What are the different levels of black belt karate? What has to be accomplished to earn each?
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The answer is not an exact one, due to these things:
1) There are about 50 different styles and sub styles of Karate. Each has different requirements, and a different rank structure.
2) Even within a style, there may be splinter groups that have changed some things.
3) Some styles have ranks that other styles don’t use. In the 19060’s there were some styles of Karate that did not award ranks above 5th degree black belt. Some styles went as high as 8th degree black belt. Now it is common for many styles to award ranks as high as 10th degree black belt. But there are still a few styles that don;t award ranks that high.
4) The requirements for ranks are much different from one style to another. In some styles you are taught the entire style by the time you reach fifth degree black belt. In other styles that is not the case.
5) most, but not all styles view ranks above fifth degree black belt as being honorary ranks. But again this varies from one style or organization to another.
In the 1950’s and 1960′ there were age rank charts that were generally followed by many Karate styles. As such the minimum age for anyone to be considered for black belt was 16 years old. It generally took 3-5 years of serious training to reach that rank. However, in actuality, most people spent much longer reaching black belt. In the late 1960’s Black Belt Magazine published a survey of Martial arts in the U.S.A. The survey covered all types of martial arts in the U.S.A. The survey found that less than 3% of all martial arts students ever became a black belt. Of the few that did, less than 50% of them ever reached second degree black belt.
The age rank chart was a general guideline. It went like this
1st degree black belt minimum age 16, minimum time 3-5 years or training
2nd degree black belt at least 2 years of training, after reaching 1st degree (at least 18yrs old)
3rd degree black belt at least 3 years of training, after reaching 2nd degree (at least 21yrs old)
4th degree black belt at least 4 years of training, after reaching 3rd degree (at least 25yrs old)
5th degree black belt at least 5 years of training, after reaching 4th degree (at least 30yrs old)
6th degree black belt at least 6 years of training, after reaching 5th degree (at least 36yrs old)
7th degree black belt at least 7 years of training, after reaching 6th degree (at least 43yrs old)
8th degree black belt at least 8 years of training, after reaching 7th degree (at least 51yrs old)
9th degree black belt at least 9 years of training, after reaching 8th degree (at least 60yrs old)
10th degree black belt at least 10 years of training, after reaching 9th degree (at least 70yrs old)
NOTE: it was rare to ever meet anyone under the age of 20-21 that had been promoted to first degree black belt. The times are not cumulative. By that it is to say that if a person reached first degree at the age of say, 35, he would still have to wait at least 2 years before being allowed to test for third degree black belt, and so on.
Rank testing was never done because of someone having the necessary time requirement…. It was conducted only when the were ready and had the minimum time in grade (time since their last promotion)
****************** It was believed that no one under the age of 16 was mature enough mentally or physically to be qualified to come close to being qualified for Black Belt.