Ranks and Gradings

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The Bujinkan Dōjō establishes a series of nine kyū grades below the rank of black belt, starting with Mukyu (no grade/white belt) and then from Kukyu (9th kyu) to Ikkyu (1st kyu). Kyū ranks usually wear green or red belts: green for men and red for women, although there is some variety amongst teachers and dōjō. There were originally 10 dan grades, as with many other martial arts using the kyū/dan ranking system, but this was changed by sōke Masaaki Hatsumi to 15 dan grades of black belt. The grades are divided into three groupings; 1st-5th dan Ten (heaven), 6th-10th dan Chi (earth), 11th-15th dan Jin (man). The last five are further divided into the five elements; Chi (earth), Sui (water), Ka (fire),  (wind) and  (void).

Since there are generally only two belt colors, the practitioner’s rank is displayed by the color of the art’s emblem, called wappen (ワッペン, from the German Wappen), which has the kanji “bu”(武) and “jin” (神) on it. There are four kinds of wappen (9th to 1st kyū, 1st to 4th dan, 5th to 9th dan, and 10th to 15th dan) sometimes augmented with up to four silver or gold stars (called hoshi) above or around the emblem, representing the individual ranks.

At 5th dan (godan), practitioners submit to a test before the sōke to establish that they are able to sense the presence of danger and evade it, considered to be a fundamental survival skill. This is called the sakki. A practitioner ranked as godan or above has the option of becoming a licenced teacher (shidōshi). Ashidōshi is entitled to open his own dōjō, and hand out ranks up to 4th dan at the premises he wishes. A practitioner ranked as 1st to 4th dan may become a licenced “assistant teacher” (shidōshi-ho), if backed by and acting under the supervision of a shidōshi 5th to 9th dan or a person who has been given 10th dan(jūdan). In the Bujinkan a 10th to 15th dan is often referred to as a shihan.

In addition to the kyū/dan ranking system, a few select senior master practitioners have earned oldermenkyo kaiden certificates of mastery in individual school lineages. These menkyo kaiden certificates essentially establish that the master practitioner has learned all that there is to learn about the particular lineage. Whereas the kyū/dan ranks are often made public, those select practitioners who have earnedmenkyo kaiden rarely divulge their status.

10th Kyu – Mukyu 無 級
9th Kyu – Kyukyu 九 級
8th Kyu – Hachikyu 八 級
7th Kyu – Nanakyu 七 級
6th Kyu – Rokukyu 六 級
5th Kyu – Gokyu 五 級
4th Kyu – Yonkyu 四 級
3rd Kyu – Sankyu 参 級
2nd Kyu – Nikyu 弐 級
1st Kyu – Ikkyu 級
1st Dan – Shodan 初 段
2nd Dan – Nidan 弐 段
3rd Dan – Sandan 参 段
4th Dan – Yondan 四 段
5th Dan – Godan 五 段
6th Dan – Rokudan 六 段
7th Dan – Nanadan 七 段
8th Dan – Hachidan 八 段
9th Dan – Kyudan 九 段
10th Dan – Judan 十 段
11th Dan – Jushodan 拾 初 段
12th Dan – Junidan 拾 弐 段
13th Dan – Jusandan 拾 参 段
14th Dan – Juyondan 拾 四 段
15th Dan – Jugodan 拾 五 段

Shidoshi-Ho 士 道 師 補
Shidoshi 士 道 師
Shihan 師 範
Soke 宗 家

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