JKA Columbia University

Seek Perfection of character, be faithful, endeavour, respect others and refrain from violent behaviour

Belt Rankings and Testing Requirements

The following list contains the belt rankings -- and the kata and type of kumite (sparring) required to earn each one -- under the JKA at Columbia. These rankings and testing requirements follow Sensei Mori's (Shotokan Karate-do America) system. There are four belt colors: white, green, brown, and black. Each color has several degrees, so that a student will wear the same color belt for several examinations before moving to the next level. Each level leading up to black belt is a "kyu"; each black belt level is a "dan".

Note that some JKA instructors provide different systems of belt rankings -- for example, from white to orange, to green, then purple, and then brown and black belts. However, the system of numbered ranks and testing requirements is universal.

White belt:
10 k:
(beginner -- no testing needed to be one!)
8 kyu:
(Level skips) Heian 1 (or Heian shodan).
7 kyu:
Heian 2 (Heian nidan). Same sparring.
Green belt:
6 kyu:
Heian 3 (Heian sandan). One-step sparring
5 kyu:
Heian 4 (Heian yondan). Same sparring.
4 kyu:
Heian 5 (Heian godan). Same sparring.
Brown belt:
3 kyu:
Tekki 1 (Tekki shodan). Semi-free sparring
2 kyu:
Choose one from four brown-belt level kata (Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai, Empi, or Jion). Same sparring.
1 kyu:
Same as 2 kyu exam.
Black belt:
1 dan:
Same as above. Also, perform a kata randomly selected from the Heian kata and Tekki shodan.
2 dan:
: Choose one kata from all of the advanced kata (with a few excluded). Also, perform a randomly selected brown-belt level kata. Free sparring
3 dan:
Choose any kata. Also, perform a kata randomly selected from the four brown-belt level kata and the 2 dan kata. Demonstrate self-defense techniques against a randomly chosen attack (grabbing or a weapon). Same sparring.
4 dan:
Choose any kata. Also, perform any randomly selected kata. Same self-defense demonstration. Same sparring.
5 dan:
Same as 4 dan exam. Also, present a paper on an aspect of karate technique.
6 dan:
Test requirements are at the discretion of a board of high-level instructors.
7 dan:
Election by the senior members of the JKA.
8 dan:
Election by the senior members of the JKA.
9 dan:
Same as above. Usually this rank belongs to the chief instructor only.
10 d:
Posthumous rank, elected by the senior members of the JKA. Awarded only twice, to Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan karate) and Masatoshi Nakayama (Chief Instructor of the JKA, 1955-87).