Grades and belts

Karate is something of a personal journey - everyone will have their own starting point, their own abilities and limitations, and their own goals and aspirations. Getting the next belt is not the aim of karate, but it is useful - as a measure of progress, as an incitement to improve, and as a recognition of commitment and achievement.

The following chart shows the levels and their belt colours, as well as the kata associated with that level.

Belt
Level & training time
Kata for grading

10th kyu

white belt

beginner

-
9th kyu

red belt

about 16 training sessions (about 2 months)

Taikyoku Shodan
8th kyu

orange belt

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Heian Shodan
7th kyu

yellow belt

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Heian Nidan
6th kyu

green belt

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Heian Sandan
5th kyu

purple belt

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Heian Yondan
4th kyu

purple belt + white stripe

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Heian Godan
3rd kyu

brown belt

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Tekki Shodan
2nd kyu

brown belt + white stripe

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Bassai Dai
1st kyu

brown belt + 2 white stripes

another 20-24 training sessions (about 3 months)

Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai
Jion or Empi
1st dan

black belt - shodan

another 40-48 training sessions (about 6 months)

Any previous + Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai
Jion or Empi
2nd dan

black belt - nidan

at least another 2 years training

Any previous + Bassai Sho, Kanku Sho, Tekki Nidan, Gankaku or Hangetsu
3rd dan

black belt - sandan

at least another 3 years training

Any. Katas at this level might include Sochin, Nijushiho, Tekki Sandan, Chinte, Jiin or Chinte, etc.
4th dan

black belt - yondan

at least another 4 years training

Any. Katas at this level might include Meikyo, Gojushiho Dai, Unsu, Wankan, etc.
5th dan

black belt - godan

at least another 5 years training

Any
Some schools (or sometimes it's down to the individual) will have bars on their black belt to indicate their dan-level, but this is not necessary.

The times between training at black belt (yudansha) level can vary greatly, it does not always keep strictly to the years indicated, but these are generally a minimum. Shodan usually takes between 2 and 3 years; most Godans will probably have been training for around 20-30 years to reach that level.

Again, it differs between schools and styles, but many systems will go up to 10th Dan - though this high level will be extraordinarlity rare and not usually seen in someone less than about 70 years old or more!