Rank Promotions

Rank should be a good representative of your competence in the art. There are several systems of ranks in judo, like most other martial arts in the Western world, ranks are represented by belt colors. The belt is not as important as the actual knowledge and ability.

At Judo Link, we prefer a conservative approach to promoting our students. We want our students to have a solid fundamental before moving to the next rank. It is to the student's best interest to be promoted based on what he is actually capable doing. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

What do I need to get promoted?

All promotions are purely based on merit and progress. When the instructor thinks you are ready, you will be asked for prepare toward the promotion exam some time ahead, and when you pass the exam, you will be promoted. If your promotion requires a change of belt color, you will pay a fee for the belt and promotion.

Each promotion will come with a club-issued rank certificate. For promotion to shodan and above, one will have the choice or an club certificate or a national organization-issued.

Promotion price

The promotion fee covers our preparation, examination, belt and certificate costs.

For up to brown belt: $40

Brown belt (3 classes): $60

Black belt (Shodan to Nidan): $150

What are the criteria for determining a promotion?

The simplest answer: sufficient progress. While it is important, it is not sufficient to know the names of the techniques and how to perform them against a cooperating partner. To see sufficient progress, here are several influential factors:

  • Principles of judo
  • Techniques
  • Philosophy of judo
  • Coordination
  • Reaction speed
  • Agility
  • Strength required to perform techniques
  • Effectiveness of techniques
  • Control
  • Competition

Depending on the rank, certain criteria will weigh more than others during each phase. Competition is a significant factor as the rank increases, good performance at competitions can accelerate promotion. However, competition alone will not be sufficient without the other factors. Together they show a student's progress.

What are the ranks in Judo Link club?

Ranks for age 14+
8th Kyu (class)     White
7th Kyu (Download Study Guide)     Yellow
6th Kyu (Download Study Guide)     Orange
5th Kyu (Download Study Guide)     Green
4th Kyu (Download Study Guide)     Blue
3rd Kyu (Download Study Guide)     Brown (Purple for minor)
2nd Kyu     Brown
1st Kyu     Brown
1st Dan (Shodan)     Black
2nd Dan (Nidan)     Black
3rd Dan (Sandan)     Black
4th to 5th Dan (Yondan, Godan)     Black or black and red
6th to 8th Dan (Rokudan, Shichidan, Hachidan)     Black or red and white
9th to 10th Dan (Kudan and Judan)     Red or black
Note: the last two dans are reserved for exceptional master of judo. Below 3rd Kyu, the colors vary from place to place.

How long does it take me to get [color] belt?

Unlike general classes like geometry or chemistry which the passing of a class is determined by a fix set of questions to test the student's subject knowledge, martial arts are not as clear cut. Each person has a different rate of learning, ability, psychology and background. It is difficult to say about the promotion time with a certainty without certain amount of knowledge and observation of a student's learning progress.

On average, for someone who consistently practices 2~3 times a week, participates in few competitions a year, it is possible to reach the rank of purple or brown belt within three to five years. Your progress could be faster or slower.

When do I get my next promotion?

While it is natural to inquire about promotion requirement so one could make progress, do not ask for a promotion. Even if you can perform all the techniques in the syllabus, that is the minimum you have to do. The instructor is the best judge of if you are ready for the next level.

When does one become a black belt?

Most people who begin a martial art aim to become a black belt. It is true that black belt is the highest rank, within which are ten degrees (one to ten), however, having a black belt does not signify that one knows everything, nor it is an end by itself.

While for a beginner a black belt can seem to be years away, it should be a long-term goal. Black belt is not the ultimate goal, shodan (初段), first degree black belt means the first rank, the beginning mastery. By the time you are a shodan, you have mastered enough fundamental movement and now ready to learn judo in depth. This is the point which you begin to develop your own specialized techniques to achieve higher effectivenes and consistency in applying your techniques.

In the culture of judo, depending on one's commitment, ability, and progress, it can take anywhere from as little as three years, to more than ten years. If one began as a teenager in Japan training five days a week among a strong judo environment with many other black belts, combined with good competition result, it is possible to obtain a black belt in three years. Outside Japan and its strong judo environment, this is highly unlikely.

For someone who consistently come to practice, competes few times a year, could achieve shodan in five to eight years. For a non competitor, eight to ten years is likely. However, there is no fixed formula to follow.

At Judo Link, we do not believe in automatic promotion from time-in-grade. We only give promotion based on progress. In certain parts of the judo world, there has been an evident rank inflation over the last several decades, especially among the high rank, and we prefer not to be part of that. There is such a thing as terminal rank, and most people will not go beyond sandan (third degree black belt).

The path toward black belt and beyond is a path of mastery of the art and oneself. The mastery of the art is seen in the fine control over every technique, the better control one has, the higher the mastery. Even to the untrained eyes, mastery of judo is graceful and beautiful judo.

How do I know if I am making progress?

You can only judge your progress if you have a reference point. You are your own reference point, so you can obviously feel when you are much better than before, but sometimes it’s difficult to see oneself objectively, that’s when you need to rely on external subjective and objective measure to know. There are three ways from an external perspective:

  • An instructor who has followed you for a while can determine if your movement and technique execution is better.
  • Randori, especially against the same people you used to fight. If you can consistently beat them in randori, you are getting better.
  • Competition result. This requires few years of data. If you keep a meticulous record, and keep participating in the same mix level of events, if your win percentage is higher, then you are likely getting much.

What is the minimum age to obtain a black belt?

In judo, generally the internationally accepted minimum age for a black belt is 15 or 16. Even a stellar young competitor who displays exceptional talent must exhibit the mental maturity before being awarded a black belt. The ability alone to excel in fights is not sufficent to be a black belt, one has to have sufficient understanding of the way of judo.



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