Aikido Ranks And Grades

Aikido is a noncompetitive system however it does have a ranked grading system (mainly based on based on examinations). This is a measure of a practitioners personal development and a mark of their proficiency and also for showing dedication. It is important way to distinguish the beginners from those who are more proficient to help minimize any inadvertent harm.

The grade also shows the ability to perform different techniques to a certain level of ability. The adult grading system used by the B.A.F. mirrors that of the Hombu Aikikai Foundation. There are essentially two grades in the adult system each with a different colour belt , White And Black.

These grades are in the lower grade system in the Aikido and these students are called Mudanshya (無段者, meaning unranked) also called Kyu (級) Grades . These people where a white belt (白い帯, shiro obi).

A beginner starts at Mukyu (無級,  no grade), then the lowest grade is Rokkyu (六級, 6th grade) going down to Ikkyu (一級, 1st Grade). Typical time period to get through these grades is between 4 to 10 years. After this time a person is considered to know the basics and can begin their Aikido path.

The upper grade system the members are called Yudansha (有段者, meaning ranked) or dan grades. These people aere characterised by wearing a black belt (黒帯, Kuro obi) and  a Hakama (袴, pleated trousers).

Starting rank is Shodan (初段, Beginning Rank), at this grade the student also becomes a member of Hombu Aikikai Foundation and receives the blue membership book. The dan grades go up in number to the highest which is Kyudan (九段, 9th Dan). All grades above Yondan are awarded by promotion from the Hombu Aikikai Foundation.

In The B.A.F. the junior Aikido system differs from the adult system, many of the techniques are considered to put growing young joins at risk of damage. For this reason the syllabus is different as is the grading system.

In the junior system a person starts Mukyu (無級,  no grade) wearing a white belt (白い帯, shiro obi).

The ranks are then set as colours. There are three stripes for each belt and the belts are ordered Red (赤い帯, Akai Obi), Yellow (黄色い帯, Kiroi Obi), Orange (橙帯, Daidai Obi), Green (緑帯, midori obi) , Blue (青い帯, Aoi Obi) and brown (茶色帯, Chairo Obi).

After becoming 16 it is possible to take the junior shodan exam to acheive junior black belt (黒帯, Kuro Obi).  Allowing the student to wear a hakama for local courses and at the dojo. However they will not receive Hombu Yudanshia membership nor be able to attend instructors courses . When reaching 18 this grade is converted to 1st kyu and the student swaps back to white belt then may take adult shodan the same way as an adult practitioner. 

Grades in Aikido are none competitive so grading is based on cooperation with your partner. When reaching adulthood it is common to be reassessed to decide on an adult grade.

High ranking instructors in Aikido are called Shidoin (副指導員, Teacher) usually ranked at Godan and above. They are the B.A.F. seniors the and are the technical and grading committee of the B.A.F. and are responsible for awarding grades.

These are the high ranking instructors are often assissted by Fuku-Shidoin (指導員, Assistant Teacher) who are usually Yondan or above they often assist in gradings . It is common for Shidoin to take national or international courses.

These are the “professors” or “masters” of aikido ranked above Rokudan. They have a high level of mastery and many years of experience. Currently the B.A.F. Four Shihans Mr Mc Clarence, Mr Morgan, Mr Marsden and Mr Gilliard. This honour is awarded by the Honbu Aikikai Foundation on the recommendation of the association.

Doshu (道主, Way Leader) : This is the unique rank in the Aikido world, given to the head of the organisation (Hombu Aikikai Foundation), currently this is Moriteru Ueshiba the founders grandson the position for this reason is outside the grade system.

Waka Sensei (若い 先生, Young Teacher): Likewise the rank of the Doshu Son and his successor is outside the rank system, meaning “young teacher”this is currently Mitsuteru Ueshiba the founders great grandson. Currently he Is also the Honbu dojo “Dojo-Cho” (道場 長, head of the dojo).