Karate dan rankings are common in the United States and Canada, but do they hold any weight in Japan? To answer this question, you must first understand how the karate dan ranking system works in Japan and how it differs from that of other countries.

The Japanese government does recognize karate dan ranks, but only if they are from the Japanese Karate Association (JKA). The JKA is the only karate organization officially recognized by the Japanese government. Not all countries recognize this organization as a legitimate governing body.

The rest of this article will focus on the karate dan ranks and why they’re officially recognized by the Japanese government. To keep things simple, this article will focus on karate as taught through Shotokan, the most popular style of karate found outside of Japan.

What Are Karate Dan Ranks?

Karate dan ranks are a system of ranking for karate practitioners. The word “dan” means “step” or “degree” in Japanese. It often indicates proficiency levels in many traditional Japanese arts. In karate, practitioners who have reached a certain level of mastery are awarded a dan rank.

There are 10 dan ranks in karate, with first dan being the lowest and tenth dan being the highest. The phrase “karate dan” comes from the Japanese karate organization that awards this rank, known as the Japanese Karate Association (JKA). Dan ranks in karate are awarded to both amateur and professional athletes.

Why Does the Japanese Government Control Karate Dan Ranks?

The Japanese government controls karate dan ranks to ensure that karate practitioners can only be graded by qualified instructors. In Japan, karate dan ranks are official government-recognized grades, and the Japan Karate Federation (JKF) is the only organization authorized to issue them.

The Japanese government has a long history of controlling and regulating martial arts, and karate is no exception. As for why the Japanese government controls karate dan ranks specifically, there are a few reasons.

  • It helps standardize the ranking system and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the proficiency levels of karate practitioners at various stages.
  • It protects the sport’s integrity by ensuring that rank inflation doesn’t occur.
  • It ensures that karate practitioners who wish to earn a dan rank do so through legitimate means.

Is the Japan Karate Association the Only Officially Recognized Independent Entity?

The Japan Karate Association (JKA) is the only officially recognized independent entity by the Japanese government. The JKA was founded in 1949 and is headquartered in Tokyo. While other karate organizations exist, the JKA is the only one with governmental recognition.

In other words, if you want to obtain an official black belt rank from the Japanese government, you must go through the JKA.

The Japanese government recognizes karate organizations as independent entities, but it doesn’t recognize them as the only official body to issue dan or kyu ranks. In fact, many other organizations have their own separate governing bodies and can issue dan and kyu ranks.

japan karate association

How Are Karate Dan Ranks Graded?

The first step for an aspiring martial artist to earn a rank is to pass their kata at a standard test called “graduation” or “dan promotion.” Once you’ve passed this test, you can be promoted to the next-level rank. The grades of karate dan ranks are awarded by a panel of judges.

Karate dan ranks are graded by judges appointed by the Japanese Karate Association, which is an independent body from the promotion process. The promotion candidates’ performance during their probationary period does not affect the grade that they receive at this stage.

The grading process itself is conducted without any involvement from anyone involved in selecting promotion candidates or offering them promotions at different levels within an organization or school. This maintains impartiality and objectivity throughout all stages of a candidate’s examination process.

What Is the Process for Promoting Karate Dan Ranks?

To be promoted to a higher karate dan rank, one must first achieve a certain level of proficiency. This is typically done by taking and passing a test administered by a panel of experts. Once students have met the required standards, they will be promoted to the next rank.

What Is the Highest Dan in Karate?

The highest dan in karate is 10th dan. To be awarded this rank, a practitioner must have devoted their entire life to the study and practice of karate. Tenth dan is typically the highest grade awarded in many Japanese martial arts.


The Japanese government has recognized karate dan ranks, but they’re strictly controlled by the Japanese Karate Association (JKA). The JKA only recognizes karate dan ranks associated with them, including shodan (1st-degree black belt) and nidan (2nd-degree black belt).