I don't know if this is the right place for this question, but here it goes.

I'm writing a story where one of the characters has been involved in judo since she was 4/5. She took to it like a duck to water and she flew up the levels.

My question here is what would be a realistic level for her to be at? I've managed to track down the belt levels, but I don't know what would be a realistic level for a young-but-talented judoka.

Thanks so much!

  • 2
    I think that depends on the federation we are speaking of. In Germany, it would be 2nd dan. Possibly 3rd, if always shortened waiting time with participation in workshops, doing licences and high level competitions (16 1st, at the very least 2 to 2nd and 3 to third, makes 21). But never heard of an actual example of that. Long story short: Which federation are we speaking of? Mar 25, 2017 at 3:22
  • @PhilipKl�cking Probably the US Judo Association. Mar 25, 2017 at 15:54
  • 1
    In the BJA (British Judo Association), there is a minimum age requirement for dan grades. Said minimum age for sandan (3rd dan) is 20: Dan Grade Promotion Syllabus Jun 18, 2019 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Judo has rank requirements that include competition record, skills demonstration, time in rank, minimum age, service, etc. The specific requirements are dictated by a judoka's governing organization, and these requirements will not necessarily match, which is why a judoka's recognized rank may differ depending on the considering organization. For example, Keiko Fukuda was recognized as a 10th dan (judan) by United States organizations, but only as a 9th dan (kudan) by the mother Kodokan organization.

I am most familiar with the United States Judo Federation requirements. For the black belt ranks that a 21 year old could attain, the minimum ages are:

  1. Shodan 14 yrs
  2. Nidan 16 yrs
  3. Sandan 18 yrs
  4. Yondan 21 yrs

For these ranks, the most important factor would be competition record. World/Olympic medalists could reach 4th dan (yondan) by age 21, but this would be quite exceptional and require you to be known worldwide. Receiving a shodan at age 14 is also quite unusual because adult/senior ranks are usually granted starting at age 17; you would have to be able to consistently defeat adults while still developing physically, or more recently, completely dominate junior divisions at national tournaments.

Here are my rough expectations for ranks at age 21:

  1. 1st (Shodan) minimum expected for continuous practice since 4/5 until 21
  2. 2nd (Nidan) accomplished competitor, not necessarily known outside region
  3. 3rd (Sandan) National Champion
  4. 4th (Yondan) World/Olympic champion

Also be aware that some judoka are unconcerned with their rank. There are shodans who are technically and competitively better than upper ranks, but they simply do not bother with further promotion paperwork upon receiving a black belt.

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