Dan / Discussion

Sub-page of Dan

About the term

In contrast to the translation given in RGG-FAQ 1.7, 'grade', I like 'step' as a translation of 'dan' better. The image would be like: During your time in the kyu-ranks you decided whether you will stick to Go. Whether you get satisfaction from it and things like that. Reaching 'dan' you quite showed that Go is important for you - that you spent much time on it and are willing to spend even more. So when receiving a 'dan' you made (just) a step. A step towards an (unreachable) goal. -- SteffenGlueckselig

John F. But a grade is a step - Latin gradus.

I have to admit - I didn't know that ;-|. I still like the more 'philosophical' connotation of 'step' better, though. -- SteffenGlueckselig

About the strength

Dieter: Although there is not much to argue about - you are dan when your ranking system says so - it can be discussed what dan level should mean.

Myself I am 2 dan in Europe but I feel this has to do more with the fact that I can beat 1d regularly and lose to 3d regularly (i.e. my strength relative to others) than with some kind of mastery of the game (i.e. my strength relative to the game). Several things spring to mind when thinking of what a master should be able of:

a) Shouldn't a master, i.e. a shodan, when he comes out of the opening with a clearly favourable position, be able to win it with ease ?

b) Shouldn't a master know all trick plays in joseki and know how to refute them ?

c) Shouldn't a master be completely free of bad technique ?

If all these - and the list is not exhaustive - be fulfilled, well that almost sounds like a pro. Well, no. A grandmaster of the game would be able to force a favourable opening against a master. A grandmaster should also have a whole board view, always. A grandmaster would be able to know exactly when a seemingly bad technique is a good one.

In one word, what would distinguish a grandmaster from a master, is "planning".

Whatever the criteria set for a dan, I think they would be much more significant than a rating system, because less sensitive to inflation. I admit that my criteria are sometimes vague, if not self-recurrent. In any case, when I see how little I master, it is not hard for me to accept that in some rating systems (IGS, Korea) I would still be a kyu.

kokiri In the west, amateur dan level players are deemed to be masters and, if not the finished article, at least a source of some authority to others. In Japan, however, i think that shodan has a different meaning to it. In my experience of go, and friends in other traditional arts such as kendo, shodan marked a basic sort of competance. So once you hit shodan, you were regarded as a go-player proper, rather than a beginner, but still far from being a master. Whilst it is natural for the orient, with its greater depth of players, to have higher barriers to what is regarded strong, I still think it's worth noting. I think that in the west there is upward pressure on the playing standards of dan players (they are masters, after all) and downward pressure on Japanese dan grades (as everyone wants to be competant) which serves to explain/widen the gap between diefferent countries' gradings.

joshual000: My western thought patterns may have directed me slightly differently (but then maybe it's my chess background). I view amateur dan level being about equivilent to chess's 'Master', which of course is lesser than 'International Master', which in turn is lesser than 'Grand Master'. 'Master' being a rank more than an expression of comprehension level. Certainly a Grand Master chessplayer can obliterate any Master chessplayer's plans. Generally speaking, anyone who can beat me with more than 2 stones (which is still well within the kyu range) I consider a sort of 'authority' on holes within _my_ game.

Pashley I had a Japanese kempo expert tell me that shodan meant you were good enough your teacher would admit to his peers you were his student. He would be willing to have them look at you as an example of his teaching.

nachtrabe I'm pretty well convinced that in many martial arts all of the kup-level ranks are simply to teach you "how to fall, how to not kill the person you are practicing with."

text moved from old Shodan page, new Shodan is alias to dan

Chinese: 初段 (chu1 duan4)
Japanese: 初段 (shodan)
Korean: 초단/初段 (chodan)

Shodan is the Japanese go term, adopted into English, for '1 dan' or first dan. Dan is the rating category for proficient players (think black belts in martial arts).

The rating system for beginners is expressed in kyu grades, with absolute beginners usually starting somewhere between 25 and 30 kyu. A 10 kyu player is one grade stronger than an 11 kyu, and 1 kyu players are only one grade away from shodan. Confusingly enough the dan ratings are then counted in ascending order, with a 5 dan being one grade stronger than a 4 dan. The highest amateur rating is usually 7 dan, although Japan now recognises a few top amateurs as 8 dan.

Although both amateur and professional players can sport a fancy dan rating, it is important to realise that a professional shodan is a lot stronger than an amateur shodan.

In practice the amateur ratings are a useful way to agree quickly on an appropriate handicap at the start of a game. A difference of one grade corresponds to one handicap stone. When a 15 kyu meets a 9 kyu over the board, 6 stones should be the correct handicap to ensure both players have to play at their full strength and have an enjoyable game.


Hmm... Wouldn't the correct handicap for 15 kyu vs 9 kyu be 7 stones, not 6?

--Paul Pogonyshev

(15-9) = 6 grades different, so six stones. Why would it be seven? One stone is one stone, no komi (which is why statistically handicap games should favour White - one stone handicap is worth a bit less than one full stone.)

- Andrew W

That's why i asked. At least on NNGS there is no "one stone handicap". Its `suggest' command considers no komi as 1/2 stone and would suggest 15 kyu to take 7 stones from 9 kyu.


How do you spell shodan in hiragana? --Juuitchan

しょ-だ-ん sho-da-n

Like that, without an hiragana "u"?

Yeah, it's supposed to be a short vowel. --BlueWyvern

Other dan rankings... (these seem much more widespread outside go. got them off the internet so my apologies if they are wrong!)

Shodan 1st Dan

Nidan 2nd Dan

Sandan 3rd Dan

Yodan 4th Dan

Godan 5th Dan

Rokudan 6th Dan

Nanadan (Shichidan) 7th Dan

Hachidan 8th Dan

Kudan 9th Dan

Juudan 10th Dan (obv. not in go. why does it stop at 9?)

Hans: Isn't Yondan and Kyuudan correct? And Juudan is not an official rank but the winner of the Juudan tournament in Japan can call himself Juudan for one year.

kokiri i think you could get away with either yo- or yondan, but kudan aint right.

kirtar? Juudan can also be spelled Jyuudan.

aruu actually Kudan is correct. If anyone here has taken a Japanese class they would know. kyu is shortened to ku is some situations. The same goes for yodan.

Chris Hayashida: Just to clarify, kyuu and ku are different readings for "nine." You can't be a 3 ku player.

kokiri well i don't think i recall the dan rankings being of particular importance in any of my japanese lessons, perhaps i missed it in the first couple of weeks, ;-) but a quick google shows me up as wrong - kudan it is, sheepish i am. However, google gives as many hits for よだん+四段 (yodan) as for よんだん+四段 (yondan) so i stand by that comment. Indeed, the windows japanese ime seems to prefer yondan.

iopq: How does the windows IME "prefer" yondan? I found the corresponding kanji for both entries...

kokiri - we~ll, typing yondan gives 四段 as first choice whereas yodan has 四段 only third choice, but this isn't really representative of preference of one over the other; yodan sounds better to my ear, but when i wrote the above, kyudan sounded better, so i'm prebably better off just stopping digging...

RetEsz: If shodan, Nidan, Sandan ... etc. exist. Do shokyu, Nikyu, sakyu ... etc. exist ?

Oh, I found it. ikkyu, nikkyu, sankyu, yonkyu, gokyu, rokkyu, nanakyu, hachikyu, kukyu, juukyu.

KarlKnechtel: Why does one use 'sho-' for dan but 'i-' (ichi) for kyu? I understand that Japanese has a variety of different counting systems for counting different sorts of things, but aren't dan and kyu levels the same "sort of thing"?

Dan / Discussion last edited by Dieter on May 11, 2022 - 13:11
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