Budokan-Vernier Judo Club  fondé 


Où nous









- Judo belts and ranks -

European judo belts system

Colored belts (yellow, orange, green, blue) were introduced in Europe by Mikonosuke Kawaishi in 1935. This system is generally well followed for adults. There can be some variations with children belts (half-belts, color plus stripe (fess or pale), etc..).
Theses colored belts don't exist in Japan where adults wear a white or a brown belt if they're not a dan owner. The system can also change in other countries, but belts starting from the first dan are the same all around the world.

Budokan-Vernier has got some peculiarities concerning children belts. Younglings are given three 'pale' (a vertical stripe) levels with the white belt. Then comes the half white/yellow belt, and the other grades follow accordingly with plain and half belts until the third kyu.

6th kyu
5th kyu
4th kyu yonkyu
3rd kyu
2nd kyu
1st kyu
1st dan

2nd dan

3rd dan
4th dan

5th dan

6th dan
7th dan
8th dan
9th dan
10th dan judan
11th dan
12th dan Jigoro Kano, Shihan

The introduction of rank's differentiation in Judo

Before Judo, ranks didn't exist in martial arts. The traditional way to attest bushidokas' capacities was the redaction of a certificate or a parchment. It is in this context that Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan School in 1882. In 1883, he was the first master to establish a hierarchical distinction between to classes: the mudansha (without dan, student), and the yudansha (dan owner, teacher). He nominated two of his best students shodan (first dan), but these didn't wear a black belt, they've got the sole title of shodan. Kano became used to make his yudanshas wear a black belt in 1886 only. Mikonosuke Kawaishi is known for having introduced the colored belts (6th to 1st kyu) when arriving in Paris in 1935. He thought (and he was right) that European judokas wil show more motivation if their progression was formally fragmented with more levels than in Japan.

The 11th and 12th dan ranks

The unique and only judoka who has elevated himself beyond the 10th dan is Jigoro Kano. Dr Kano never claimed any title or rank, but after his death, Kodokan recognized him the 12th dan and gave him the title of Shihan (teacher of the teachers)1. Belts superior to the 10th dan are white. According to Kano, it means that a person who goes beyond this level transcend the concept of rank and, also, return to the white (pure of any rank) belt. It closes the circle of progression in judo, and symbolically, the one of life (according to east-Asiatic communitarian philosophy). The way back to the white belt can also be interpreted as the consciousness that the sum of all knowledge in Judo is infinite. The one who goes beyond the 10th dan realize that he's almost totally ignorant in regard of this infinite, and that he will never achieve the perfect facility in Judo. In consequence, he wears a white belt, like a beginner. In order not to confuse between true beginners and high masters, Kodokan decided interiorly that 11th and 12th dan belts will be twice larger than 6th kyu ones.

In fact, no judoka will ever be nominated 11th or 12th dan, the 11th being an empty rank designed to reveal the ditch between Shihan and other judokas. Novadays, there are four living ju(10th)dan, three being recognised by the Kodokan : Daigo, Abbe and Osawa; and one only by the International Judo Federation : Anton Geesink.

Notes :

1. According to a very intersting trend in : " [...] Dr Kano was [should have been] indeed awarded the grade of 10th Dan by the Kodanshakai, being a very humble person he accepted the award BUT then, to clearly demostrate that no Judoka could ever reach the top, promptly devised the 11th (juichi) and 12th (juni) dans purly to show his pupils that eveh he could not be considered at the top. His pupils then confired upon him the title of shihan. Dr Kano himself never used any title other than count. To have NOT used the title count would have been a slur on the emperor."

Lieu, dojo du Budokan-Vernier : Centre Sportif du Lignon (sous-sol)

adresse postale :
Budokan-Vernier Judo Club
CP 127
1219 Le Lignon

tel : 022 / 796. 57. 39, pendant les heures de cours

courriel :

© Budokan-Vernier 1974 - 2006, Tous droits réservés.