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Ranking at Riai Aikido Dojo


The ranking system in aikido is divided into 6 kyu ranks (when you have a white belt) and 10 dan ranks (when you have a black belt). The first rank you get is 6 kyu, then 5 kyu and so on up to 1 kyu. Then the scale reverser and you start on 1 dan (black belt), then 2 dan and upwards. When you receive rank 3 kyu, you can wear the hakama (the black trouser skirt).

Riai rankings are in accordance with the guidelines established by the Swedish Aikido Association’s ranking committee, with additions that are style-specific for traditional aikido. This applies to both kyu and dan ranks. Ranking for kyu ranks is carried out at club level. Ranking for dan ranks is carried out at an officially announced ranking event before a ranking committee. The Dan ranks are administered and registered by the Aikikai Japanese Foundation.

Jan Bratt 6th dan diploma
(Click on the picture to enlarge)

Aikido is thus not a competitive sport, but can rather be likened to a craft based on martial arts. Aikido is traditional budo, where you first learn the external forms and then gradually acquire the principles. Since traditional aikido is a complex system, which one acquires over time, ranking is an intermediate goal to master the craft step by step.

What is the purpose of rankings?

The ranking rules govern the association activity. Riai’s ranking requirements mean the training needs to be conducted in a systematic and efficient manner. In that sense, the ranking rules function as a governing document for both the members’ training and the activities in general. The selection of techniques and exercises one acquires leading up the various ranks can be seen as a training step for learning traditional aikido.

What functions does ranking have for the individual?

One function is the person who is to rank gets a goal to learn a specified selection of techniques. At the time of ranking event, it is also possible to get feedback from your instructor. A higher rank means increased responsibility for oneself, one’s training peers and the dojo as a whole. The ranking event is announced in advance and is open to dojo members, so that everyone who wants and has the opportunity to attend can support those who take part in the ranking event. A ranking is an important matter for the entire dojo, not just for the person ranking.

Comments on the document “Guidelines for ranking at Riai Aikido Dojo”

6-4 kyu

For 6 and 5 kyu we learn to roll forwards and backwards and master other basic fall techniques. We learn basic positions (hanmi and kamae), body movements (taisabaki) and understand the difference between technique in front (omote) and behind (ura). The interaction between the one who performs the technique (nage) and the one who receives the technique (uke) is an important part of the understanding of the basic structure of the training. The basic techniques included in 6 & 5 kyu are performed in kihon, basic form (gotai).

Techniques performed in motion (jutai and ryutai) are introduced to 4 kyu. Great emphasis is now placed on being able to perform the techniques with a high degree of determination and sharpness in the role of nage, and in the role as uke being able to perform stable and balanced attacks.

Pia Moberg 6th dan diploma
(Click on the picture to enlarge)

3 kyu

When ranking to 3 kyu, the design should give a stable and safe impression, both in the role of uke and nage. The repertoire is expanded and systematized. It is expected to be able to define the technique based on the three steps of balance breaking – technique – control. where the principles of aikido become visible. You mus be able to perform safe fall techniques (ukemi) to specific techniques both rolling and with high falls (high falls on koshinage, kotegaeshi, kokyunage). The technique selection has a focus on frontal techniques.

2 kyu

The forms of attack are expanded with attacks from behind (ushiro waza). A basic understanding of the room/space aspect and how to handle multiple attackers is displayed.

The starting position is introduced where nage sits down and uke attacks standing (hanmi handachi waza), and techniques where nage disarms uke, who attacks with weapons (buki dori), both of which are good examples of training with changing conditions. By giving the attacking partner an advantage in strength, increasing the requirement for timing and correct coordination with the uke’s movements (awase), mobility and control.

To this rank, optional attacks (jiuwaza) against a person are introduced, where the person being ranked must show evidence of increased flexibility. The techniques are base techniques in motion.

1 kyu

This rank requires a very good form stability and ease of execution.

The techniques must be able to be performed with great force and determination without brutality. In addition to the technical details, the examinee must also clearly show the principles of aikido (see below) are observed and permeate all techniques shown. 1 kyu can be seen as a pre-test for the shodan.

(See pdf for guidelines for kyu ranking further down the page)


As a starting point, the techniques are performed as much accuracy as possible, with power and precision. The principles of aikido are shown through the established technique repertoire, which gradually increases in scope and degree of difficulty.

When you as an examiner have to assess a person’s ranking, development from an earlier rank and training intensity play an important role.

The execution of our techniques can be described in three steps:

Breaking balance (kuzushi): The uke’s balance must be noticeably deteriorated or the nage must be in a control position.

The technique: The technique should be performed with the correct form in accordance with traditional aikido. Correct form refers to the style-specific form. By good form, we mean the technique is performed in accordance with the principles of aikido, regardless of which style the person being examined represents. Strength and determination must be important for the assessment.

Control: Nage must control uke, the ending must be distinct. Control situation ends the technique in a lock (osae waza) or a throw (nage waza).


Ma-ai: Correct distance assessment.

Awase: To synchronize with incoming attacks and guide power with the right timing. Timing in this context means to be able to implement the technique with an understanding of the correct moment and necessary speed.

Centering: Focus and sharpness in the implementation of the techniques. The movement must always be based on and maintain the connection to the center of one’s own body.

Balans: The techniques must be implemented with steadiness and balance and with a good posture.

Kokyu-ryokyu: Means “kokyu-force”, breathing force, which is part of the technique.

Zanshin: Maintaining focus with full concentration in the ending position after completing technique.


Reigi: The examinee should show good behavior and not neglect greetings or other expressions of courtesy which is part of the behavior in a dojo. Respect and good behavior towards the examiner and the examiner’s training partner is very important regardless of the rank to which you are trying.

Endurace: Reasonable ability to perform equally even in fatigue.

Other information

  • For children and youth, we have a club-specific ranking system 8-1 kyu, which covers Swedish aikikai’s regulations well. (See pdf for guidelines for youth ranks further down the page) You must be 18 years old to graduate to shodan (black belt).
  • If you have a youth rank and want to switch to the adult ranking system, the basic requirement is that you must have a motivation to be on regular adult sessions regularly in addition to the youth sessions.
  • When you switch from the youth system to the adult system, you regain your white belt.


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