The Dan Degrees and Sho-dan Exam That the Rookies Must Know
11 30, 2020
Let’s learn about the degrees and sho-dan exam. Kendo has ‘dan’, and special titles are given to the person with higher ranks. Shall we summarize the rankings along with the evaluations? I bet a lot of people are considering this as the roadmap. Let us look at the path your trainer and seniors walked.
Table of Contents
1.Qualifications of the Sho-dan 1
To tell you which side it is, it’s similar to degrees, but since kendo follows hierarchy, it also has grades up to 6.
The grades are assigned by kendo federations in each Prefecture of Japan. There are Prefectures where provide 1-3 grades or something lower, but in all cases, grade 1 is the highest.
You have to get at least grade 1 to earn the first degree. After that, you can get a degree, which lies from 1st to 8th.
In the past, there was a 9th and 10th degree, but now the highest degree is 8th. This means, if you manage to get the 8th degree, you are entitled to the best kendo master in Japan without question.
1st Degree: The skillful one who learned the basics
2nd Degree: The more skilled one who acquired the basics
3rd Degree: The talented one who has honed the basics
4th Degree: The talented one who learned the basics and how to apply them in combats
5th Degree: The more talented one who are home in basics and applications
6th Degree: The talented one who has learned the justice
7th Degree: The talented one who is versed in justice
8th Degree: The skilled expert who has mastered the inner mysteries.
Apart from the degrees, there are other titles such as Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi
Each title is given to those who have the leadership and performances. Orator is given to 6th degree, teacher to 7th, and master to 8th.
There are only a handful of people in Japan who has acquired the title of master.
2.Qualifications of Sho-dan 2
You have to be at least 13 years old to get 1st dan, and each dan needs a certain period of lessons to get. To get 2nd dan, it should be at least a year after acquiring 1st dan. Each degree has a certain amount of time after acquiring the one prior.
1st Dan: Age 13 and older
2nd Dan: At least a year after acquiring the 1st dan
3rd Dan: At least two years after acquiring the 2nd dan
4th Dan: At least three years after acquiring the 3rd Dan
5th Dan: At least four years after acquiring the 4th Dan
6th Dan: At least five years after acquiring the 5th Dan
7th Dan: At least six years after acquiring the 6th Dan
8th Dan: At least ten years after acquiring 7th Dan or Age 46 and older
Here are the conditions to get each dan. The dan has the standard, judgment, and age limit. The condition where you have to be at least 13 years old to get the 1st dan is changed in April 2012. Before that, the students had to be in grade 2 of middle school, but now they are changed to 13 years old worldwide. Another thing to consider is that you can also acquire a degree even if the exam day is your birthday.
Let’s look into the ratio of successful applicants.
1st Dan: Around 80-90%
2nd Dan: Around 60-70%
3rd Dan: Around 40-50%
4th Dan: Around 30-45%
5th Dan: Around 20-30%
6th Dan: Around 10%
7th Dan: Around 8-10%
8th Dan: Around 1%
Many people make it into 1st dan, but the success rate goes down as the dan goes higher. Especially below 3rd dan, which varies with regions.
3.Have to Be at Least 46 When to Get 8th Dan
For your information, after acquiring the 1st dan well at age 13, your age for each degree are as follows:
1st Dan: Age 13
2nd Dan: Age 14
3rd Dan: Age 16
4th Dan: Age 19
5th Dan: Age 23
6th Dan: Age 28
7th Dan: Age 34
8th Dan: Age 46
Hence, if you promote without any troubles, you’ll at least be 34 years at 7th dan.
Also, after obtaining 7th dan, you have to take 10 years of more training to gain 8th dan. The standard also clarifies that the applicant should be 46 and older, so you have to at least be that age. The degree of dan not only examines the skills but the training period as well, so the training period is designated as a rule.
4.The Sho-dan Exam and the Standards of Judgment
The exams are given by All Japan Kendo Federation and International Kendo Federation according to the rules they regulate. From 1st to 5th dan, the chairperson of the All Japan Kendo Federation leaves the exam in the hands of the member organization. Among all of them, the first hurdle to overcome is 1st dan exam. To those who are still a newbie, it would be one aim to achieve.
Even if you are aiming for 1st dan, you won’t pass if you do not strategize well. That’s why it’s crucial to know the exact contents and standard of judgment.
To get 1st dan, you need the following.
One set of protective gear, a shinai, and a bokuto
The writing test material you got before
As it’s explained below, you don’t have to answer right away
The lesson and registration fee for when you are qualified for dan
The venue is decided by the region, so take note before.
As stated above, the standard of 1st dan says ‘The skillful one who learned the basics’.
This means it has to be someone who learned, practice, and put the basic skills into action. According to this, you have to be someone who can use proper skill and win against an opponent in the match, so you should know how to win.
The proper wearing of the gear
The proper pose
The hits on the basic
The fighting spirit
You have to prepare the four standards above. They look at every movement in the exam since you have to meet every standard. Also, the courtesy and pose also matters, so I recommend you concentrate before going into the venue for judgment and attend the exam with a calm heart.
5.The Judgment for 1st Dan
Let us now look at the evaluation. The evaluation is divided into three sections. The three sections include the practical skill test, Nihon Kendo Kata, and the academic test. The academic skill consists of a written exam.
Around 3 or more judges participate in the exam for 1st to 3rd dan, 5 judges for 4th to 7th dan, and 7 or more judges in the second practice exam.
For the practical test, they look at consecutive attacks, close combats, the shout of concentration, the feet movements, the sword movements, the poses, and the courtesy.
You have to consider your voice the most in the practical test. A loud shout of concentration is the key to success in 1st dan. This means it would be helpful if you train yourself to speak up before the exam. It wouldn’t be a problem if your voice is already loud, but if your voice is on the soft side, do practice shouting loud during or after the practice. The practical test isn’t about practicing the moves, but it is similar to the actual match.
Nihon Kendo Kata
Next, we have Nihon Kendo Kata. Nihon Kendo Kata differs per region, but it is usually several head-to-head matches. If you are going for your 1st dan, most of the exam requires three matches. At 1st dan, they do not require you to know the highly skilled techniques, but you need to remember the order of basic moves.
But until you challenge the exam, there isn’t much chance for practice, so those types of practice are the key.
The written exams vary per region, but it’s either in form of writing answers on the spot with the given task, or they hand out many of the questions before the exam and pick one question among them. Ask your tutors in the dojo or your senior students well beforehand. As for the day of the exam, there is only one thing you should consider: Do not be too nervous. In the written exam, you would get the easiest question wrong if you are too nervous. Be strong, and answer the question with a calm and laid back mind.
6.To All Who Are Challenging the Exam
The exam for 1st dan may be under the tension that you haven’t felt in the exams before, but you can think of it as you are taking the exam because you are ready for it. It is good to feel tense, but keep in mind that if you move as you do in the practice, there wouldn’t be anything stopping you from promoting. You must attend the exam with composure as usual.
Above all, do take the exam seriously. The sho-dan exams are important, but no matter how high you are in the degrees and grades, you will turn rusty if you lay off the practice. The daily effort is important, so start with attending all the practices seriously. Attend the sho-dan exam as a form of knowing how far you have come.