Not Last!

So in the last edition of Shodo Geijutsu, the monthly magazine only for official Shodo students, my name finally showed up. Two months ago, I submitted my first “work”, if you can call it that. In fact, I feel way too uncomfortable with using the term. Instead, I’ll call it my “submission.” Seems appropriately neutral and direct.

The levels go like this, from the highest first is shihan or sensei level – you can teach, jun-shihan or sub-sensei. From here it goes a lot like judo or karate. Anything that is a dan is an official real rank, like having a black belt. The higher the dan, the more accomplished you are. Godan is fifth rank, yondan is 4th, sandan 3rd, nidan second, and shodan is the first dan. All the dan have numbers except for shodan, which uses sho, the kanji that means to begin. It kind of implies beginning expert. If you have a dan, it’s a pretty big deal. It wouldn’t be strange to put it on a resume.

From there, there are kyu, which are like the other colored belts in martial arts. Like the dan, they are mostly numbered, one through ten, except for the highest two , which are tokkyu and yukyu. The toku in tokkyu means special. The yu in yukyu means superior. I have to figure out if they are real ranks or just special mention. Something to ask the sensei next week. Interestingly, the numbering is backwards, higher numbers being lower rank. I’m in the tenth kyu, the bottom. Anyway, the ranking again, in order

  1. shihan
  2. jun-shihan
  3. godan
  4. yondan
  5. sandan
  6. nidan
  7. shodan
  8. yukyu
  9. tokkyu
  10. ikkyu
  11. nikyu
  12. sankyu
  13. yonkyu
  14. gokyu
  15. rokkyu
  16. nanakyu
  17. hachikyu
  18. kyukyu
  19. juukyu

I am here in the jukkyu level. Rank beginnger.

I have no illusions, I see how hard it is for my kids to learn to read and write. I didn’t benefit from twenty two years of formal education in the language. My ambitions are… modest. So when I made my submission, I fully expected it to be evaluated appropriately.

When the results are published, anyone with a circle near their name can expect to up a rank. The closer to the circled range, the better your submission. There are three categories of submission; penji – writing with a pen, kanji – uh… kanji, and kana – hiragana. Here is my kana ranking (best is at the right, worst at the left):

I would do the drum roll here, but I kind of gave it away in the title. Yeah! I wasn’t last!

This sounds sarcastic. Please believe me when I say it is not. Not in the slightest, not even one iota. You might think that this is self-deprecating. It is equally not so. I am genuinely proud in a way I wish I could express.

Below is my ranking in kanji

And lastly, penji

26 of 37 puts me in the 30th percentile of beginners out of the gates, or like I said at the beginning

Not Last!


3 thoughts on “Not Last!

  1. Genuine non-sarcastic congratulations! Whenever a person works at something enough to start seeing results–even small results–it is a thing worthy of respect.


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