Kyu levels
From the very first moment that a student enters the dojo their training will constantly be monitored by their sensei (teacher).
Within the modern Shotokan karate system each student's progress is measured strictly on their ability to retain, and constantly improve upon, the quality of their basic techniques and katas. Once a student reaches a specific level of performance their sensei (teacher) will afford them the opportunity to try for promotion by taking part in a grading.
Upon successfully passing their grading a student is awarded a new "kyu" or "rank" which will redefine their specific place within their dojo society. Visually this is represented by the colour of the belt that each student wears when ever they are in the dojo. It would be fair to say that a qualified student should be able, with an appropriate letter of introduction, to enter into any Shotokan dojo in the world and feel comfortable amongst students of a similar rank.
There are ten "kyu levels" in the modern Shotokan system and these levels are awarded in the following order starting from lowest (white belt - 10th kyu) to the highest (3rd brown belt - 1st kyu) :
10th kyu - white belt
9th kyu - yellow belt
8th kyu - orange belt
7th kyu - red belt
6th kyu - green belt
At this point (6th kyu) a student has reached the half way mark in the kyu belt system and would now be considered the "highest of the low belts" where as at 5th kyu (violet belt) the student would be considered the "lowest of the high belts".
5th kyu - violet belt
4th kyu - blue belt
3rd kyu - brown belt
2nd kyu - brown belt
1st kyu - brown belt
Once the average karate student has reached the rank of 1st kyu they will in all likelihood have been studying the art of Shotokan karate for approximately three to four years, and should shortly be preparing to take their Sho Dan (1st Dan) or "black belt" exam. It should be noted that in reality all kyu ranks were originally considered white belts relative to the black belt.
Today, however, Shotokan as well as many other styles of karate, employ the use of these coloured belts as a means of making it easier for each student in the dojo to measure their individual progress within the dojo society.
In the end, the time that it takes to reach the rank of Sho Dan (1st Dan) will differ for each individual student. The important thing for you to remember is that it is the journey that matters, not the time it takes to make the journey.
After all, karate-do is meant to be practiced for your entire lifetime, and I assure you the faster you try and go, the more likely you are to miss the things that really matter, and in doing so you will never truly comprehend all that karate-do has to offer.
I wish you a long life and a safe journey.
Haste makes waste.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay