Although Kendo doesn’t use any markings to distinguish one practitioner from another, such as, for example, different color belts in Karate, there is a ranking system. As all Japanese martial arts, it uses the same kyu/dan system. The kendoka starts off as 6th kyu and gradually descends to the 1st kyu. The requirements for passing to the next rank constist of an promotional examination where Kendokas show their abilities in every important aspect of Kendo practice. Achieving ranks of 6 Kyu to 2 Kyu are slightly differs from federation to federation. For 1 Kyu and above there is a examination before a promotional board.
After that, he or she becomes 1st dan (equivalent to the black belt) and can ascend to the 10th dan. The practitioners can reach 5th dan through training, refinement of skill and physical prowls; after that point, it’s generally required that the practitioner makes a broader contribution to the development and/or spreading of the art of Kendo.
The examination takes place in front of several dan-ranked kendoka that form the commission – kendoka has to show a range of techniques, anywhere from basic movement and cuts, sparring, matches and kata, depending on hers/his ranking. If the judges are satisfied with the level of skill show and, more importantly, the overall attitude (zanshi), the kendoka advances to the next level. Generally, it’s required to wait at least 6 months between two examinations.