Shorinji Kempo’s grading system (kaikyū seido 階級制度) have three different types of ranks. They are; bukai 武階, hōkai 法階, and sōkai 僧階.
All gradings in Shorinji Kempo are issued by Hombu in Japan and it is the same criteria to take an exam no matter what country you’re practising in. Everybody follows the same kamoku-hyō 科目表, or curriculum as it is called in English.
The kamoku-hyō explains in detail in which order one should learn all techniques and all theory, and also what the requirements are for each respective grade. The Shorinji Kempo kamoku-hyō is divided in the kyūkenshi kamoku-hyō that contains the curriculum for beginners up to shodan (1st dan, black belt) and the yūdansha kamoku-hyō that is the curriculum for 2nd dan up to 6th dan.
There is also a special kamoku-hyō for children (under 13 years), shōnenbu kamoku-hyō, that includes the techniques for children. It starts from 8 kyū to shodan. When a child turn 13 they go over to follow the adult’s kamoku-hyō and they enter that with the rank they currently have.
When taking an exam in Shorinji Kempo, one also does a written test besides the technical test. At kyū grades this is done by a written homework and for dan exams (black belt tests) it is a written homework and a test on the actual day of examination. For higher dan grades it is also an oral interview.
The first type of grading one encounter is bukai [武階], “martial rank”, which means kyū and dan ranks, just as in most other martial arts. These gradings include both a practical test of the techniques, as well as a theoretical test. For kyū grades it is a written homework and for dan grades it is a written homework and a written test on the day of the grading. For higher dan grades there is also an interview.
For children that are 9 years old or younger there are eight kyū ranks and for all who are 10 years or older there are six kyū ranks. Children that are 12 years or younger have a somewhat different kamokuhyō (curriculum) where most so called gyaku waza (techniques that attacks joints) are removed. Kyū ranks begin with a high figure and goes down to first kyū which is the level before black (dan grade). When one are new one wear a white belt, this is called minarai (beginner). The youngest children have yellow belt for the ranks of 8th & 7th kyū, then there are green belt for the grades 6th, 5th, & 4th kyū, and brown belt for 3rd, 2nd & 1st kyū. Dan ranks begin with 1 dan (shodan), 2 dan (nidan) and so on, up to 9 dan which is the highest bukai rank in Shorinji Kempo.
Hōkai is a philosophical rank and the different ranks are as follows;
- junkenshi 准拳士
- shōkenshi 少拳士
- chūkenshi 中拳士
- seikenshi 正拳士
- daikenshi 大拳士
- junhanshi 准範士
- seihanshi 正範士
- daihanshi 大範士
The first four hōkai ranks are awarded, if one fulfils the criteria for the rank, together with 1st up to 4th dan bukai. Daikenshi can be awarded after a minimum of 2 years since the examination of 5th dan bukai and one fulfils the requirements for the rank. Junhanshi can be awarded after a minimum of 5 years since the examination of 6th dan bukai and one fulfils the requirements for the rank and so on. The test for hōkai rank is a written essay.
Sōkai rank is priesthood ranks. There are eleven of them and they are;
- shō dōshi 少導師
- gon chū dōshi 権中導師
- chū dōshi 中導師
- gon dai dōshi 権大導師
- dai dōshi 大導師
- gon shō hōshi 権少法師
- shō hōshi 少法師
- gon chū hōshi 権中法師
- chū hōshi 中法師
- gon dai hōshi 権大法師
- dai hōshi 大法師
At the moment there is very few non-Japanese kenshi that has a sōkai rank and in Sweden only a couple.