For a kendoka who wishes to attain a technical achievement in Kendo, there are things that need to be observed and measured such as the advancement in grade, level, or rank. The Kyu and Dan grading systems were created in the year 1883 and it is necessary to indicate an individuals proficiency in the art of Kendo. Although the martial art does not make use of any markings to determine one Kendoka from the other such as the varying belt colors like that in Karate there is still a ranking system in Kendo; and just like every other Japanese martial arts, Kendo ranks make use of the same Kyu or Dan system.
When it comes to these Kendo ranks, here are a few differences between the Kyu and Dan:
- Kyu is known as the rank acquired by the Kendoka which leads them up to the Dan.
- The Dan is the higher rank than Kyu and is referred to as the black belt in the West.
Kendo ranks are categorized into two primary groups and these are the mudansha for the Kyu rankings and the Yudansha for the Dan. Since the Yudansha are more prominently known as the black belt in other martial arts, it can be equated that the first kyu equals the brown belt while the first dan is the first-degree black belt. During the practice of Kendo, the Kendoka begins right at the sixth kyu then will gradually descend to the first kyu. For them to pass the next Kendo ranks, the Kendoka are required to go through a promotional test; here, they will be given the chance to exhibit their abilities that they have learned throughout their Kendo training. Keep in mind that achieving Kendo ranks of sixth kyu to the second differs slightly depending on the federation; for those in the first kyu and above, they will need to go through an examination first before moving to the promotional board.
The Promotional Examination
For every Kendoka to attain a rank in Kendo, they will need to go through the promotional examination; for those in Kendo ranks sixth kyu to the second, the process will differ and its awarding may possibly be at the dojo level though as mentioned previously, it may differ depending on the federation. After the examination, the Kendoka may be considered a first dan and can eventually rise to the tenth dan. For the Kendoka to reach the fifth dan, they will need to thoroughly train to refine their skills; and once they reach this point, it is required that these Kendoka make more contributions when it comes to spreading and developing the art of Kendo.
The Kendo examination will take place before other Kendoka who are not only ranked as dan, but also form the commission. With that, the Kendoka in training will be required to exhibit a variety of moves and techniques such as cuts, basic movements, kata, sparring, and matches depending on the their ranking. If the judges are pleased with the quality and level of skill that was exhibited before them and are satisfied with the Zanshi of the Kendoka, he or she will be allowed to advance to the next level. Normally, a Kendoka should wait about six months between examinations.
At the beginning of the sixth rank dan, the title that will be attained is called the Shogo; this is a specific title that determines the level of achievement as a Kendo master. In the art of Kendo, there are three specific levels of shogo and these include the renshi, kyoshi, and the hanshi. These are titles given to Kendoka who have stayed at the sixth, seventh, or eighth dan for a required number of years and who have satisfied all of the given standards of qualifications.
The Dan-i will determine an individuals level of mental and physical skill while the sho-go will indicate a persons technical proficiency as well as their level of achievement in respect to their judgment and leadership as a Kendo master. For those who have attained the highest level of authority when it comes to being a Kendo master, the title of han-shi is given.