Dan (martial arts)

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The belt colors of the master degrees in Budo

The Dan ( Japanese , literally: "level", "rank", "section") comes from the Japanese Budo and describes an advanced or master level in many Asian martial arts. Danträger or Yūdansha (Japanese 有 段 者 , literally "person with Dan") are people who hold a Dan degree.

The lowest master degree (1st Dan) follows the highest student degree (Japanese 1st  Kyū ). The (belt) examination for the 1st Dan can generally be taken from the age of 18. The highest dan is usually the 10th dan.

Japanese degrees

The division into ten master degrees is common in Japanese martial arts or martial arts. Here's Shodan literally "start degree", the other containing the appropriate number word as a prefix, and thus are called "second degree", "Third Degree" etc .:

Dan degree 1st Dan 2nd Dan 3rd Dan 4th Dan 5th Dan 6th Dan 7th Dan 8th Dan 9th Dan 10th Dan
pronunciation Shodan Nidan Sandan Yondan Godan Rokudan Nanadan Hachidan Kudan Jūdan
Japanese 初段a 弐 段 / 二段b 参 段 / 三 段c 四段 五 段 六段 七段 八段 九段 十 段
a Ichidan (Japanese 一段 ), literally means "first degree", instead in almost all cases Shodan ( 初段 ) which literally means "beginning degree or beginner degree"
b The formal notation of the Kanji for "2" - - is usually used because by adding a line from (2), a (3) can be made
c The formal spelling of the Kanji for "3" - - is commonly used


The Kyū / Dan graduation system originated in Japan towards the end of the 17th century in the game Go . Based on the different ranks, the default for the weaker player was determined.

In the 19th century Kanō Jigorō (founder of Judo ) implemented the Dan system in martial arts. Around the same time, from 1880, kyū (in judo) and dan (in kendō ) were used. In judo, they were used to document the level of ability of the students. In Kendō, the payment of Kendō teachers was based on their Dan degree. Since 1895 the Kyū degrees have been created based on the German school system of the 19th century. The old class hierarchy (Sexta, Quinta, Quarta, Tertia, Seconda and Prima) expresses nothing else in Latin than 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st class - because the Japanese word Kyū means “class , Student". In modern times, individual martial arts have adapted the original number of six kyū according to their ideas.

Graduations today

Today is the dan system next to the Judo including in Iaido , Jiu Jitsu , Kendo , Karate , Kyūdō , Hapkido , Taekwondo , Aikido and the resulting originally from Judo, Aikido and Karate Ju-Jitsu , as well as the board games Go and Shogi used . In Iaido, Kyūdō, Kendō, Go and Shōgi, however, belts are not used as a mark of graduation.

In most of the “belted” martial arts, the “black belts” (1st to 5th Dan) are awarded on the basis of technical examinations. In many martial arts the higher degrees of mastery are also considered to be “spiritual” mastery, in which the bearer of a corresponding Dan begins to internalize the intellectual backgrounds, values ​​and insights that a martial art conveys. A low dan grade is indicated in younger budo systems by wearing a black belt. The higher Dan grades are either marked with a black (Japanese 黒 帯 , Kuro Obi), or with a red-white (Japanese 紅白 帯 , Kohaku Obi), red-black, white-blue, red (Japanese. 赤 帯 , Aka Obi) or white belt (Japanese 白 帯 , Shiro Obi, corresponding to the lowest student grade). The latter is based on Asian philosophy and is intended to symbolize that the student and master degrees form a closed circle, a harmony. However, this is often only true theoretically, because in most martial arts the highest Dan grades are hardly or not awarded at all, as they are viewed as the perfection of the art.

The meaning of the word dan (literally “step”) suggests that each dan is one step of many. Rather, in some systems, the 1st dan merely represents the ability to learn the actual martial art, i.e. H. marks the completion of a merely preparatory training.

It should also be noted that there are no standardized criteria for awarding a Dan graduation, neither across sports nor within the individual disciplines. A 1st dan karate is not to be equated with a 1st dan judo or a 1st dan kendo. This also applies within the systems, which are divided into different styles, such as karate (for example the styles Shōtōkan , Shōtōkai , Wadō-ryū ) or Aikidō (e.g. Aikikai , Iwama Ryu or DAB ). Due to different examination content or grading criteria, for example, a 5th Dan Aikidō in Aikikai is not identical to a 5th Dan Aikidō that was awarded in the DAB or another style.

Likewise, in all arts it is not stipulated who is allowed to award a Dan graduation and how this is done. There are graduations that are awarded by individual masters who lead their own style, as well as those that are awarded by a college or by associations (e.g. Korporation Internationaler Danträger , German Dan college etc.). Graduations can be awarded on the basis of technical examinations (comparable to an examination at a university) or by appointment without an explicit examination.

International top fighters in the martial arts who hold competitions usually have a maximum of third dan. This results from the minimum preparation times between the Dan exams and thus also from the age of the fighters, which is usually limited by the requirements and requirements of competitive sport for active people.

Honorary degrees

The awarding of honorary Dan degrees is handled differently in all Budo disciplines and associations. The focus is on honoring the work of the person concerned for the benefit of the respective discipline, the underlying teaching system or its athletic achievements.

  • In the Aikikai Association of Aikidō , it is possible to award honorary degrees by awarding the honored person up to the 3rd Dan degree without an examination. The grades from the 5th Dan grade are all awarded on an honorary basis for work performed, whereby the 10th grade is only awarded posthumously.

Chinese degrees

Graduation systems are not and have not been used in most traditional Chinese martial arts ; However, there were already different graduation systems in the past, which were used in various martial arts or by official sources. In 1998, the Chinese Wushu Association , the National Sports Commission and the Chinese Wushu Research Institute introduced a graduation system that has been used in various martial arts, especially modern Wushu , since then . However, the system is far from being as widespread as the Japanese belt system.

In the system, the Japanese term “Dan” ( Japanese ) is used as a synonym for the Chinese “Duan” ( Chinese   , Pinyin duàn  - “Section, degree, rank, section”). It consists of nine Dan levels, to which an animal symbol of a certain color is assigned. The basic level Dan (1st to 3rd Dan, blue, white and golden eagle) are for Wushu students with several years of experience. The intermediate level Dan (or advanced level Dan) (4th to 6th Dan, blue, white and golden tiger) are for Wushu practitioners who are already allowed to teach and have studied Wushu regularly for at least 10 years. From the 5th Dan the scientific commitment in the field of Wushu research must be proven, e.g. B. through publications. The upper level Dan (7th to 9th Dan, blue, white and golden dragon) are only awarded to very experienced teachers or masters with above-average performance. From the 7th Dan the teacher can call himself “Grandmaster”. A 10th Dan is not awarded in the Chinese system.

Related topics


  • Werner Lind : The dictionary of martial arts. China, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, India, Mongolia, Philippines, Taiwan, etc. Sportverlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-328-00838-1 ( Edition BSK ).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Term " dan (段 / だ ん)", Japanese / German. wadoku.de, accessed on April 9, 2018 .
  2. Term " dan (段 / だ ん)", Japanese / English. tangorin.com, accessed April 9, 2018 .
  3. Term " Shodan (初段 / し ょ だ ん)", Japanese / German. wadoku.de, accessed on September 28, 2017 .
  4. Term " Shodan (初段 / し ょ だ ん)", Japanese / English. tangorin.com, accessed on September 28, 2017 .
  5. Graduations in karate. January 22, 2006, accessed November 21, 2016 .
  6. BDAS examination system. Archived from the original ; Retrieved November 3, 2011 .
  7. Elo system. FESA, accessed December 27, 2017 .
  8. term " duan (段)", Chinese / English. zdic.net, accessed April 9, 2018 .
  9. term " duan (段)", Chinese / German. leo.org, accessed April 9, 2018 .
  10. ^ Wushu Dan System. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on August 3, 2010 ; Retrieved August 13, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kungfuwebmag.de