Shuji/Shodo levels are assigned in a similar fashion to most dojo styles of study (i.e., Karate, Judo, Kendo, …). The levels are divided into Kyuu (級) and Dan (段). The kyuu levels progress from 10 to 1, with 1 being the highest. The dan levels work up to 8. Special societies have ranking systems above 8th dan. My information is for the Japanese Calligraphy Society (日本習字)
Shihan (師範) is classification as an instructor. There are four levels of Shihan licences achieved upon reaching each of the first four dan. Kyoju (教授) is a kind of master status achieved at 5th dan.
|新||shin||unranked||level assigned once work is submitted|
|十級||jukkyuu||10th||minimum level after submitting work|
|七級||nanakyuu||7th||(Dec 2005) my initial level|
|初段||shodan||beginning||(Dec 2007) elementary license|
|準二段||jun-nidan||pre-2nd||(Jan 2009) slack study period|
|二段||nidan||2nd||(Jul 2009) intermediate license|
|準三段||jun-sandan||pre-3rd||(Jan 2011) eight month hiatus|
|三段||sandan||3rd||(Jul 2011) advanced license|
|四段||yodan||4th||(Jul 2012) full teaching license|
|五段||godan||5th||personal target set in 2006
|八段||hachidan||8th||highest level in this system|
Rank is never decreased. If one submits a work inferior to a prior work, then rank stays at the same level. My observation has also been that the skill difference between ranks gets greater as one moves up; although the difference may seem subtle to the casual observer.
There is a children’s ranking system that has the same labels. If a child reaches hachidan or turns 18, then they are moved to the adult scale. Moving to the adult system is accompanied by a practical test to determine one’s appropriate level in the new scale.There is no exact difference between levels in the two systems, but when one moves to the adult system they are set back to a lower level. I don’t discuss the difference in class to avoid discouraging young students, except when someone has completed the test and needs encouragement. Starting at age 40, I was required to use the adult ranking system. A few of the young ladies in my school have achieved 5th dan and one achieved 6th dan on the adult scale. It is very impressive to watch how they handle the brush.
From shodan students must start painting kaisho script using the advanced model, instead of the beginner’s model. From sandan students can start using the reisho and tensho styles. Also, from sandan students may submit works to the shoyuu gallery (書友ギャラリー), which is a relatively free form opportunity. The gallery model is only words in printed text: the submitting artist must decide which style to use. Every month I study the chosen works and the judges’ commentary on said works. Having achieved that level I hoped to submit entries, but have gotten mired in daily life and have yet to make time for it.
Advance to 6th dan and above is attempted when the student feels ready for the challenge and requires a practical exam with about ten models being submitted in a month. Several models only state what words to write and what style to use; the applicant must search out which forms to use. The exams were given once a year in Kyoto until 2011. Now there are two application periods each year and the exam may be written at home or a local classroom and sumitted by mail. There are no intermediate levels above 5th dan.