The system of colored belts that we use is simply a means to break down the curriculum and to provide a visible indication of approximately how far a student’s study has progressed. Each belt level has a set of techniques, forms, and drills – that the student must demonstrate competence in before being promoted to the next level.
Wearing a black belt is a great privilege, and carries a deal of responsibility.
The standard belt color system is 10th kyu white, 9th kyu red, 8th kyu yellow, 7th kyu orange, 6th kyu green, 5th kyu purple, 4th kyu purple white stripe, 3rd kyu brown, 2nd kyu brown with a white stripe, 1st kyu brown with a red stripe and Shodan black.
Gradings are where students get the opportunity to show to the Chief Instructor and other Dan grades how they have progressed since their previous grading (or the start of their martial arts training).
The time between grading is a minimum–many students take longer to prepare for grading. No students is expected to grade every time–students will not be expected to progress faster than they feel is comfortable.
This can be 3 months for the lower grades rising to 6 months for the higher grades, onto 1-2 years for your Shodan grade. Dan grades are normally taken by invitation from the Chief instructor.
No student should expect to grade every time.
There are 27 kata within the shotokan system below are listed some of them with their meanings.
Taikuyku (first cause) or Kihon beginner kata
The name heian comes from the contraction of the characters for heiwa and antei (peace and stability). Each of the Heian katas starts with a block to demonstrate its peaceful character.
Heian Shodan – (peaceful mind, first level)
Heian Nidan – (peaceful mind, second level)
Heian Sandan – (peaceful mind, third level)
Heian Yondan – (peaceful mind, fourth level)
Heian Godan – (peaceful mind, fifth level)
Tekki Shodan – (iron horse riding, first level)
Bassai Dai (to penetrate a fortress)
The strong techniques of this kata emphasize hip movement. Some resemble a battering ram being used against fortress walls.
Kanku Dai (to view the sky)
Most of the elements of the Heian Kata were derived from this kata. The first movement in this kata views the sky, which symbolizes the universe and shows your opponent that you are unarmed. It was Master Funakoshi’s preferred kata.
Hangetsu (half moon)
This kata received its name from its principal stance, hangetsu dachi (half moon stance).
Enpi (flying swallow)
The quick up and down movements of this kata are reminiscent of a flying swallow. Enpi is one of the oldest kata in Shotokan. Its former name was Wanshu.
Meikyo (bright mirror)
The first movements of this kata suggest the smoothing of water to make it as calm and even as a mirror. The triangle jump at the end of this kata is said to have a secret meaning portending to a miracle.
Niju Shi Ho
The movements in this kata resemble waves breaking on a cliff. The former name of this kata was ni sei shi.
Wankan (king and crown)
Wankan is the shortest kata in Shotokan.