Judo uses a belt ranking system like many martial arts, with the black belt meaning that you are a serious and experienced practitioner. Black belt grades, also called the Dan grades, are awarded to advanced judokas, with the 10th dan being the highest awarded.
If you want to become a black belt in judo, it takes a lot of practice. So how long will it take you?
If you are serious and committed to learning the art of judo, getting the black belt will usually take you about 3-6 years.
It doesn’t mean that it will be an easy feat, as some practitioners with less talent may need as much as 10 years.
How Do You Get a Black Belt in Judo?
First things first, in order to even get to a black belt grading, you previously must have been awarded all the previous belts:
When you’ve successfully gained all the belts in the Kyu grades, it’s time to move on to Dan grades, the Black Belt grades.
What you Need to do Before Grading
While different regions around the world might have some slight differences in the black belt grading, they are all based on the same criteria which are set by IJF (International Judo Federation).
For starters, you must know all the throws, armbars, and chokes for all the previous belts. Once you’ve become a brown belt, it’s time to start competing.
You will need to compete if you want to become a black belt, as you must gain 120 points before your grading. Demonstrating your ability as a competitor is the best way to quickly gather points.
For every ippon you perform in the competition, you will be awarded 10 points. A tip is to keep track of your points in competitions so that when you reach 120, you can use your points to apply for the black belt grading.
How is the Grading Performed?
The grading is a test that is used to evaluate if your skills are enough to get you awarded a black belt. As we’ve said, you must know all the techniques from the previous belts, and before your exam, the judges (high-ranking black belts) will ask you to do some techniques from previous belts at random.
Once you’ve successfully passed that, you will be given an opportunity to take your Nage-no-kata exam. The Nage-no-Kata was developed in 1884 and 1885 by Jigoro Kano and it serves as an illustrated method for throws.
To get the black belt you need to perform three sets from Nage-no-Kata as an attacker in from of the panel of judges, If you, however, wish to get the Kodokan black belt, you must perform five sets.
The black belt grading in most countries is offered twice a year, once in summer and once in the winter.
Tips for your Black Belt Exam
By now you know that getting a black belt is not easy. Dedication, knowledge, practice hours, and competitions are just some of the factors that are involved in earning the black belt.
Being fully prepared for the exam will give you more confidence and therefore, you’ll have a higher chance of passing it.
Get a good understanding of all the throws, arm locks, and chokes and memorize how they are named in Japanese. You can watch videos online from high-ranking black belts for every technique that you need to know.
If you have enough space at home, get some judo mats and invite a friend from class so you can practice outside of regular judo class. And, if finances are not an issue for you, invest in a private class, as that will really help you.
Get a good night’s sleep before an exam and try to be as relaxed and focused as possible at the exam. Even if you don’t pass the exam that time, it’s not the end of the world. Be proud of yourself for going this far in your judo journey, practice harder and for sure you will get the black belt.