American Shotokan Karate Federation
American Shotokan
Karate Federation

Ranks & Progression


All new students begin as a white belt, 10th kyu. There are two groups of rank within Shotokan karate; the ranks below black belt are the 10th through 1st kyu, or circles, the levels of black belt are 1st through 10th dan, or terrace.


Testing for rank advancement is conducted normally at least quarterly. There is a nominal fee for testing to cover the administrative costs. Any student may test, provided they are members in good standing in the ASKF. Students will be advised by their instructor if they are ready to test for the next rank; some instructors do not permit students to test unless it has been approved by their sensei.

Students testing for the next kyu rank must have at least 3 months of instruction before testing. At the lower ranks it is normal for students to be able to test every quarter; however after 6th kyu the amount of time required to perfect increasing difficult techniques increases. Many students ask how long it takes to become a black belt; obviously the answer varies from student to student, but a dedicated student can earn black belt rank in as little as 3 years.

Students are tested on several things:

  1. Kata (formal exercise of several techniques in a pattern)
  2. Kihon (Proper method for performing techniques)
  3. Kumite (Practice fighting with a partner)
  4. Knowledge of custom, courtesy, and language.

Students are observed by a panel of certified examiners who determine if the student meets the criteria for advancement. All of the certifier’s comments are recorded so the student can learn from the experience.

Rank Requirements

The following table shows the progression of rank with the corresponding belt color. Clicking on a colored rank will take you to the test criteria for that level. Please note that this test criteria is the recommended sequence of exercises; the examiner may choose different or additional techniques as part of the exam.