Grading for rank in iaido is not like with modern martial arts. The color of an individual’s belt doesn’t matter, and there are not a lot of ranks to climb to get to “black belt”. New members are dangai, meaning “not dan”, or not ranked. Students must train for at least two years before they are eligible to grade for shodan, the first rank. Shodan, meaning “first rank”, is black belt rank in modern martial arts. After attaining shodan it is considered you are ready to really start training in a martial art.
To grade for shodan a student must know, thoroughly, all the seiza waza as well as the first three tohou waza. All grading is done in Japan before Kancho and two judges from the Dai Nippon Iaido Renmei (All Japan Iaido Federation). In addition, the student must be able to describe in detail the Mae waza, and know the parts of the sword.
After grading for sandan, 3rd dan, iaidoka are permitted to wear the black gi top. Grading for godan, 5th dan, and beyond is done with a kenshin (a true live blade).