A complete guide to the Kendo grading system: everything from the basics to promotion.

Kendo is one of the Japanese martial arts with its historical background and traditional values, and is widely practiced throughout the world.

The emphasis is on improving oneself not only through Kendo techniques, but also through training of the mind, technique, and body.


In this article, we will focus on the dan system of Kendo, and clarify how everyone from beginners to experienced players can understand the dans and improve their own technique and spirituality.

The dan system is not just a ranking, it shows the path to growth as a kendo practitioner, and we will explain in detail what each dan means and what kind of effort is required.

We hope that this guide will be of assistance to those who are planning to take the Kendo dan exam, as well as those who already have a dan, in their journey to Kendo.




Basic knowledge of Kendo dan system

Kendo is known as a martial art that aims not only for technical growth but also for spiritual growth.

The dan system is an important means of formally recognizing that growth.

In this section, we delve into what Kendo dans mean, their historical background, and international recognition.


What is the dan rank in Kendo?

The kendo dan system is an indicator of a kendo practitioner’s technical level and spiritual maturity.

There are ranks starting from 10th dan to 10th dan, the highest rank, and in order to be promoted to each dan, it is necessary to clear a strict examination.

Dan is not just a rank, but a proof of growth and self-development as a Kendo practitioner.


Historical background of dan

Kendo’s dan system is closely related to the history of Japanese martial arts.

This system was introduced in the Meiji period to standardize martial arts skills in general and systematize them as part of education.

Swordsmanship, originally practiced only among samurai, was also used as a means to spread it to wider society.


International recognition of dans

Kendo’s dan system is internationally recognized and its evaluation standards are followed in many countries.

Kendo federations around the world conduct examinations based on Japanese standards, establishing Kendo’s place in the global martial arts community.

Dans are sometimes used as qualifications for participation in international competitions and seminars, providing opportunities for exchange and technical improvement among Kendo practitioners.

This section is designed as a starting point for understanding the basics of kendo dans and provides guidelines for readers to assess their own place in kendo training.

Dans in kendo are not just indicators of technical level, but also symbolize the process of character development and self-actualization as a kendo practitioner.




The process of obtaining a dan in kendo

The process of obtaining a kendo dan is an important step in evaluating the technical improvement and spiritual maturity of an individual kendo practitioner.

In this section, we will explain in detail the conditions for promotion starting from Shodan, the examination criteria, and how to prepare and prepare for the dan examination.


Conditions for promotion from 1st dan

In order to obtain Shodan, you are required to have basic kendo techniques and etiquette.

In order to advance from Shodan to a higher dan, it is necessary to acquire further skills and pass a practical exam at an examination board.

Each dan has clear technical requirements, and the examination evaluates whether those techniques are properly executed.


Examination standards and evaluation methods

Kendo dan examinations evaluate technical accuracy, effective striking, response ability, and mental attitude during the match.

The judges focus not only on the kendo artist’s sword skills, but also on their stance and mental maturity in kendo.

Judging is usually done by multiple judges to ensure a fair evaluation.


Preparation and mindset for dan examination

Success in dan examinations depends largely on how seriously you take your daily practice.

Judging preparation includes not only technical practice but also mental preparation.

Kendo practitioners are encouraged to practice breathing techniques and meditation to improve their concentration before judging.

Also, on the day of the examination, applicants must be prepared to demonstrate their skills to the fullest without fear.


Through this process, kendo practitioners not only hone their own technique, but also their spiritual side, and are able to acquire the true spirit of kendo.

Ascending each rank is more than just a technical accomplishment, it is a testament to personal growth and self-actualization.



Details and characteristics of each stage

The dan rank in kendo is an important indicator of a swordsman’s technical, psychological, and educational level.

Each dan level, from 1st dan to 5th dan, all the way to higher dans of 6th dan and above, represents a specific level of skill and spirituality that a Kendo practitioner should achieve.

There are also special ranks and titles, each indicating a specific accomplishment.


Overview of 1st to 5th dan

  • Shodan : Shows mastery of basic techniques and etiquette, and symbolizes the start of Kendo training. Observance of etiquette and understanding of basic kata are required.
  • Second stage : This stage requires improved strategic understanding and mental strength, and requires further advanced mastery of basic skills.
  • 3rd Dan : This is the stage where you have achieved diversification of your skills and mental stability, and your qualifications as a leader are also evaluated.
  • 4th Dan : Requires a high degree of skill and spiritual maturity, and the ability to understand and practice oneness with others.
  • 5th Dan : Along with technical sophistication, mental peace and whole-hearted skill are evaluated.


It is said that it is relatively easy to get up to 3rd dan in Kendo, but it depends on the effort of the individual.

Generally, it is said that 4th stage and above is amazing.


Privileges and responsibilities of 6th dan and above

  • 6th Dan or higher : As a master of Kendo, his comprehensive technical ability, self-transcendence, and leadership ability are highly praised. The 7th dan is required to have a deep understanding of Kendo doctrine and the ability to convey it, and the 8th dan is required to have extremely high technical skills and mental strength as a kendo master. These dans play an important role in promoting Kendo education and culture.


The 8th dan is the highest level in modern Kendo.

If you’ve gotten this far, you can say you’re an expert. Even after graduating from university and becoming an adult, those who continue to practice Kendo in business organizations, police departments, etc., have the goal of obtaining 8th Dan.

Aim! The highest rank!


Special dans and titles (honorary dans, etc.)

Special dans and titles are given to kendo practitioners who are recognized for special achievements and contributions that are not included in the normal dan system.

This often involves individuals who have made a lifelong contribution to Kendo or achieved special accomplishments.


These dans are very important in a kendoist’s career, and each level indicates not only technical proficiency, but also spirituality and educational contributions ​( planotatico ) ​.




Sword tools and equipment related to rank

As you advance through the ranks of kendo, it becomes important to choose the appropriate kendo tools and equipment.

The equipment appropriate for each dan helps improve technique and ensure safety, while also reflecting the spiritual aspects of Kendo training.

In this section, we will explain guidelines for selecting sword tools for beginners to high-level players, the characteristics of equipment for each rank, and recommended sword tools for high-rank players.


How to choose sword tools according to your rank

The selection of kendo tools is closely related to the skill level and dan rank of the kendo practitioner.

Beginners are encouraged to start with equipment with basic functionality, but as they advance in rank, they should move on to more specialized and high-performance equipment.

For example, 1st to 3rd dan kendo practitioners typically choose basic armor that emphasizes durability and protection.

On the other hand, Kendo practitioners of 4th Dan and above choose lightweight, high-quality armor to improve their ease of movement and reaction speed.


Differences and characteristics of equipment by rank

Each level of Kendo has different characteristics of the equipment used.

For example, lower-level kendo practitioners often hone their basic striking techniques by using heavy armor, whereas higher-level kendo players often use lighter, more flexible armor that allows for more precise strikes. Masu.

The method of choosing a shinai also differs depending on the rank, with advanced players choosing high-quality shinai with balance and ease of swinging in mind.


Recommendations for sword tools for high-level players

Kendo tools for high-level players are specifically focused on maximizing technical precision and match performance.

Armor for high-level players is usually custom-made and customized to suit the wearer’s body type and fighting style.

This requires high breathability, low weight, and ease of movement, so special attention is paid to the selection of materials.

Also, high-dan players often choose specially shaped shinai to sharpen their sense of striking.


Choosing the appropriate equipment for your Kendo rank is extremely important not only for improving your technique, but also for practicing Kendo safely.

By choosing sword tools that suit the needs of each dan, kendo practitioners can advance their training more effectively.



Social significance and influence of Kendo Dan

The dan rank in kendo is not just an indicator of the skill level, but also has a great influence on the respect and recognition that a kendo practitioner receives within society.

In this section, we will explore in detail the impact of dan rank on kendo practitioners, how they are perceived in society, and their career paths after attaining dan rank.


The influence of Dan rank on Kendo practitioners

Kendo dan ranks play an important role in a kendo practitioner’s self-identification.

Increasing the ranks gives Kendo practitioners confidence and helps them develop not only their technical skills but also their spiritual growth.

In addition, dan rank is a factor that increases one’s sense of self-discipline, educational responsibility, and social responsibility as a kendo practitioner.

Kendo players with higher ranks are often respected by other Kendo players as instructors and role models, and are expected to take on leadership roles within the Kendo community.


Recognition and respect in society

Dans in Kendo are one of the most respected elements of traditional Japanese culture.

Kendo practitioners with high ranks are recognized for their rigorous training and high spirituality, and are respected in general society.

This is because kendo is not just a sport, but a martial art that values ​​morality and spirituality, and dans are often seen as symbolic of a person’s personality and way of life.


Career path after obtaining dan rank

Obtaining a kendo dan often opens the door to a career in teaching or coaching.

In particular, kendo practitioners with middle- and high-level dans have more opportunities to work as dojo instructors or kendo class teachers.


You will also be able to work as a lecturer or judge at international kendo tournaments and seminars.

Furthermore, the educational skills gained through Kendo can be useful as instructors in schools and communities, and may lead to a career in social education.


Kendo dans go beyond technical achievement to have a profound impact on an individual’s life and career.

Kendo dans are more than just titles, as each dan greatly contributes to a kendo practitioner’s character development, social standing, and professional progress.



Frequently asked questions and answers

Answers to common questions about kendo dans provide useful information for kendo practitioners.

Here, we will explain in detail common questions about dan acquisition, failures in promotion exams and how to deal with them, and activities after dan certification.


Common questions about dan acquisition

Common questions that many kendo practitioners have include the requirements for obtaining a dan, the amount of practice required, and the content of the examination.

For example, in order to obtain Shodan, a certain level of skill is required, and examination standards that vary depending on the region and organization must be met.

Judging typically includes kata demonstrations and competitive matches, and evaluates basic kendo techniques and etiquette.


Failure in promotion exam and how to deal with it

Failure in promotion exams is common and can be seen as part of the growth process.

The main cause of failure may be technical deficiencies, mental instability, or misunderstanding of the judging criteria.

To deal with failures, it is recommended that you take the feedback from the examination seriously and practice with the help of a mentor to improve your weaknesses.

Psychological preparation is also important, and it is important to face the next exam with confidence.


What are the activities after dan certification?

There is a wide range of activities that can be undertaken after obtaining the dan rank.

Many kendo practitioners aim to further improve their technique according to the dan they have acquired, and take on the challenge of judging higher dans.

Additionally, as your rank increases, your role as an instructor increases, giving you more opportunities to open your own dojo or teach Kendo in your local community or school.


High-ranked students often serve as instructors and judges at kendo tournaments and seminars.

Through these activities, Kendo practitioners can contribute not only to their own techniques, but also to the spread and development of Kendo.

These questions and answers provide a basic guide to understanding the kendo dan system, reducing anxiety when taking the dan promotion exam, and expanding your possibilities once you earn your dan.



Related resources and external links

When learning about Kendo dans, there are many useful resources available on the internet and through books.

Below you will find key websites, recommended books, and other useful links to help you understand and advance your study of Kendo dans.


Useful Kendo related websites

  • Official website of the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) : Provides official information on kendo techniques, dan system, and judging standards. You can also get the latest information on Kendo tournaments and events here.
  • Kendo-Guide.com : An educational resource for beginners and advanced players, filled with video explanations of techniques, equipment selection, and articles about Kendo philosophy.


Books and literature about Kendo Dans

  • “Introduction to Kendo” (Author: Yasuhiro Yamada) : This is a guidebook that provides detailed explanations from the basics of Kendo to preparation for the dan exam, and is especially recommended for beginners.
  • “Kendo Knowledge” (author: Junpei Morita) : This book focuses not only on kendo techniques but also on the spiritual approach to training the mind, technique, and body, and is recommended for kendo practitioners of all ranks.


A collection of links to learn more about Kendo Dans

  • International Kendo Federation (FIK) : Provides information about international kendo events, rules, and dan levels and is a valuable resource for kendo practitioners around the world.
  • Kendo Journal : Contains articles, interviews, and research papers related to Kendo, where you can not only improve your technique, but also learn about the history and culture of Kendo.


By utilizing these resources, you can deepen your knowledge of Kendo Dans and use them to improve your technique and spirituality.

Viewing these links and books is recommended in order to gain a broader understanding of Kendo training, as well as its culture and philosophy.


Kendo glossary

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