RGG FAQ Part 1 Section 7
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In Japanese, Kyu means 'step' and Dan means 'grade'. The idea is that one must progress through several elementary steps before obtaining a grade, and that there are several grades.
Therefore, several steps and grades exist. The scale starts around 30 Kyu (lowest) to 1 Kyu (highest) and then continues with 1 Dan (lowest) to 7 Dan (highest). In addition, there are professional Dan ranks, which run from 1 Dan professional (lowest) to 9 Dan professional (highest).
Unfortunately, the ranking system has no absolute values. (There are no 'anchors'.) Therefore, a 1 Dan player in e.g. the U.S.A. is not necessarily a 1 Dan player elsewhere. Traditionally, Japanese ranks are considered weak, followed the U.S. rankings, with European rankings being strong. (E.g. a European 1 Dan will be around 3 Dan US and 5 Dan Japan). Rankings on the internet servers (see section 3) also vary. IGS rankings are typically 34 stones stronger than European rankings. E.g. our European 1 Dan will rank around 3 Kyu on IGS.
A 1 Dan (professional) would be the equivalent to approximately a 6 Dan European amateur, a 9 Dan (professional) would be the equivalent to approximately a 9 Dan European amateur. An IGS 4d* (see section 7) is probably around 1 Dan professional.
Every Go player has a ranking. Beginners typically start around 30 Kyu, but rapidly advance to around 15 Kyu, experienced players may become 1 Kyu after a few years of playing, and then advance to 'shodan', or 1 Dan, and beyond.
See also Section 4.3.