How Long to Earn a Black Belt in Aikido?

This Aikido Newsletter was originally published on August 10, 2004. It was sent out as Gedanate’s Aikido eLetter, Issue #002. Did you notice how I added an Aikido Dojo List page last month, and announced it in this Aikido eLetter? Well I’m flattered to see that another Aikido website has copied the idea, and added their own Dojo Listing database. I must admit it’s pretty good though.

How long will it take me to earn a black belt in Aikido?

Here’s one of the more interesting questions left on my web pages — and my answer:

Hi David.

I have gone through this website and I would like to learn more about Aikido. how long does it take to reach black belt? what are the stages in learning Aikido?

Alexandrina C.

Hi Alexandrina,

There is no hard and fast rule, but from what I’ve learned, I’d expect it to take up to seven years to reach Shodan (1st Dan black belt) from starting as a complete beginner. The fastest I have ever heard of someone reaching Shodan is three years… But this was a student who trained every day with the late John Gay Sensei down in Melbourne.

First you work your way DOWN the Kyu grades… You learn how to do the stretches and the warm-up exercises. Then you learn how to do back breakfalls, then side breakfalls, then forward rolls.

In Tomiki Aikido, you start by learning the first five Aikido throws which throw your partner, Uke, onto his (or her) back… the Atemi Waza.

Then you learn the Elbow techniques, and then the Wrist techniques. And for these you need to learn Kote-gaeshi breakfalls – where you have to jump over your own arm before it can get broken.

And so it goes on. More techniques, more skills.

Tomiki Aikido Belt Rankings

  • White Belt 6th Kyu,
  • Yellow Belt 5th Kyu,
  • Orange Belt 4th Kyu,
  • Green Belt 3rd Kyu,
  • Blue Belt 2nd Kyu,
  • Brown Belt 1st Kyu.

Then you get to your first Black Belt. This does not make you a teacher, although some Shodans are allowed to teach classes. Some don’t. (But even 1st Kyu brown belts must have experience leading classes before they go for their Shodan examination.) Being a Shodan basically means you are a serious student… one that the real teachers consider worth their time and effort. But there are years of more work ahead, if you want to get to the higher Dan Grade levels! Few people have the skill or the determination.

  • 1st Dan Black Belt (Shodan),
  • 2nd Dan Black Belt (Nidan),
  • 3rd Dan Black Belt (Sandan),
  • 4th Dan Black Belt (Yondan) a Senior Teacher level,
  • 5th Dan Black Belt (Godan) what John Gay used to modestly call a “Small Master”.
  • 6th Dan Black Belt (Rokudan) a Master,
  • 7th Dan Black Belt (Sichidan) = “Shihan” or Master-Teacher Level.
  • 8th Dan Black Belt – someone with “complete” Mastery of the art.
  • Ninth Dan and Tenth Dan Grades are awarded by martial arts committes, and are rather like knighthoods… they are awarded in recognition for what the person has done to promote martial arts. It doesn’t signify skills higher than 8th Dan, since that is already “Mastery” of the skill set.

It takes a lifetime of hard work and dedication to reach anywhere even close to the top. Maybe one pupil in a million is suitable.

NO real martial art offers a really quick path. It is hard work… and it takes years of work.

Judo and Tomiki Aikido colored belt rankings.
Judo and Tomiki Aikido colored belt rankings.

2 thoughts on “How Long to Earn a Black Belt in Aikido?”

  1. I have been looking for the answer to that question for a while. I know there is not a real answer here as that doesn’t exist but this is a good explanation.

    I just one to get shut of this white belt. I feel daft in it.
    Plus the fact I can’t tie it properly either.

    1. Just turn up regularly and train to the best of your ability. Then you will make progress!

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