Ranking System and Belt Colors

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The traditional belt color for Mu-dan-sha is white. Every ranking system starts with white. If white is not stated, then the beginning white belt is thought of as no rank or mu-kyū (無級). Organizations have adopted multiple color systems to help recognize achievement and provide regular incentives. [1] This can especially be seen in the child ranks.

All ranks from 1st dan to 10th dan are black belts, with holders of 6th through 8th dan being allowed to wear a red/white-paneled belt, and the holders of 9th and 10th dan being allowed to wear a red belt.

Adult Ranks[edit]

Romanization Kanji Kana Translation Kōdōkan USJA[2] USJF[3] JFA Inc.[4] BJA[5][6][7] Canada[8] Brazil[9]
Mu-dan-sha 無段者 むだんしゃ Without Dan Rank Belt Colors
hachi-kyū 八級 はちきゅう 8th grade White
nana-kyū, shichi-kyū 七級 ななきゅう、しちきゅう 7th grade Gray
rokkyū 六級 ろっきゅう 6th grade White Yellow White White Red White Blue
go-kyū 五級 ごきゅう 5th grade White Orange Green Yellow Yellow Yellow Yellow
yon-kyū 四級 よんきゅう 4th grade White Green Blue Orange Orange Orange Orange
san-kyū 三級 さんきゅう 3rd grade White* Brown Brown Green Green Green Green
ni-kyū 二級 にきゅう 2nd grade White* Brown Brown Blue Blue Blue Purple
ikkyū 一級 いっきゅう 1st grade White* Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown
Yū-dan-sha 有段者 ゆうだんしゃ Dan Rank  
sho-dan 初段 しょだん 1st degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
ni-dan 二段 にだん 2nd degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
san-dan 三段 さんだん 3rd degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
yon-dan 四段 よんだん 4th degree Black Black** Black Black Black Black Black
go-dan 五段 ごだん 5th degree Black Black** Black Black Black Black Black
roku-dan 六段 ろくだん 6th degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
shichi-dan 七段 しちだん 7th degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
hachi-dan 八段 はちだん 8th degree Black Black Black Black Black Black Black
ku-dan 九段 くだん 9th degree Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§
jū-dan 十段 じゅうだん 10th degree Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§ Black§


  • [*] Brown belts are optional and are rarely worn.
  • [†] Females may wear a white stripe through the center of their belt. This belt is called a "Joshi" (女子) belt. Female children may also wear the white stripe on their colored belts. According to the IJF, the joshi belt is not legal in international competition anymore[10] Males do not have a stripe on their belt. Many females outside of Japan do not wear a stripe around their belt.
  • [‡] The red and white panel belt is optional. The name of this belt is "Kohaku" (紅白) belt. It is often worn for special occasions.[1]
  • [†‡] Eighth dan females are allowed to wear a red joshi belt instead of the kohaku belt.[11]
  • [§] The solid red belt is optional and is also used for special occasions.
  • [**] The USJA used to allow an optional red and black panel belt. When the USJA started a jujitsu division in the early 90's they began permitting the wearing of the red/black belt for 4th and 5th dans because it was used by some jujitsu schools. Most USJA judoka did not wear them.[12] It does not exist within Kōdōkan judo or within the IJF.

Junior Ranks[edit]

Please keep in mind, the individual clubs may not abide by these ranking systems. For more details about the ranking system used at your school, please speak to your instructor.

Romanization Kanji Kana Translation Kōdōkan USJA[2] USJF[3] JFA Inc.[4] BJA[13][6][14] Canada[8]
Mu-dan-sha 無段者 むだんしゃ Without Dan Rank Belt Colors
jyū-hachi-kyū 十八級 じゅうはちきゅう 18th grade Red
jyū-nana-kyū 十七級 じゅうななきゅう 17th grade Red
jyū-roku-kyū 十六級 じゅうろくきゅう 16th grade Red
jyū-go-kyū 十五級 じゅうごきゅう 15th grade Yellow
jyū-yon-kyū 十四級 じゅうよんきゅう 14th grade Yellow
jyū-san-kyū 十三級 じゅうさんきゅう 13th grade Yellow
jyū-ni-kyū 十二級 じゅうにきゅう 12th grade Yellow Orange
jyū-ichi-kyū 十一級 じゅういちきゅう 11th grade Yellow White Orange White
jyū-kyū 十級 じゅうきゅう 10th grade Orange White/Yellow Orange White/Yellow
kyū-kyū 九級 きゅうきゅう 9th grade Orange Yellow Green Yellow
hachi-kyū 八級 はちきゅう 8th grade Green Yellow/Orange Green Yellow/Orange
nana-kyū, shichi-kyū 七級 ななきゅう、しちきゅう 7th grade Green Orange Green Orange
rokkyū 六級 ろっきゅう 6th grade Blue Orange/Green White Blue Orange/Green
go-kyū 五級 ごきゅう 5th grade Yellow Blue Green Yellow Blue Green
yon-kyū 四級 よんきゅう 4th grade Orange Purple Green/Blue Orange Blue Green/Blue
san-kyū 三級 さんきゅう 3rd grade Green Purple Blue Green Brown Blue
ni-kyū 二級 にきゅう 2nd grade Purple Brown Blue/Purple Blue Brown Blue/Brown
ikkyū 一級 いっきゅう 1st grade Brown Brown Purple Brown Brown Brown
Yū-dan-sha 有段者 ゆうだんしゃ Dan Rank  
sho-dan 初段 しょだん 1st degree Black
ni-dan 二段 にだん 2nd degree Black

[†] Female children wear a white stripe through the center of their belt as stated above in the adult ranks section. Male children do not have a stripe on their belt.

Kōdōkan
These ranks are from 6 and up to 13 years old.
USJA
This system is for students 16 years of age and younger. Official guidelines state that the student should wear a patch that denotes the rank.
USJF
This system is for students 16 years of age and younger.
JFA Inc.
This system uses three bars to denote three separate grade divisions. Three white bars denotes the Mon division for students up to 10 years. Two white bars denotes the Yonen division for students from 10 and up to 13 years old. One white bar denotes the Shonen division for students 13 years old and up to 16 years old. All three of these divisions use the same coloring as the adult division (of the same organization).
BJA
These ranks are from 5 and up to 14 years old. The ranks in this system is called mon, not kyū.
Canada
The half color belts are commonly divided length wise, but paneled belts are also allowed.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.judoinfo.com/obi.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.usja-judo.org/Docs2004/National%20Judo%20Rank%20System.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 http://www.usjf.com/public/rank_requirement.pdf
  4. 4.0 4.1 http://www.ausjudo.com.au/jfa/forms?tabKey=3107
  5. http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/technical/documents/KyuGradingSyllabus_004.pdf
  6. 6.0 6.1 http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/technical/gradings_home.php
  7. http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/technical/documents/KyuGradingSyllabus.pdf
  8. 8.0 8.1 http://www.judocanada.org/doc/doc/00000534_kyūSylE.pdf
  9. http://www.judorio.org.br/graduacao_do_judo.html
  10. Judoheidi, Colors of Belts (JudoForum)
  11. Jonesy, Colors of Belts (JudoForum)
  12. JudoSensei, Red and Black Obi (JudoForum)
  13. http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/technical/documents/JuniorGradingSyllabus_002.pdf
  14. http://www.britishjudo.org.uk/technical/documents/JuniorGradingSyllabus.pdf