Kyu/Dan System created by Jigoro Kano




Cunningham, Don. "Belt colours and ranking systems". e-budokai. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2015.

History of Judo Belts

History of Belts and Ranks in Martial Arts




The long sash worn with traditional Japanese KIMONO. In the days before KANO created JUDO, there was  no KYU/DAN ranking system in the martial arts. In 1886 KANO  Jigoro began custom of having his YUDANSHA wear black belts (DAN). In 1907 KANO introduced the modern JUDOGI and its modern OBI, but he still only used white and black belt ranks. Today in Japan, the use of belt colours is related to the age of the student. Some clubs will only have black and white, others will include a brown belt for advanced KYU grades and at the elementary school level it is common to see a green belt for intermediate levels.  (See IJF CONTEST RULES, Article 3/f)


KYU (level, class, rank)




. It is used to indicate ranks below Black belt. Kyu ranks go backwards as rank increases. Thus, 6th kyu is a lower rank than 1st kyu. People who have kyu grades are called MUDANSHA. While numerous variations exist today, the most popular belt (OBI) colors in kyu grades,  In Japan white belts are generally worn through all KYU grades, although some individual schools also use the brown belt to indicate the higher KYU ranks. The other colored belts originated later when JUDO began being practiced outside of Japan.  SENSEI Mikonosuke KAWAISHI introduced various colored belts in Europe in 1935. When he started to teach JUDO in Paris.




Belt Colours


6th kyu                  white


5th kyu                   yellow


4th kyu                   orange


3rd kyu                   green


2nd kyu                   blue


1st kyu                    purple (for juniors) brown (for seniors)






In Australia and Europe


For Australia and most of Europe, the belt  colours in ascending order are white, yellow, orange, green, blue and brown. Some European countries use red belt to signify a complete beginner, other European countries such as the UK use a red belt as the belt one grade above a beginner to show that the person is a full member of a club.




In Canada


Belt ranking for Seniors are, white, yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown. Belt ranking for Juniors use white, white-yellow, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, orange-green, green-blue, blue-brown, and brown.




In United States


The order of belt colours can vary from DOJO to DOJO. Advanced KYU levels can be earned by both seniors and juniors (children under the age of about 16) and are signified by wearing belts of various colours other than black. For senior players, both the United States Judo Federation (USJF) and the United States Judo Association (USJA) specify four belt colours for the six KYU. The USJA also specifies wearing a patch specifying the practitioner’s level. The USJF Juniors ranking system specifies ranks to 11th KYU (juichikyu). The USJA Juniors ranking system specifies twelve levels of KYU rank, beginning with “Junior 1st Degree”. As with the senior practitioners, the USJA specifies that juniors wear a patch specifying their rank.




For senior players, both the United States Judo Federation (USJF)[ and The United States Judo Association (USJA) specify six kyū, as listed in the table. The USJA requires "Beginners" (not a kyū) to wear a white belt until they test for yellow belt. The USJA also recommends wearing a patch specifying the practitioner's level. This is true for both kyū and dan levels.




The USJF Juniors ranking system specifies ranks to 11th kyū (jūichikyū). The USJA Juniors ranking system specifies twelve levels of kyū rank, beginning with "Junior 1st Degree" (equivalent to jūnikyū, or 12th kyū) and ending with "Junior 12th Degree" (equivalent to ikkyū). As with the senior practitioners, the USJA recommends that juniors wear a patch specifying their rank. When a USJA Junior reaches the age of 17, their conversion to Senior rank is:


  • Yellow belt converts to 6th kyu (rokyu)
  • Orange belt converts to 5th kyu (gokyu)
  • Green belt converts to 4th kyu (yonkyu)
  • Blue belt or higher converts to 3rd kyu (sankyu)




·         Kobayashi Kiyoshi, Illustrated Judo, Kyu and Dan”, Tokyo, Japan, Obun-Intereurope, 1975, 144p.


·         “The Judo Rank System (


DAN (steps, stairs, a rung)



Means „step” and is generally identified by the black belt. This system was invented by Honinbo Dosaku (1645-1702), professional go player in the EDO JIDAI (Period).  KANO JIGORO (founder of KODOKAN JUDO) introduced the new ranking system (dan) around 1884. But in 1886 KANO moved his residence again to Fujimi-cho, where DOJO students with DAN rankings first began wearing black belts as a sign of their status. There were three advanced ranks at the beginning. Today the grades range from 1st grade to 10th grade. Special hampionhtypes of belts (OBI) are worn by high-grade practitioners like the red-and-white belt from 6th troguht 8th grades and the red belt for 9th and 10th grades.


“Dr. KANO JIGORO, an educator and sports enthusiast, was the first to use the black belt of sash as a symbol for dan or graded rank students at his school, the KODOKAN:…”


“… Dr. KANO borrowed the concept from Japanese high school sports. Advanced competitors were separated from beginners in swimming tournaments by a black ribbon worn around their waist. As an distinguished educator and sports enthusiast, Dr. KANO was most  certainly aware of this tradition and may have incorporated it into his practices at the KODOKAN.” (by Don Cunningham)


  1. SHODAN: first degree black belt
  2. Nidan: second degree black belt
  3. Sandan: third degree black belt
  4. Yodan: fourth degree black belt
  5. Godan: fifth degree black belt
  6. Rokudan: sixth degree red and white belt
  7. Nanadan: seventh degree red and white belt (also, Shichidan)
  8. Hachidan: eight degree red ans white belt
  9. Kudan: ninth degree red  belt
  10. Judan: tenth degree red belt






·         Parulski, George R., Black belt judo”, Chicago, USA, Contemporay Books, 1985, 210p, ISBN 0809253267.


·         Ohlenkamp, Neil. “The Judo Rank System (


·         Ohlenkamp, Neil, “Black belt Judo skills and techniques”, London, United Kingdom, New Holland, 2006, 160p, LIB, ISBN 1845371097.