Shotokan Karate Grading Syllabus: Yellow Belt (8th Kyu) | Karate Philosophy (2022)

A yellow belt is probably the most memorable and most important belt for some people because this first color belt signifies their commitment to karate training and, hopefully, the official beginning of a life-long karate journey.

In this post, let’s look at what the yellow belt in karate means, the length it takes to get a yellow belt in karate, the yellow belt grading requirements under the Shotokan curriculum, how to find out if you are ready for a yellow belt grading and how to best prepare for it.

What does the yellow belt in karate mean?

In the Shotokan karate curriculum, the yellow belt is the second belt you will grade (for the 8th kyu rank).

The yellow color represents the first beam of sunlight which symbolizes hope.

When you are awarded the yellow belt, you have achieved some understanding of karate in both technical and mental aspects and there is hope for a future of potential growth.

A seedling has emerged from the ground to meet the sun, there’s a lot of room for growth but also a lot of challenges ahead.

How long does it take to get a yellow belt in karate?

If you are a complete novice with no previous martial art knowledge or training, it usually takes a minimum of 3 months to get from a white belt with a stripe (9th kyu) to a yellow belt (8th kyu).

The minimum training time is around 36 hours or 20 to 30 training sessions.

However, if you have previous martial art experience, the training duration might be shorter, depending on what you are able to demonstrate.

How to find out if you are ready for your yellow belt?

If you have been training consistently from your last grading, you are likely to be asked to grade for the next belt when there is a grading coming up.

However, it is not automatic and it’d be a faux pas to ask your instructor whether you can grade.

Just do your best at every training and progress at your own pace and you know you are ready for the yellow belt grading when your instructor tells you so.

In addition, karate is a very personal journey. Everyone is different and people can progress at different rates. Some people will be natural athletes and excel at karate and some people may be clumsy and awkward, or hate repetition and have poor memory.

Someone who starts at the same time as you might be asked to grade before you or you might be asked to grade before somebody else.

It doesn’t matter, the belt doesn’t define you. What matters is what you learn from karate, not the color of the belt you are wearing.

Whether you are grading or not, train the best you can at every session, focus on your progress, and don’t compare yourself with other people.

If you are a parent, please don’t ask the instructor whether your child can grade, and also don’t question the instructor if another child who starts at the same time is being graded before your child. Focus on your child’s progress, cherish his or her growth and not what level he or she is at.

It’s not about being the best.

It’s about being better than you were yesterday.

Yellow belt grading requirements in Shotokan

There are four technique areas that you need to demonstrate for your yellow belt grading: kihon, kata, kumite and ukemi waza.

1. Kihon

To get a yellow belt, you generally need to know the following stances and techniques.

  1. Stances:
    • Zenkutsu Dachi
    • Kokutsu Dachi
    • Kiba Dachi
  2. Techniques:
    • Oi tsuki
    • Gyaku tsuki
    • Age uke
    • Soto ude uke
    • Uchi ude uke
    • Shuto uke
    • Maegeri
    • Yoko geri keage
    • Yoko geri kekomi

In the grading, you will be required to perform these techniques in the above three basic stances as listed below. The examiner will count and the general rule is one count, one move.

Oi tsuki (lunge punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step forward into a right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a lunge punch with the right hand aiming at the solar plexus level (migi chudan oi tsuki)
  • Step forward into a left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi) and perform a lunge punch with the left hand aiming at the solar plexus level (hidari chudan oi tsuki)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Gyaku tsuki (reverse punch)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a right hand in gyaku tsuki position
  • Step forward into a right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a reverse punch with your left hand (hidari gyaku tsuki)
  • Step forward into a left front stance (hidary zenkutsu dachi) and perform a reverse punch with your right hand (migi gyaku tsuki)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Age uke (rising block)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance with the torso making a 45-degree with the front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your right hand (migi jodan age uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a rising block with your left hand (hidari jodan age uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Soto ude uke (block from outside inwards)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) then change to a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an outside-inward block with your right hand (migi soto ude uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform a outside-inward block with your left hand (hidari soto ude uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Uchi ude uke (block from inside to outside)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi) then change into a left zenkutsu dachi with a left gedan barai
  • Step backward into a right front stance (migi hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your right hand (migi uchi ude uke)
  • Step backward into a left front stance (hidari hanmi zenkutsu dachi) and perform an inside-outward block with your left hand (hidari uchi ude uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Shuto uke (knife-hand block)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step backward with your right leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your left hand (hidari shuto uke)
  • Step backward with your left leg into a back stance (kokutsu dachi) and perform a knife-hand block with your right hand (migi shuto uke)
  • Repeat the above technique as directed by the examiner.

Mae geri (front kick)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Perform a front kick with the right leg, landing forward into a right front stance (migi zenkutsu dachi)
  • Perform a front kick with the left leg, landing forward into a left front stance (hidari zenkutsu dachi)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner.

Yoko geri keage (side snap kick)

  • Start in a ready stance (yoi dachi)
  • Step to the right hand side into a horse riding stance (kiba dachi) and perform a side snap kick with your right leg (migi yoko geki keage)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you are likely required to do five kicks to the right and then turn around and do another five kicks to the left).

Yoko geri kekomi (side thrust kick)

  • Start in a ready stance
  • Step to the right hand side into a horse riding stance (kiba dachi) and perform a side thrust kick with your right leg (migi yoko geki kekomi)
  • Repeat the above as directed by the examiner (you are likely required to do five kicks to the right and then turn around and do another five kicks to the left).

2. Kata

You will perform Heian Shodan kata following the examiner’s count.

Again, generally one count, one move, but afterward you may be asked to perform the kata on your own with no count.

Below is a video of Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei performingHeian Shodankata.

The video below contains additional instructions and bunkai explanations by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei. Although you are not tested on the bunkai of this kata, understanding what each move means significantly can help improve your kata performance.

3. Kumite

You are required to perform Sanbon Kumite Number 1.

  • Stand in a formal attention stance (musubi dachi), bow to your partner and then change to a ready stance (Shizentai dachi)
  • You will have to do both attacking and defending sides and both left and right sides as follows:
    • Step 1: The attacker will attack with Jodan oi tsuki. The defender will defend with Age uke
    • Step 2: The attacker will attack with Chudan oi tsuki. The defender will defend with Soto ude uke
    • Step 3: The attacker will attack with Chudan mae-geri. The defender will defend with Gedan barai and counter-attack with Gyaku tsuki (with a kiai).

The attacker will go forward while the defender will go backward.

4. Ukemi waza

Ukemi waza means break-fall techniques.

You are required to perform Ukemi waza level 1 which includes the following techniques:

  • Shoulder roll from kneeling position
  • Side breakfall from sitting on the ground
  • Back breakfall from sitting on the ground.

5. Other techniques

If there are many people grading at the same time and the examiner hasn’t got the opportunity to watch your performance closely, you might be asked to repeat some techniques.

No need to get nervous, just listen to the instructions and do the best you can.

In rare cases, like you have previous martial art training or show exceptional commitment at training, you might be asked to perform other advanced techniques for double grading. As mentioned above, stay focused and do the best you can.

How to prepare for your yellow belt grading?

The preparation for this grading should begin on the day after your last grading.

Keep turning up at the dojo, paying 100% attention, and giving your karate training all you’ve got, you know you are ready when your instructor asks you to grade.

An instructor once told me that, because the yellow belt is such a special belt for people who just start karate, he had never failed anyone at their yellow belt grading!

Just do your best and you’ll be alright.

References

The JKA Kyu and Dan Rank Certification System

Shotokan Karate International Australia Grading Syllabus

JKA Australia grading system

Understanding the Meaning of Karate Belt Colors

Zanshin Shotokan Karatedo Grading Curriculum

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Sophia

I haven't trained in karate for long but it has given me so much and definitely has made me a better person. After a long break, I've recently returned to karate and now train in Goju Ryu style with my children, starting all over again from a white belt.

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