Shotokan Karate Grading Sheet Essay

This is the basic requirements for red belts (8th kyu) taking yellow belt (7th kyu).

Kihon (basics) do vary from Dojo to Dojo, so please check for differences with your Sensei. Our yellow belt shotokan karate syllabus comprises of single techniques throughout, there are no combinations. Our 6th kyu shotokan karate grading syllabus, has the first combinations in our syllabus. We will be uploading a shotokan karate syllabus pdf as soon as we have finished all the filming, which you can use as a reference.

Many shotokan grading syllabus are similar, but there are many small variations, our shotokan yellow belt syllabus consists of the basics (kihon) in this video, three step sparring (sanbon kumite) and the kata Heian Nidan (Heian means peaceful mind and Nidan means second step).

Shotokan Karate Syllabus 7th Kyu Yellow Belt Basics

  1. Stepping forward oi zuki (stepping punch) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance) x4
  2. Stepping back age uke (upper block) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance) x4
  3. Stepping forward uchi uke (inside block) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance) x4
  4. Stepping back soto uke (outside block) in zenkutsu dachi (front stance) x4
  5. Stepping forward shuto uke (knife hand block) in kokutsu dachi (back stance) x4
  6. Stepping back shuto uke (knife hand block) in kokutsu dachi (back stance) x4
  7. Mae geri (front kick) in jyu kamae (free fighting stance) x4
  8. Mawate (turn) then another mae geri (front kick) in jyu kamae (free fighting stance) x4
  9. Mawate (turn) Mawashi geri (round kick) in jyu kamae (free fighting stance) x4
  10. Mawate (turn) then another Mawashi geri (round kick) in jyu kamae (free fighting stance) x4
  11. Mawate (turn) Yoko geri keage (side snap kick) in kiba dachi (horse riding stance) x4
  12. Mawate (turn) then another Yoko geri keage (side snap kick) in kiba dachi (horse riding stance) x4
  13. Mawate (turn) Yoko geri kekomi (side thrust kick) in kiba dachi (horse riding stance) x4
  14. Mawate (turn) then another Yoko geri kekomi (side thrust kick) in kiba dachi (horse riding stance) x4

Video Showing The Zanshin 7th Kyu Grading Basics


OK, so I found some information on grading in the historical Shotokan-Dojo. It's not much, but it's a start. This is from two great books on the history of Shotokan by Henning Wittwer.

  • Wittwer, Henning, "Shotokan - ├╝berlieferte Texte - historische Untersuchungen, Band I"
  • Wittwer, Henning, "Shotokan - ├╝berlieferte Texte - historische Untersuchungen, Band II"

More information on Henning Wittwer and his books at

The books are written in German, so the following snippets are my translations, which I shortened/rephrased a bit here and there for ease of reading.

The development of Gohon-Gumite and Sanbon-Gumite originally took place in the Karate clubs at the universities, where each club even devised their own type of this form of exercise. Appearently, Funakoshi was so taken with this creation that not only did he apply it to his Kumite forms but he expressively included Sanbon-Gumite as an examination subject (Shiken-Kamoku) for examinations up to third Dan at his Shotokan Dojo. Alongside this, Ippon-Gumite was a required examination subject at the Shotokan. (vol. II, p. 223)

It would be a big mistake to equate the common types of Jiyu-Gumite of today with the manner and method of free Kumite practised by Yoshitaka [Gichin Funakoshi's son]. A contemporary witness suggests that Yoshitakas free Kumite was a continuation of Gohon-Gumite, which simply means that supposedly roles of attacking partner and countering partner were adhered to. Another contemporary witness remembers an examination in 1943, during which two candidates from different university clubs performed something which he labeled Jiyu-Ippon-Gumite. His description could as well let the reader believe that was free Kumite. In short, the boundaries between Jiyu-Gumite and Jiyu-Ippon-Gumite at that time were rather blurred. (vol. II, p. 227)

At the Shotokan-Dojo Funakoshi was able to implement his own ideas for grading requirements, independently of influences from the groups at the universities. He devised a system which in principle allowed students gradings up to fifth Dan as the top level. (vol. I, p. 162)

Leaders of local branches of the Shotokan could give exams up to the Dan level they held themselves. (vol. II, p. 260)

The above are just some rather clear examples of what was required of Shotokan grading candidates.

The university clubs went to define their own grading guidelines. This is an extract from the Keio-University Karate club guidelines from 1934:

"Article 55: In this club each rank corresponds to certain Kata as follows:

  • No rank and 7th Kyu : Pinan 1 / Pinan 2
  • 6th Kyu : Pinan 3 / Pinan 5
  • 5th Kyu : Pinan 4 / Jitte
  • 4th Kyu : Passai Dai / Kiba-Dachi 1 [=Tekki 1]
  • 3th Kyu : Kushanku Dai / Kiba-Dachi 3 [=Tekki 3]
  • 2nd Kyu : Wanshu [=Enpi] / Kiba-Dachi 2 [=Tekki 2]
  • 1st Kyu : Chinto [=Gankaku] / Jion / Seishan [=Hangetsu]"

(vol. I, S. 154)

I suppose it is fair to assume that gradings at the Shotokan-Dojo also included Kata performances, since Funakoshi expressed that Kata training clearly was most important.

Wittwer gives a list of Katas that were practised by various groups at the time of the historical Shotokan (vol. I, p. 130):

  • Taikyoko, Heian, Tekki, Bassai, Kanku,
  • Hangetsu, Jitte, Enpi, Gangkaku, Jion,
  • Sochin, Meikyo, Chintei, J'in,
  • Gojushiho, Nijushiho, Wankan,
  • Suparinpei,
  • Shuji no Kon, Sakugawa no Kon, Shirotaru no Kon, Matsukaze no Kon

Most of these are expected. However, Suparinpei isn't practised in most Shotokan style dojos today. And most noticeable, I think, is the presence of stick-fighting Kata ("... no Kon"), which used to be a more or less integrated part of Karate like forever and only from the second half of the 20th century on became almost extinct.

If you are interested in the history of Karate, and Shotokan in particular, I strongly recommend these books. Henning Wittwer also has book out in English, titled "Scouting Out The Historical Course Of Karate: Collected Essays". I have not read it yet, but it seems to present at least some of the information from the two above mentioned books.

All the best Marc

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