It is also from Japan that the actual ranking system comes from. It is known as the “Dan System” (pronounced Don and meaning “level”). Some competitions were simple enough. However, for more widespread and complex games, they needed a way of ranking people within these divisions. The most popular and difficult of these was “Go“.
Go, an oriental version of chess is taken seriously in Japan, China and other countries around the globe. The “dan system” was introduced by Bonino Dohaku (a go player who is considered the greatest and most influential in history). Each player championship belts was assigned a rank based on their record, experience, handicap, and handicap. Skilled players were given a grade from represented that the player was ranked at a lower level. “Shodan” was the literal translation of “lowest level”, while “9” was the highest-ranking, which was ranking system for go competitions.
You were placed in a group called Kyu if you weren’t considered skilled. There were never any rankings in Kyu. Everyone was grouped, and the goal was for everyone to become Shodan. The only thing that got you out of the Kyu division was skill. There were no time restrictions, and you didn’t have to wait for a certain amount of time. The Kyu ranks were informal wrestling belts at the beginning of martial arts. If you had enough skill and could get your black belt within a short time, they would give it to you. Later, go organizations added ranks to the Kyu division. Today there are 30 ranks in this Kyu system. Today’s Go student starts with a level of 30 Kyu. This is the lowest possible rank. Then, they move up to the rank 1st Kyu, which is the highest rank within the kyu system. Finally, they move on to the Dan Ranks. Kyu and dan mean “pupil” and “skilled player” in modern go.
At the beginning of martial arts, there was no ranking system. You were either a student or a senior student who had limited authority in class. Or you could be a teacher. Your teacher may issue you a “Meko Kaiden” certificate, which means “certificate to total transmission”. This certificate indicates that you have studied the entire art and are champion belts qualified to teach it. These certificates were rare as they could only be issued after years of hard work. People moved all the time, so they had to learn from many instructors.
Kano Jigoro, a Japanese man (1860-1938), was the one who introduced the belt system to martial arts. Kano Jigoro grew up in a low-income family. He was bullied as a child. He began to study Jujitsu, a martial art that combines throws and joint breaking techniques. Japan underwent a “Meiji Restoration” in 1868, which saw a shift in government belt wrestling and westernization. Many instructors stopped teaching Jujitsu, and the violent practice of Jujitsu was soon out of social favor.
He founded “Judo”, new art that translates to “the way of gentleness”, in 1882. Jujitsu’s violent techniques were not fashionable in modern Japan, so practitioners sought to avoid it and learned it secretly. Judo, gentler martial arts based on Jujitsu’s teachings, was to be an open-access sport anyone could understand and compete in. It was to be a soft spot for modern Japan.