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U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization Ranking System

The ranking method of any martial arts system is typically the “Belt Ranking System” which has been widely used for many years by all martial arts systems of Great Repute as a way to gauge the progression of an individual student’s advancements and achievements throughout their life in the martial arts.  As the colors of a Belt (Obi) may vary slightly from system to system, there are basic colors that remain to this day the symbol of a traditional martial arts Dojo. 

In the beginning of the development of martial arts, the Obi was used to keep the Kimono (a Japanese robe) together and in place and was white at the beginning.  Myth or not, as a practitioner trained, the belt became dirty, thus becoming “Black” symbolizing the many years of training “as there is a tradition that an Obi shall never be washed, lest the knowledge be lost”… and so it was that the “Black Belt” became the symbol of hard work, knowledge and experience and as the practitioner became older and wiser, the Obi became worn and tattered, signifying one’s respect in the community. 

Years passed and the martial arts progressed with development and so did the need to display the level of a practitioner’s achievements with the purpose of recognition.  Kano Jigoro (1860-1938) founder of Kodokan Judo created the custom of indicating rank with colored belts and from there the belt system was formulated and is utilized in Modern Budo worldwide today.  Throughout the years the belt system has transformed, and to some degree in a confusing way.  Too many colors were created by some to exploit the viable ranking system set in place, and were done in such a way only for the purpose of financial gain.  This has proven to be a detriment to the modern martial arts as the use of a particular color belt in one martial arts system would indicate a level contrary in another martial arts system, i.e., for example the color “Red”, where a “Red Belt” in the Modern Budo system indicates a “Master” grade or “Grand Master Seiko-Shihan”, whereas in another martial arts system a “Red Belt” may be used for an under Black Belt rank - confusing the outsider. 

On July1, 1980, the USA Goju Karate Organization officially adopted the Modern Budo ranking system and its adherence is strictly enforced.  The following Belt ranking system provides only a brief description for guidelines of each grade and the time table for which one could reasonably expect to achieve that level.  It must always be prudent of the martial arts student to remember that one’s advancement from one level to the next is subject to one’s character development as well as the development of their skills.


White Belt 10th Kyu - (Jukyu)

Plain White Belt Begin training.

White Belt 9th Kyu - (Kukyu)

White Belt with one stripe Usually 3 to 4 months basic training, develops ability to sustain full class training.

White Belt 8th Kyu - (Hachikyu)

White Belt with two stripes Usually 6 to 8 months sustained intensive training, basic fighting, basic Kata.

Green Belt 7th Kyu - (Shichikyu)

Plain Green Belt Usually 8 to 12 months sustained intensive training, excited, accomplished practitioner, develops Kata & punching power.

Green Belt 6th Kyu - (Rokyu)

Green Belt with one stripe Usually 14 to 18 months sustained intensive Training, develops control (both mental and physical), spars with all color belts, develops hard & soft abilities, strong kicks.

Green Belt 5th Kyu - (Gokyu)

Green Belt with two stripes Usually 18 to 24 months sustained intensive training, matures as a Green Belt, develops focus, learns how to fight without injury, balances Kata & Fighting. (sixty percent quit before this level).

Purple Belt 4th Kyu - (Shikyu)

Plain Purple Belt Usually 24 to 30 months sustained intensive training, lower than Brown - but considered a low ranking Brown Belt (transition to), maturing Kata practitioner, competes in Brown Belt division.

Purple Belt 3rd Kyu - (Sankyu)

Purple Belt with one stripe Usually 30 to 36 months sustained intensive training, "short step" committed  practitioner, works hard, establishes goals, develops strong Kata, harmonizes "hard & soft" focuses on becoming Brown Belt.

Brown Belt 2nd Kyu (Nikyu)

Plain Brown Belt Usually 38 to 42 months sustained intensive training, first class student, long hours of Kata training, never satisfied with one's self, always proving one's worthiness.

Brown Belt 1st Kyu (Ikkyu)

Brown Belt with one stripe Usually 42 to 48 months sustained intensive training, has enlightened Kata - now tends to train harder in fighting, fights the hardest, very aggressive, always proving one's self, dominates the division, see's the end of the road - only to find out it's just the beginning!

Black Belt 1st Degree "Holding" (Shodan Ho)

Solid Black Belt with one white stripe Usually 54 to 60 months sustained intensive training, excellent competitor, trains regularly, "false sense of relief", regarded as just the beginning by most martial arts systems of great repute. 

Black Belt 1st Degree (Shodan)

Solid Black Belt with one red stripe Usually 6 months to 1 year of sustained intensive training after Shodan Ho. Proud, expects the highest of one's self, the core of a strong Dojo, competes regularly, practices strong Kata, now realizes its just the beginning.

Black Belt (2nd Degree) (Nidan)

Solid Black Belt with two red stripes Usually 2 to 5 years of sustained intensive training after Shodan. The heart and soul of a strong Dojo, sets examples, matured, strives to perfect Kata, strong fighter, works the hardest in the Dojo, committed to the way of life.

Black Belt 3rd Degree (Sandan)

Solid Black Belt with three red stripes Usually 3 to 6 years of sustained intensive training after Nidan. Highly Respected, has perfected all Kata, dominate fighter, wins tournaments and develops the perfection of teaching.

Black Belt 4th Degree (Yodan)

Half White Half Red / Black Back (worn White over Red) Usually 12 to 18 years after Shodan (Very few achieve this level), talented, dedicated, has courage, knowledge and skills, committed to the development of the art of teaching.

Black Belt 5th Degree (Godan)

Half White Half Red / Black Back (worn Red over White) Usually 18 to 20 plus years after Shodan. Senior grade "Renshi" means "Senior Expert", works as professional, has taught and developed many quality students.

Black Belt 6th Degree (Rokudan) 

Equal Black Equal Red Center Stripe "Kyoshi" grade, (6th, 7th, 8th Degree's) literally translated means "Wizard" or high master, outstanding contributor, has become a wizard in the martial arts, usually 22 to 28 years "plus" after Shodan, must be over 35 years old, works to improve the Karate system for which they are devoted to.

Black Belt 7th Degree (Shichidan)

Red and White Panel Belt "Kyoshi" grade, must be over 42 years old, one's skill and personal character are of the highest caliber, has developed the mind and body as well as other Karateka, motivates and maintains the Karate system and the Karateka in it.

Black Belt 8th Degree (Hachidan)

Red with Black Border Belt Kyoshi" grade, must be over 50 years old, one who sets the standard and maintains the highest character of one's self and of his students, has been responsible for the development of thousands of quality disciples.

Black Belt 9th Degree (Kudan)

Solid Red Belt "Hanshi" grade "Master Instructor", must be over 60 years old, is the highest grade in the system without being the Grand Master, regarded as the next "Grand Master" as it is passed on from the "Seiko-Shihan".

Black Belt 10th Degree (Judan)

Solid Red Belt "Seiko-Shihan" or "Grand Master" only one in a system of great repute can be at this level, is considered "Highest Most Grand Master" of a Karate system, sets policy, has achieved all and all shall follow, a highly revered individual!

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