Progression and grades

Even if the primary goal of any practitioner should not pass grades as quickly as possible, these are still important moments and a point of evaluation of the level reached.

The different levels of karate belt represent both a technical, physical and moral value on its practice. Each of these levels symbolizes a progression in the evolution of karateka, which allows him to situate himself in relation to his mastery and understanding of this martial art.

In the Shotokan Ohshima style, we have kept the traditional representation and graduation for adults:

9th kyuWhite belt
8th kyuWhite belt
7th kyuWhite belt
6th kyuWhite belt
5th kyuWhite belt
4th kyuWhite belt
3rd kyuBrown belt
2nd kyuBrown belt
1st kyuBrown belt
1st dan and beyond
Black belt

For the children, we decided to follow a progression with belt colors.

White belt

The white belt is the first step and perhaps the most difficult to take since it is at this stage that you have to make the decision to join a karate club… Usually the one next to home!

It is normal for the beginner who registers to feel a fear because he has the impression of entering an unknown and mysterious world. This is probably due to the fact that he knows karate only a few vague notions from either films or more or less fanciful testimonies.

Yet it is with some apprehension that he will tie his white belt around his waist during his first class.

This first step is the one during which the beginner karateka will learn the different basic techniques, it will be his first learning. This period is often new and sometimes painful for the body since in the majority of cases, the beginner presents himself in more or less good physical condition,especially in adults. He will then have to make sustained efforts to get his body back on track. This is how each of his efforts will eventually bring him moral and physical satisfaction while bringing him closer to achieving his first goal in karate.

It is during this period that some will find the motivation to continue and go further while others will give up altogether. However, it is recommendedto go at least to the end of the first season to have time to glimpse what the philosophy of karate is and the beneficial effect that comes with it.

White belt – 8th kyu

Obtaining this rank crowns the first efforts. This is the first exam, the first grade passage. This first test is not easy, because the student feels judged by his instructor and other practitioners. However, he comes out of this "ordeal" grown and he already has a concrete result after only a few months of learning. This is his first victory over himself, because defeating oneself is the first goal of karate. This accomplishment already allows him to know himself better, both morally and physically.

It is from this moment that the student really feels like he is starting to do karate. The teaching he receives is more interesting since the techniques he learns are more advanced and more dynamic.

White belt– 7th kyu and following

The exam for its obtaining does not seem, a priori, as important as the previous one, it is indeed the second time that karateka passes an exam, it is less impressive. However, it is from this moment that karateka gradually gets rid of its beginner label. Indeed, during this stage, he becomes more and more aware of his abilities, he understands the techniques better and by the fact, he executes with greater ease.

As the progression progresses, the reflexes are sharper and the movements more coordinated. Finally, in combat, you start to trust your instincts.

In karate, each of the belts has its importance, but there are three that stand out as paramount:

  • The first, the white can be compared to the foundations of a house
  • the second, the brown, represents the walls of this house
  • the third, the black, is the roof (or at least the edge of the roof…)

Unfortunately, there is always a risk, and that is abandonment. The practitioner progresses in the different kyus and has acquired a certain mastery of karate (or at least an impression of mastery), he knows a wide range of techniques that he performs effectively and that gradually become instinctive to him. He begins to feel comfortable. It is at this point that many believe that they possess a satisfactory technical and spiritual background, even sufficient.

This is followed by a period of stagnation during which the student feels more or less motivated. He no longer sees his progress as easily as he could see in the previous stages, especially if he practices karate only twice a week. For many, it is abandonment. It should be added, however, that the one who gives up at this stage may have unconsciously set himself the goal of simply improving his physical fitness and going for a good self-defense baggage, so he has achieved it. He then lacks that spark, that physical and moral motivation, that would allow him to get to the next step with enthusiasm and energy, to continue his march to the top.

In fact, this spark that ignites those who pursue can be summed up in two words: time and persistence.

Brown belt – 3rd kyu to 1st kyu

This period is surely the most motivating for karateka, but it is also the longest (at least 18 months). The brown belt karateka begins to have a good technical background, he knows well the philosophy inherent in karate and that specific to his style, so he is able to feel his karate well. He is approaching the stage that will allow him to crown so many years of effort. However, how many among those who go to this point have realized or will realize that obtaining the black belt should not be considered as a final step, but as a new beginning.

It is therefore for karateka a period of reflection, waiting, retrospective and fine polishing. This set must be accompanied by a constant effort and pushed to the full, it must not fear exhaustion. The special course is directly intended for him to face himself, to face others and to push himself into his entrenchments.

Black belt

Getting your black belt can be a huge victory for some, but it's actually only the beginning of your real progression! The 1st dan black belt is indeed the 1st level of graduation in the martial art. The student has the technical basics to start actually studying karate.

One thing is certain, it is that you can not achieve this goal without having trained for at least 5 to 6 years (twice a week at least).
It also means that we have left behind at least a few periods of discouragement and frustration!

Happy training!

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