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  • Writer's pictureElliott Lee

Getting the 1st Dan

Much like a black-belt in Taekwondo or Karate, in Kumdo or Kendo, you experience a very similar yet very unique set of tests in receiving your first Dan. Typically, candidates for 1st Dan must have trained for a specific period, which can vary but is often around 3 to 5 years.This usually comes as a result of the preceding levels of qualification done individually by dojos. One can think of these "preceding levels" as kyuu or keup. A beginner starts at 9th kyuu and goes up to 1st kyuu where they will then take a test for 1st dan.


Candidates are expected to demonstrate their proficiency in various fundamental Kendo techniques, including strikes, blocks, and footwork. These techniques are usually assessed during a grading examination. One of the main techniques that are assessed is kirikaeshi, a drill done with a partner that involves a succession of strikes to the head and to the shinai, the bamboo sword.


Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in Kendo kata, which are prearranged forms that showcase fundamental techniques and principles.


The bulk of the test includes:

Kirikaeshi (a sequence of continuous strikes).

Basic techniques

Demonstrating proper etiquette, respect, and understanding of Kendo customs and traditions.

Candidates should display good control of the shinai (bamboo sword) and demonstrate the ability to handle it safely.

Emphasize proper Kendo etiquette, including the appropriate bowing, posture, and demeanor before, during, and after matches.

Etiquette is probably the MOST emphasized skill of Kendo above every other physical aspect.


In the Korean iteration of Kendo, Kumdo requires mastery of Bonguk Geombeop 본국검법. This is a uniquely Korean as these forms are required for rank promotion tests conducted by the Korea Kumdo Association.


To earn a 1st Dan, candidates usually need to receive a passing score from the panel of examiners.

As I look forward to my own Dan test over the fall of 2023, let's keep these in mind and keep practicing!

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