Promotion
At Norwalk Dojo, promotion occurs in the following stages:
    Beginners
  1. starting kenshi
  2. uchikomi-geiko
  3. keikogi and hakama
  4. do, tare, and kote
  5. men

    Kyu
  6. 6 and 5 kyu
  7. 4 tkyu
  8. 3 kyu
  9. 2 tkyu
  10. 1 kyu

    Yudansha
  11. 1 dan
  12. 2 dan
  13. 3 dan
  14. 4 dan

    Kodansha
  15. 5 dan
  16. 6 dan
  17. 7 dan
  18. 8 dan
Advancement in kendo builds upon basics learned in previous levels. However, do not think that because you can do a thing well now that you have mastered it for life. You are only it doing well for your current level. Having attained a new level, one must work to bring everything up to the standards of that level. This is a good thing. It is what makes kendo challenging, and something one can do for a lifetime. Do not become discouraged!

You must have good attendance to be put up for promotion, and you must participate in shiai, such as kihon shiai and dojo monthly tournaments. As you advance in rank, you should also be participating in federation tournaments.


The amount of time a kenshi spends as a beginner (not yet wearing full bogu) depends on many factors, including age, natural ability, and diligence. There is no "average" time, but a serious adult with good coordination may be ready to test for each successive level in perhaps 2 months. A young child with perfect attendance may take twice that, or longer. It all depends on the student.

The biggest factor is attendance, i.e. the amount of time you spend seriously applying yourself to learning kendo. This is true for all kendo stages, but it is especially true in the beginning stages; do not miss more than one practice in a row. Attendance, along with a good attitude, is key to obtaining sensei approval for advancement.

Starting Kenshi
Please see the NEW MEMBERS page for information on enrolling at Norwalk Kendo Dojo.

You must be prepared for a long-term commitment to learning kendo. Do not consider that you "did kendo" unless you have practiced it for at least four years.

The starting kenshi begins learning kendo wearing regular workout clothes. This is more affordable for the beginner, and it affords the instructors better visibility to the student's handwork and footwork. The kenshi will begin learning basic concepts, rei-gi, kihon-dosa and, eventually, kiri-kaeshi.

Uchikomi-geiko
In order to advance to participating in uchikomi-geiko, the student must be able to demonstrate, at least at a beginner's level, an understanding of rei-gi and basic concepts, especially kamae, ashi-sabaki, and the basic targets.

The student will be tested on selected points out of the following:

The student will be eligible to test under the following conditions:
  • has sensei approval
  • has participated in the previous kihon shiai
  • has attended four Norwalk Dojo keikos prior to the test (the count resets to zero if two keikos in a row are missed)

Passing the test demonstrates that the student is learning the fundamentals of kendo, can understand the basic terminology necessary for further advancement, and is able to participate, at a beginner's level, in uchikomi-geiko.

The kenshi should expect to spend a similar amount of time in this stage as in the previous stage, assuming the same level of diligence is applied.

Keikogi and Hakama
In order to advance to wearing keikogi and hakama, the student must continue to develop their understanding of the basic concepts of kendol

The student will be evaluated on the following:

The student will be eligible to test under the following conditions:
  • has sensei approval
  • has participated in the previous kihon shiai
  • has attended four Norwalk Dojo keikos prior to the test (the count resets to zero if two keikos in a row are missed)

Passing the test demonstrates that the student has mastered, at least at a beginner's level, the fundamentals of kendo.

The kenshi should expect to spend a similar amount of time in this stage as in the previous stage, assuming the same level of diligence is applied.

Do, Tare, and Kote
Before being given permission to wear bogu, the student must continue to develop their understanding of the basic concepts of kendo, The student must pass an evaluation including areas tested at the previous level and adding the following:

  • ability to wear keikogi and hakama properly
  • folding keikogi and hakama
  • ability to put on tare and do properly
The student will be eligible to test under the following conditions:
  • has sensei approval
  • has participated in the previous kihon shiai
  • has attended four Norwalk Dojo keikos prior to the test (the count resets to zero if two keikos in a row are missed)

The student will initially wear just do and tare, learning the proper way to put them on, take them off, and put them away. Then the student may begin wearing kote, to start breaking them in and to relearn the basics wearing bogu. The kenshi should expect to spend a similar amount of time in this stage as in the previous stage, assuming the same level of diligence is applied.

Men
Before being given permission to wear men, the student must continue to develop their understanding of the basic concepts of kendo, The student must pass an evaluation including areas tested at the previous level and adding the following:

  • knowledge and care of shinai, including untying and retying the nakayui
  • ability to put on tenugui and men properly
The student will be eligible to test under the following conditions:
  • has sensei approval
  • has won at least one kihon shiai match (or at least has done well)
  • has attended four Norwalk Dojo keikos prior to the test (the count resets to zero if two keikos in a row are missed)

Beginners have the rank of mukyu (no rank), sometimes denoted as 0 kyu.

Kyu ("white belt" ranks)

The amount of time a kenshi spends at the kyu level depends on many factors, including age, natural ability, and diligence. There is no "average" time, but a serious kenshi with good coordination who begins learning kendo at or before the age of 9 should be able to achieve 1 kyu (the highest kyu level) by the age of 15 or 16.

Southern California Kendo Federation (SCKF) conducts shinkyu shinsa (promotional examination) in October and, starting in 2010, in April. SCKF has published a set of promotion regulations and criteria. Except for some exceptions for 5 kyu and 4 kyu, a kenshi may only test for a rank one level above their current rank; there is no skipping of ranks. In general, Norwalk Kendo Dojo has somewhat higher standards for promotion than listed for SCKF (see "beginners" section above for a hint).

6 and 5 kyu
The lowest ranks awarded by SCKF are 6 kyu and 5 kyu. According to SCKF regulations, we cannot request 6 kyu for kenshi younger than 8, and we cannot request 5 kyu for kenshi younger than 9. Kenshi must also have at least 6 months time in practice. 6 kyu and 5 kyu are awarded based on the head instructor's recommendation and demonstration of kendo basics with a motodachi (see kihon test).

SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels for 6 kyu:

  • Proper reigi, eg cleaning of dojo, proper rei, and proper addressing of instructors and senior students
  • Practicing in full bogu
  • Knowledge of basic commands: kamae, sonkyo, seiza, rei, mokuso, hajime, yame, etc.
  • Perform kirikaeshi, kote, men, and do using the proper footwork and kiai
  • Able to do kakari-geiko and ji-geiko
  • Able to begin and end keiko or shiai properly

SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels for 5 kyu:

  • Show improved basic skills of all 6 kyu rank requirements
  • Put on and fold keikogi and hakama
  • Put on dogu without assistance
  • Perform nidan waza (eg kote-men)
  • Understand maai (ie issoku itto maai)

4 kyu
To receive a rank of 4 kyu, a kenshi must attend the SCKF shinkyu shinsa, where the kenshi will perform a kihon test with a motodachi provided by SCKF. A panel of shinsa examiners will award the new rank, if any. According to SCKF regulations, we cannot request 4 kyu for kenshi younger than 10, and the kenshi must have at least 12 months time in practice.

SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Maintain and name the parts of the shinai
3 Kyu and above
At Norwalk Dojo, we require kenshi 3 kyu and above to attend ato-geiko (after practice) on Friday nights, and extra practice at other SCKF dojos is also strongly encouraged. We also require that kenshi be able to lead warm up exercises and conduct roll call.

To receive a rank of 3 kyu or above, a kenshi must attend the SCKF shinkyu shinsa, where the kenshi will perform kendo with two other kenshi trying for the same rank. A panel of shinsa examiners will award the new rank, if any.

3 kyu
SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Taiatari and harai waza

2 kyu
SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Solid footwork and proper kamae
  • Hikiwaza and the ability to act as a motodachi

At Norwalk Dojo, we require kenshi to be able to perform kendo kata at least one level above SCKF requirements, so for 2 kyu a kenshi should be able to perform kata reiho and at least the first three movements.

1 kyu
To receive the rank of 1 kyu, a kenshi must perform both kendo and the first three kata movements at the SCKF shinsa. SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Proper chudan kamae with proper grip for the shinai
  • Proper posture and body movement
  • Proper distance (maai) and sense of timing for attach
  • Debana waza and nuki waza

At Norwalk Dojo, we require kenshi trying for 1 kyu to perform kendo at a high level of competence, to conduct themselves in a mature manner, and to have an understanding of their responsibilities as they move toward becoming senior kenshi at the dojo.

Yudansha ("black belt" ranks)
The yudansha ranks represent a transition to a whole new level of kendo. 1 dan is literally the first step on this path.

1 dan
SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Ki-ken-tai-ichi
  • Datotsu-no-kikai (opportunity for attach)
  • Maai (proper distance) and sense of timing for attack
  • Nidan, sandan, renzoku waza (2-strike, 3-strike, multiple strike attacks)
At Norwalk Dojo, we require kenshi 1 dan and above to be shinpan (referee) at our monthly dojo tournaments.

2 dan
SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Variety of waza
At Norwalk Dojo, we require kenshi 2 dan and above to be able to lead kihon-dosa (basic exercises).

3 dan
SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Seme
  • Use of kensen to initiate attacks
  • Complete sharp waza
4 dan represents a transition to the sensei ranks. As such, it is another transition to a whole new level of kendo.

At this level, not only does Norwalk Dojo require kenshi to have proven themselves to be solid, contributing members of the dojo, the same is expected at the SCKF level, where all senseis are expected to perform shinpan and other duties at all Federation events.

SCKF recommends the following basic skill levels:

  • Show improved skills of all lower rank requirements
  • Perform and receive kirikaeshi
  • Seme and preparedness to attack with spirit and confidence
  • Variety of waza and complete yukodatotsu
  • Leadership and skills to provide guidance and instruction
Kodansha

5 dan
tbd

6 dan
tbd

7 dan
tbd

8 dan
tbd


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