The Grading System
Like many of the other martial arts, Shorinji Kempo has a grading system of belts to allow structured learning and to acknowledge achievement and understanding. A student is referred to as a kenshi.
How The Grading System Works
In line with the changes in the syllabus structure introduced in 2011, both adult and children kenshi progress from wearing a green-colored belt for the 8th to 6th kyu, or grades, for children, and for the 6th to 3rd kyu for adults. From 3rd kyu onwards for both children and adults, a brown belt is worn. Kenshi who pass the 1st dan grade, or Shodan, wear a black belt. The black belt remains for all subsequent dan grades.
To attain each of these belts, a minimum number of training sessions must have been attended and the syllabus techniques for the desired grade must be learnt before the student can take the grading exam. The Branch Master will keep track of each kenshi's attendance and progress in technical understanding; once the minimum attendance requirement is met and he believes the kenshi has gain a sufficient understanding of the technique, the Branch Master will set a time and date for the exam.
Grading exams are fairly relaxed at novice level, but become more serious as the kenshi progresses up the grades. For 2nd kyu and 1st kyu, the kenshi has to write 3 essays before taking the practical exam. These essays require some knowledge of the philosophy of Shorinji Kempo. The exam also demands the presentation of an embu, or a rehearsed sequence of techniques performed with a partner. For the 1st Dan exam, in addition to the take-home essays, there is also a written test, which must be taken on the day of the practical exam. The grading is performed by the Branch Master.
A note for our non-Japanese students: the techniques names are all in Japanese and although not easy to understand at a glance, picking up the basic Japanese commands is fairly easy. Using the Japanese names means that you could train in other dojos while visiting foreign countries, as all dojos share the same syllabus.
What The Black Belt Means
It is important to note that Shorinji Kempo does not treat achieving a black belt as a sign that the holder is now an 'expert'. Having attained Shodan means simply that the kenshi has grasped and begun to internalize the fundamental principles of the Shorinji Kempo techniques; after Shodan, there are another eight dan grades still to go!
Once a kenshi has achieved a level of understanding and the technical proficiency of a Shodan, he or she will also be expected to begin teaching and guiding the lower grades, as we believe that teaching others not only helps those being taught, but also those doing the teaching.