. No examiner may award such advanced grades or "jumps" without prior discussion with the senior/experienced examiner.


Dan (black belt) gradings


In the beginning of martial arts there were no belts, just a master and a student/apprentice. Then the black belt was introduced to denote the master and the white belt was worn by the student/apprentice. In time, the black belt was split up into 5 ranks. Each rank is called a "Dan", starting from 1st Dan all the way to 5th Dan. There are other terms which are used to denote these grades:


  • Black belt practitioner who is 1st Dan is often called a "Shodan"
  • Black belt practitioner who is 2nd Dan is often called a "Nidan"
  • Black belt practitioner who is 3rd Dan is often called a "Sandan"
  • Black belt practitioner who is 4th Dan is often called a "Yondan"
  • Black belt practitioner who is 5th Dan is often called a "Goodan"

Master Funakoshi, the 'founder' (and I use that term loosely) of modern karate-do never accepted any grade beyond 5th Dan (the full story can be read here). Grades cease to have any meaning by the time you become an experienced black belt. You realise that it is not what you wear around your waist that counts but what is in your head and your heart.