Meaning and Levels of Dan Degrees

Written by Nobuyoshi TAMURA Shihan.

1 – 初段 SHODAN – The First DAN:

SHO represents the beginning, beginner.
The body eventually begins to respond to the given commands and to produce technical forms. One can have ambiguous ideas about what Aikido could be.
At this point, we must force ourselves to apply the techniques as precisely as possible and to train accurately.

2 – 弐 段 NIDAN – The Second DAN:

While more intense mental continuity is being revealed, at the same time strength and speed are added to the first dan rank. This progress perceived by the student as self-development.
The jury should feel this evolution noting that the work has entered a certain way and is moving towards a certain direction.

3 – 参段 SANDAN – The Third DAN:

This is the stage where kokyu and ryoku concepts are begun to be understood. It’s the spiritual dimension of Aikido. Technical delicacy, sharpness, and efficiency begin to manifest themselves. The student reaching this point can start to train beginners.

4 – 四段 YONDAN – The Forth DAN:

At this technically advanced level, the principles that guide the techniques are begun to be comprehended. It is possible to fill in for the Sensei when it is necessary.

5 – 伍 段 GODAN – The Fifth DAN:

The art of Aikido is being liberated from the physical obstacles while it passes beyond one’s spiritual being.

6 – 六 段 ROKUDAN – The Sixth DAN:

As techniques become state of the art, movements are fluent and solid. The person who follows her/him must feel the serenity of the progress. Strength and physical flexibility just like the purity of the spirit merge into behaviors and express itself in life.

7 – 七 段 NANADAN – The Seventh DAN:

One is liberated from the obscuration of self-being and converge into his true self without any devotion to worldly pleasures.

8 – 八段 HACHIDAN – The Eighth DAN:

Beyond life and death, with a clear and open mind, in the ability to bring the opposites together, s/he refuses to fight, refuses to have enemies. Unguided and uninvited, s/he is the eternal winner. It is explained with the words of O Sensei
“To face the enemy, I just have to stand without saying a word.”
This is not the stage that everything ends. One should remember the soul of a beginner. Even the brightest water can disappear in a marsh.

Basic Concepts to know for Dan Degrees

ARUKIKATA They way one walks
KAMAE The guard, basic position
KIRYOKU The willpower, energy or vitality
KOKORO NO MOCHI KATA Control of the senses
KOKYU Breathing
KOKYU RYOKU Breath power
KO RYOKU Efficiency
MA AI Distance and timing
METSUKE Mental and physical sight
NICHIJO NO TAIDO Everyday attitude
REIGISAHO The etiquette
SEISHIN JOTAI The state of mind
SHISEI The posture
SOKUDO The pace
TAI SABAKI Movement and settlement of the body from one certain point to another