There are 10 degrees of achievement that a person practicing martial arts can be awarded with.
Out of the millions of people who practice martial arts, only a select few will be awarded the 10th degree.
It is often only given to those who founded the martial arts or someone particularly gifted within the field.
So, the number of 10th degree black belts is not going to be as high as you might have first been expecting.
There is a big difference between those who hold black belts and those who hold 10th degree black belts. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Who Holds A 10th Degree Black Belt?
Many martial art communities believe that only the founder of the particular martial art should be a 10th degree holder.
For example, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community will not allow anyone else to get the 10th degree title (which comes with their red belt), as it is reserved for the Gracie family
The Gracie family – Carlos, Gastao, Jorge, Oswaldo, and Helio – all were awarded the 10th degree red belts in BJJ as they were the founders of what was then called Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
There were two other 10th degrees given out to non Gracie family members – Luiz Franca and Oswaldo Fadda – but then the rules changed so that the highest award red belts could get was 9th degree.
More On The Black Belt In Martial Arts
The black belt is often regarded as the highest achievement that people can be awarded with in martial arts (Find out Who Is The Youngest Blackbelt?).
You can be awarded more than one black belt, so many people make it their mission to collect as many black belts as they can.
However, this goal is soon forgotten about by many when they realize how many years it takes, and how much perseverance they need to put in, to get their first black belt.
This means that the martial arts often sees people stop training full time once they get their first black belt.
A ranking in martial arts is often referred to as a Dan.
Many people feel as though the work that they’ve put in to get their first Dan is too much to go through again for the second.
However, people who do go through with this often find that getting their second Dan is easier than the first.
Despite that, it still takes two years to get your second Dan. After you are awarded with that, it will take you another two years to get your third.
This cycle repeats until you can get all the way up to the highest ranking.
The black belt system is different for both adults and children, with some martial arts not awarding children black belts.
This is due to the fact that children are given different testing methods than adults, making their ranking and belt system different.
Adult Black Belts
Now let’s take a look at the rankings for adult black belts and how these can be achieved.
A poomsae is a sequence of movements that is made up by a number of different moves, all logically arranged to attack and block moves from imaginary opponents.
|Belt Degree||Minimum Age||Poomsae|
|1st degree||16 years||Koryo|
|2nd degree||18 years||Keumgang|
|3rd degree||21 years||Taebaek|
|4th degree||25 years||Pyongwon|
|5th degree||30 years||Sipjin|
|6th degree||Between 30 and 36 years||Jitae|
|7th degree||36 years||Chonkwon|
|8th degree||Between 40 and 52 years||Hansoo|
|9th degree||53 years||Ilyeo|
|10th degree||Almost 60||It is the highest rank without specific Poomsae|
More About These Black Belt Rankings
Now let’s take a quick look into each of these rankings to see what you might be dealing with, if you were to be awarded with one.
The first degree black belt gives you the title of a senior student. You can now teach other martial arts practitioners with a lower ranking than you. However, you will still need the permission of your instructor to do this.
The second Dan will give you the title of Kyo San Nim. You will find it much easier to become a certified instructor at this degree, and you can train more advanced students – with the instruction of a master.
Your title is now Sam Dan and your belt is more profound than other black belts, making you appear more senior to other trainees.
You can now become a senior instructor. This level takes 21 years to complete.
At the 4th Dan, you will either be referred to as Master rank or a Junior Master. You will train black belts and be able to promote other colored belts to their first Dan. Your official title will be San Bum Nim.
You can now promote other black belts to higher Dans and train them to become masters. You will be at least 30 years old at this point.
Teaching will become your main goal at this level, and you will be getting guidance straight from the Grandmaster themself. You can now be called a Senior Master.
This Dan is similar to the 6th, with you teaching those below you.
You are now considered a Grandmaster and will be required to take a physical exam to get to this Dan. You will also need a doctor’s note, and you’ll be at least 53 years old.
This is considered the last level and the highest honor. You will need to have a service record and have performed as a referee for multiple years before achieving this Dan.
The 10th degree is the highest level and the least common to achieve. As we have mentioned earlier, this rank is often left for those who created or developed the martial art. However, you may still be awarded it if you show immense skill.
We hope that this article has helped you figure out who holds the 10th degree black belt! This is often reserved for founders of the martial arts, or people who show incredible talent and devotion to the art.