What’s the Highest Rank in Karate? How to Reach it


Reaching the highest rank in Karate- is a symbol of one’s self-development and fighting ability. Thus only a handful of people who begin their martial arts journey will finish it in the arms of the highest rank.

So, let’s examine the highest Karate rank and what it means to attain it.

The black belt is the highest belt in Karate. However, once you attain the black belt, you can progress through the Dan ranks, where the 10th Dan is the peak. But, only a handful of people have reached the respectable 10th Dan rank.

Indeed, the story gets more complicated than what most people think.

Most people who have never done Karate think the black belt is the highest rank trainees can achieve. However, that’s not even close to reality.

Once Karate trainees attain the black belt, their journey has only begun. In fact, Karate masters refer to the black belt as a new beginning.

Although reaching the black belt symbolizes one’s dedication, consistency, fighting ability, and willingness, it’s not even close to the end of the journey.

I encourage you to read an article about the Karate belt order if you’re interested in learning more about this fantastic martial art’s different ranks and belts.

This article will demonstrate the meaning of attaining the highest rank in Karate. Additionally, I’ll explain some tips on how you can boost your progression and learning ability.

Black Belt- The highest Karate belt

Karate has 2-ranking systems, Kyu (student) and Dan. First, let’s discuss the Kyu system and what it implies.

The black belt is the highest belt in Karate. Those who attain it go through numerous tests that not everyone passes. As a result, black belts are competent fighters and practitioners. For perspective, attaining the black belt may take up to 15 years.

15 years to attain a belt? Why would somebody go through all of this effort to have it?

It’s not about the end goal. It’s about the person you become when reaching the destination.

karate black belts

Karate practitioners are capable individuals because they’ve invested many years with consistency and willingness to learn to practice the art of Karate.

Naturally, Karate black belts will be more disciplined and consistent people who are not afraid to work hard. As such, they’re the pinnacle of Karate practitioners.

Yet, once you reach the black belt, the journey has just begun. The black color symbolizes night, which is before dawn. In the Karate community, once someone attains the black belt, one’s journey has only just begun. Now, it’s time to put what one learns into actual practice.

Next, let’s discuss the Dan system and the meaning behind the ranks.

10th Dan- The highest Karate rank

Once you reach the black belt, which is 1st Kyu, you enter a new world of ranks and opportunities: the Dan ranks.

You’ve likely heard someone use the term Dan. However, you may not be familiar with the true meaning behind it. So, let’s see what’s the highest Dan rank in Karate.

Judan, the 10th Dan rank, is the highest Karate rank a practitioner can reach. Once you attain 3rd Dan, your individual capabilities don’t matter as much. Rather, your contribution to the martial arts and Karate community will be the primary factor in your progression.

So, if you want to progress through Dan ranks, it’ll be best to focus on teaching and spreading the word instead of working on yourself.

black belt
Image by Mihai Paraschiv from Pixabay

One of the prominent life lessons Karate trainees practice is not being selfish. You can see it coming to life when you reach 3rd Dan, and you can’t rely on yourself.

Instead, the more you contribute to the Karate community, the more likely you are to attain 4th Dan and so on.

I bet you’ll be surprised when you hear how many trainees have reached the honorable rank of 10th Dan. Well, the number is 30 worldwide.

Yes, only 30 people have reached the respectable rank of 10th Dan in Karate.

How to reach the black belt in Karate?

Progressing through Karate ranks- is incredibly difficult since it requires dedication and consistency. Unfortunately, in today’s world, such characteristics are rarer than ever. As a result, most people who start their martial arts journey never make it to the yellow belt, which is the 2nd one.

To reach the black belt in Karate, you must be willing to sacrifice your time and effort to learn more constantly. The learning process is a never-ending journey. Finally, the trainees who focus on progressing through the ranks and not learning more are less likely to reach it.

For that reason, the best advice I can give you is to not focus on the long-term goal.

Instead, concentrate on the person you want to become. For instance, if you think black belts are confident and humble, it’ll help if you strive toward being more humble and confident.

If you strive to become the person you want to be, you’re more likely to reach the black belt. Thus try not to focus on progressing through the ranks too often- although it can be a great motivation source.

This advice will help you reach many other long-term goals, as focusing on the result isn’t practical. Instead, if you live like the person you want to become, you’ll eventually achieve what this person is bound to fulfill.

Who is eligible for the 10th-degree black belt?

From the moment you start training, you can wear the same belt color for several years. Because of that, it may seem like an eternity until you achieve the next belt.

Let’s examine who is eligible for 10th Dan in Karate.

Karate trainees who are 9th Dan and have contributed an enormous amount to the martial arts community will eventually reach 10th Dan. That said, only a handful of people have ever reached such a rank. For your viewpoint, this number is estimated at 30 trainees.

99.99% of Karate trainees will not be even close to reaching 10th Dan. You’ll be surprised at how many people quit before they attain the yellow belt, the 2nd Kyu (student) belt.

Because of that, I can’t even imagine how many trainees will never come close to being eligible for such an honor.

I wish I knew how many Karate trainees quit before reaching the yellow belt. But, if I had to guess, I would say that at least 70% of practitioners leave before seeing any concrete results.

Who is the highest rank Karate master?

Those who reached the 10th Dan rank are competent individuals who have contributed more than words can describe to the martial arts community. But, as a result, only a few people have attainted it throughout the history of Karate. So, who’s the highest-ranked Karate master?

Morio Higaonna is the highest-rank Karate master at the rank of 10th Dan. He started to train in Karate when he was 14. Ever since- he fell in love with this fighting style. Now, Higaonna is 83 years old and still practicing Karate.

In an interview of his, he explained how he views Karate. I found it interesting because this is how I see martial arts. Additionally, he gave powerful life lessons. So, let’s consider his advice to understand how to progress and learn more in your training.

First, Higaonna explained how gratitude is a critical life lesson Karate teaches. He says it’s one of the most essential and beautiful traits anyone can possess. Indeed, we’re always worried and never grateful. So, just maybe, we should listen to his advice and start being thankful for our achievements so far.

Moreover, Higaonna explains how Karate will make you disciplined in your daily life. But unfortunately, such a trait is rarer than ever these days. Because of that, your overall well-being will improve drastically if you can improve your discipline through Karate.

Final words

Karate is fantastic martial art, suitable for many purposes, such as self-development and learning to fight. It doesn’t matter what your goal is; you’ll experience the same benefits as other Karate trainees.

For example, many Karate trainees report feeling happier, more fulfilled, more confident, and in better physical shape. So naturally, such developments are highly desirable by many.

So, if you can improve them while learning to fight, it’s a win-win situation.

The highest rank in Karate is 10th Dan. Moreover, the highest belt is the black belt. Those who achieve black belts have only started their Karate journey. On the other hand, only an estimated 30 people have reached the honorable rank of 10th Dan.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I encourage you to read an article of mine about Shotokan Karate and whether it is effective.


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

Recent Posts