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Judo Black Belt Test

Shodan is the first level of black belt in Judo.  The requirements that must be met in order to attain this rank mostly depends on the club you train at. However here are some typical requirements for Black Belt in Judo:

  1. Technical proficiency: You should be able to demonstrate a high level of technical proficiency in all major Judo techniques. Your Sensei wants clean throws, pins, and submissions. You must also be able to show that you have an understanding of Judo principles and concepts.
  2. Competition experience: Not all clubs require this but this is the best way to show your sensei that you are skilled. Candidates that do have competition experience, usually have abetter understanding of the practical applications of techniques. This could be at the local or regional level. If you can apply Judo techniques in a competitive setting you know your stuff.
  3. Kata: Our sensei here at the Las Vegas Kung Fu Academy grew up doing Judo in the 1960's. At that time women were forced to compete in Kata instead of randori. So now she has a dislike of Kata and does not require it for Black Belt. However for most other clubs you are going to have to show some proficiency in at least one Judo kata. 
  4. Physical fitness: You must be in good physical condition to get your black belt. Not everyone has to be ripped but you can't be overweight to the point where it affects your performance.
  5. Knowledge of Judo history and philosophy: You should have a strong knowledge of Judo's history and philosophy. This includes all of the terminology in Japanese. 
  6. Teaching experience: You should have some teaching experience. This doesn't mean that you are teaching a whole class by yourself but you should be helping sensei by assisting beginners, either as an assistant instructor or as a coach for younger or less experienced Judoka.
  7. Time in grade: You have to have been a brown belt for a minimum amount of time. This is usually several years.

These requirements are designed to make sure that you have a well-rounded understanding of Judo. You should also exemplify the values and principles that underlie the practice of Judo. After all Jigoro Kano himself said that the purpose of Judo was to improve your character and society as a whole.

Specific Techniques

The specific technique requirements for Black Belt are going to doffer from club to club. However, there are certain fundamental techniques that are typical:

  1. Throws: Of course you should know a wide range of throws. All of the major techniques for the gokyo will probably be on the test: Ippon seoi nage, harai goshi, uchi mata, osoto gari, and kata guruma.
  2. Pins: Osai Komi is a big part of Judo so of course it's going to be on the black belt test. You should know all the standard pins, includingkesa gatame, yoko shiho gatame, and tate shiho gatame, as well as more advanced pins such as kuzure kesa gatame and hon kesa gatame.
  3. Submissions: You should be proficient in a range of submissions. These include armlocks, chokes, and strangles. Juji gatame, sankaku jime, and hadaka jime are all probably on the test.
  4. Counters: Gaeshi is counter in Japanese and you should be able to counter a variety of techniques. Reversals against throws, pins, and submissions are required. You should be able to use your opponent's momentum against them. Your  a counter techniques should be done  with control and precision.
  5. Kata: You have to know at some Judo kata.  You may be expected to know : Nage no kata, katame no kata, and kime no kata.

Japan and Korea

First, it is important to understand that the black belt is not the ultimate goal of martial arts practice. Instead, it is a symbol of dedication, hard work, and progress in the art. In this sense, achieving Shodan is not the end of the journey. It is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of mastery and personal growth.

Japanese and Korean Judo Programs are very different than here in the United States.

Most black belts in Japan and Korea got their rank while still in high school. It is at the University level that they become really good at Judo.

Korean Judo

Belts aren't everything

While it is true that getting belts shouldn't be your priority when training Judo, it is important. Progression through the belt system is something you should be proud of. The belt system in Judo is a tangible way to see your progress. 

It is also true that you should not be promoted too quickly. If you are a black belt but are still getting thrown and pinned by lower belts who have natural coordination and ability then it's not a good look for you or your sensei.

I think of it as a way to recognize and reward a students dedication, hard work, and skill. I also believe that belts show the development of character, discipline, and values that are intrinsic to the practice of Judo.