Shotokan Karate Grading Syllabus: White Belt with a Stripe (9th Kyu)

Shotokan karate grading syllabus - white belt with one stripe

Like all other karate styles, you start with a white belt in Shotokan and your first grading will be for a white belt with one stripe or a black tip which corresponds to the 9th kyu.

However, note that some schools may skip this grading and the first grading you will have is often for a yellow belt (8th kyu).

If your school does have this 9th kyu grading, this post will provide you with all you need to know, from the meaning of the belt, the length it takes to get a white belt with a stripe, the specific grading requirements for this level, how to find out if you are ready for this grading and how to best prepare for it.

What does a white belt in karate mean?

The white color symbolizes the beginning of a karateka’s journey, the purity of the mind, and a clean start.

After this grading, you will be still wearing a white belt but with a stripe or a black tip.

This grading is to get you familiar with the grading procedures and is more like an encouragement and an official welcome than an actual grading. Nobody ever fails their first grading!

One thing that will help you tremendously with your progress in the future is having an open mind and a beginner’s mindset as you move forward in your karate ranking later on.

At the start of your journey, you don’t know what karate is like but might have heard many good things about it, so you are eager to learn.

But as you progress along, learn all the basic techniques and skills, and get new belts and ranks, you might become judgemental and narrow-minded as all of us tend to be.

So, try to maintain a beginner’s mindset and keep an open mind as you progress.

A cup that is full is a cup that can take no more. But if you keep an open mind, you will always learn new things even after decades of practice.

My sensei told me that after 30 years of diligent karate training and teaching, he still feels like he’s just scratching the surface.

How long does it take to get a white belt with one stripe?

If you are a complete novice with no previous martial art knowledge or training, it usually takes a minimum of 3 months to get from white belt (10th kyu) to white belt with stripe (9th kyu).

The minimum training time is around 36 hours or 20 to 30 training sessions.

However, if you have previous martial art experience, the training duration might be shorter, depending on what you are able to demonstrate.

How to find out if you are ready for your 9th kyu?

If you have been training consistently and meet the minimum time requirement, you are likely to be asked to grade when there is a grading coming up.

However, it is not automatic and it’d be a faux pas to ask your instructor whether you can grade.

A student should never ask his or her sensei to grade, it’s the other way around.

I have seen cases where parents asked an instructor whether their child could grade and questioned why another child who started at the same time could grade and their child couldn’t. It’s really embarrassing and a big no no.

Grading and color belts are not what you are training for. Learning self-defense techniques, improving physical fitness and mental toughness are what you are training for.

Just do your best at every training and progress at your own pace and you know you are ready for the grading when your instructor tells you so.

White belt with one stripe grading requirements in Shotokan

There are three technique areas that you need to demonstrate for your 9th kyu grading in the Shotokan curriculum: kihon, kata and kumite.

1. Kihon

To get a white belt with one stripe, you generally need to know the following stances and techniques.

  1. Stances:
    • Zenkutsu dachi
    • Kokutsu dachi
    • Kiba dachi
  2. Techniques:
    • Oi tsuki
    • Age uke
    • Soto ude uke
    • Uchi ude uke
    • Shuto uke
    • Mae geri
    • Yoko geri keage
    • Yoko geri kekomi.

In the grading, you will be required to perform these techniques in the above three basic stances as listed below. The examiner will count and the general rule is one count, one move.

Oi tsuki (lunge punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step forward into a right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a lunge punch with the right hand aiming at the solar plexus level (migi chudan oi tsuki)
  • Step forward into a left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi) and perform a lunge punch with the left hand aiming at the solar plexus level (hidari chudan oi tsuki)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Age uke (rising block)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward into a right front stance with the torso making a 45 degree angle with the front (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your right hand (migi jodan age uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your left hand (hidari jodan age uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Soto ude uke (block from outside inwards)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an outside-inward block with your right hand (migi soto ude uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an outside-inward block with your left hand (hidari soto ude uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Uchi ude uke (block from inside to outside)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your right hand (migi uchi ude uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your left hand (hidari uchi ude uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Shuto uke (knife-hand block)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward with your right leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your left hand (hidari shuto uke)
  • Step backward with your left leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your right hand (migi shuto uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Mae geri (front kick)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Perform a front kick with the right leg (migi mae geri), landing into a right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi)
  • Perform a front kick with the left leg (hidari mae geri), landing into a left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Yoko geri keage (side snap kick)

  • Start in a ready stance
  • Step to the right hand side into a horse riding stance (kiba dachi) and perform a side snap kick with your right leg (migi yoko geki keage)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you are likely required to do five kicks to the right and then turn around and do another five kicks to the left).

Yoko geri kekomi (side thrust kick)

  • Start in a ready stance
  • Step to the right hand side into a horse riding stance (kiba dachi) and perform a side thrust kick with your right leg (migi yoko geki kekomi)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you are likely required to do five kicks to the right and then turn around and do another five kicks to the left).

2. Kata

You will perform Heian Shodan kata following the examiner’s count.

Again, generally one count, one move.

Below is a video of Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei performing Heian Shodan kata.

The video below contains additional instructions and bunkai explanations by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei. However, for a 9th kyu level, you are not required to learn the bunkai of this kata yet.

3. Kumite

You are required to perform Gohon Kumite including both Jodan and Chudan attacks and defenses.

  1. Stand in a formal attention stance (musubi dachi) and bow to your partner
  2. You will have to do both attacking and defending sides as follows:
    • Jodan: Attack with Jodan oi tsuki five times in 5 steps. Defend with Age uke while stepping back 5 times and counter-attack with Gyaku tsuki after the 5th Age uke
    • Chudan: Attack with Chudan oi tsuki 5 times in 5 steps. Defend with Soto ude uke while stepping backward 5 times and counter-attack with Gyaku tsuki after the 5th Soto ude uke.

4. Other techniques

If there are many people grading at the same time and the examiner hasn’t got the opportunity to watch your performance closely, you might be asked to repeat some techniques.

No need to get nervous, just listen to the instructions and do the best you can.

Remember, if you are asked to grade, your instructor thinks you are ready, so have confidence in your ability.

In some cases, you might be asked to perform other techniques for a double grading and be awarded a yellow belt instead of a white belt with a stripe.

As mentioned above, stay focused and do the best you can.

How to prepare for your 9th kyu grading?

There is no need to do any special preparation for your grading.

If you have been turning up at the dojo regularly, paying attention, and practicing at home what you’ve learned at the dojo, you are ready for this grading.

Perhaps the only thing you need to do is avoid staying up late the day before and eat well so that you come to the grading with good energy and focus.

References

The JKA Kyu and Dan Rank Certification System

Shotokan Karate International Australia Grading Syllabus

JKA Australia grading system

Understanding the Meaning of Karate Belt Colors

Zanshin Shotokan Karatedo Grading Curriculum


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Sophia

I haven't trained in karate for long but it has given me so much and definitely has made me a better person. The more I train, the more I realize that karate is more about mastering your mind than mastering your physical form. If learning karate is like learning a language, I am still at the alphabet stage and I am sharing with you on this blog bits and pieces that I pick up a long the way. I hope you find them useful and wish you all the best with your karate journey!

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