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How Many Judo 10th Dans are there?


A 10th-degree black belt is the highest rank in almost all Japanese martial arts, signifying total mastery of the art. In Judo, this prestigious rank is outwardly marked by a red belt.

These ranks are very rarely awarded, making the question, "How many 10th dan judoka are there?" more nuanced than it might initially appear.

The truth is, the number of 10th dan judoka ranges from 15 to 39, depending on your sources.

The Kodokan, the headquarters of Judo in Japan, has awarded 15 red belts since 1935. Additionally, the International Judo Federation (IJF), the global governing body of Judo, has awarded the 10th dan rank to six judoka.

The complexity arises because other groups also confer ranks. These include national associations (such as the French Judo Federation), continental unions, and independent bodies (like the Kokusai Budo Renmei).

It can be overwhelming to track all the ranks awarded by these various organizations. For today, let's focus on the 21 legends who have received official recognition from the Kodokan or IJF for their 10th-degree rank:

  • Yoshitsugu Yamashita (Japan, 1865–1935) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1935, the first person to receive this rank (although posthumously). Yamashita was a judo pioneer in the US, where he taught judo to President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Hajime Isogai (Japan, 1871–1947) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1937. He was the first person to hold this rank while alive.
  • Hideichi Nagaoka (Japan, 1876–1952) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1937. He was one of only three people promoted to 10th dan by Kano shihan himself.
  • Kyuzo Mifune (Japan, 1883–1965) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1945 under Jiro Nango's presidency. Mifune is regarded as one of the greatest judo technicians. Watch his amazing techniques on this DVD or learn his specialty throw "kukinage" on this instructional.
  • Kunisaburo Iizuka (Japan, 1875–1958) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1946.
  • Kaichiro Samura (Japan, 1880–1964) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1948.
  • Shotaro Tabata (Japan, 1884–1950) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1948.
  • Yoshitaro Okano (Japan, 1885–1967) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1967.
  • Matsutaro Shoriki (Japan, 1885–1969) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1969. Known as the father of Japanese professional baseball.
  • Shozo Nakano (Japan, 1888–1977) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1977.
  • Tamio Kurihara (Japan, 1896–1979) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1979.
  • Sumiyuki Kotani (Japan, 1903–1991) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan in 1984.
  • Ichiro Abe (Japan, 1922–2022) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan on January 8, 2006, at age 83. Abe was the international chairperson of the All Nippon Judo Federation and had strong international connections through coaching in Europe.
  • Toshiro Daigo (Japan, 1926–2021) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan on January 8, 2006, at age 80. Daigo was a two-time winner of the All Nippon Judo Tournament (1951 and 1954), a former manager of the Japanese national team, and the Chief Instructor at the Kodokan until his retirement. He was known as Mr. Kodokan. See his classic book on throws right here.
  • Yoshimi Osawa (Japan, 1926–2022) - Promoted to Kodokan 10th dan on January 8, 2006, at age 79. Osawa coached at the Kodokan for many years and supported women's judo. 
  • Charlie Palmer (United Kingdom, 1930–2001) - Promoted to IJF 10th dan in 1996. Palmer was the first non-Japanese president of the IJF and was inducted into the IJF Hall of Fame on September 8, 2003.
  • Anton Geesink (Netherlands, 1934–2010) - Promoted to IJF 10th dan in 1997. Geesink was the first non-Japanese to win a World Championship and was inducted into the IJF Hall of Fame on September 8, 2003. Watch this 6'5" hulk of a man win the very first Judo open division at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
  • George Kerr (United Kingdom, 1937–) - Promoted to IJF 10th dan in 2010.
  • Yoshihiro 'Yosh' Uchida (United States, 1920–) - Promoted to USA Judo 10th dan on July 19, 2013, and later recognized by the IJF. Uchida has been the head judo coach at San Jose State University for over 60 years and coached the first US Olympic Judo Team at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
  • Franco Capelletti (Italy, 1938–) - Promoted to IJF 10th dan in August 2017. Capelletti is a former Technical Director and Vice-President of the Italian Judo Federation FIJLKAM, Sports Director of the EJU, and President of the IJF Kata Commission.
  • Jean-Luc Rouge (France, 1949–) - Promoted to IJF 10th dan in December 2023. He also wrote a great book on harai-goshi.

So there you have it, the 21 Judoka that have received the rank of 10th dan from the Kodkan/IJF. With only 21 members of this group over the past 89 years, this is clearly a very exclusive club! If you get the chance to take a class from a red belt you're bound to learn a lot. I'll be searching for the opportunity!

- Budo Jake


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