Junior (7+) and Adult Martial Arts Rank Progression


Training at Darsana Martial Arts is directed toward embodying principles in motion, thought, and action. As such, our ranking system focuses on qualitative progress in a broad range of skills rather than quantitative accumulation of techniques. While learning a variety of techniques is an important aspect of growing as a martial artists, developing the delivery mechanism for applying techniques is far more fundamental, and arguably more crucial. Below are the qualitative requirements for advancing in rank through our martial arts training path.

Evaluation is broken into three skill-sets: Striking, Clinching, and Ground. These include both armed and unarmed contexts.

Please note that Minimum Time Requirements do not reflect an expected timetable for advancement; rather, they represent the shortest period of training time permitted between advancing ranks.


Minimum Time Requirement: 4 weeks

Overview: The Student can assume the defensive posture appropriate to each skill-set (striking, clinching, and ground), and grasps the fundamental goal of each. They can perform basic, singular actions (strike, step, push, etc.) at a novice level.

Striking: The Student is able to advance, retreat, and move laterally/circle while maintaining their defensive posture using basic footwork (such as follow-step and gallop step). At minimum, they are able to defend by retreating while still facing their opponent, and they begin to circle out after two to three retreating steps. The student is able to throw singular strikes, though these may not be well tied to footwork, may cause loss of composure in posture, and may be timid and not yet accurate. The Student should have a basic understanding of distance and angle on a conceptual level and be able to verbalize them.

Clinching: The Student should be able to stabilize their stance and neutralize/conduct simple pushing and pulling forces to the ground without giving up too much postural integrity (known as rooting). The student should know how to communicate pushing force to their opponent with their head (head-spear) and understand the concepts of base-line and weak-line as they relate to pushing force.

Ground: The Student should be able to move on their back at a novice level (including turning to face their opponent), be able to keep simple advances at bay (particularly with their feet), and get up from the ground while maintaining defensive postures and focus toward their opponent.


Minimum Time Requirement: 8 weeks (12 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student is becoming more comfortable and fluid in their movements, and their overall composure is improving (evident in their improved ability to maintain good posture and remain more calm in sparring). Actions are still singular and separate, however.

Striking: The Student is more fluid in their basic footwork now, and they are beginning to incorporate some of the more advanced footwork at a novice level (such as pivot step, stutter step, pendulum step, etc.). The Student shows better form in their strikes (returning to guard, not dropping hands, maintaining good foot position, not leaning too much, etc.). Defense has elevated beyond mere retreating to include some blocking and head-movement at a novice level.

Clinching: The student has become more comfortable invading their partner/opponent’s space, though they may not yet maintain constant/sticking pressure. They are familiar with the basic clinching tree (wrist, bicep, and head controls) and understand triangle points and tumble points conceptually, and the appropriate use of upward and downward diagonal forces.

Ground: The student is becoming competent in moving their body on the ground, and they are more fluent in keeping a standing, advancing opponent at bay (particularly with their legs). They understand how to form frames with their arms and legs to challenge an opponent’s ability to mount at a novice level, as well as the role the closed guard plays in minimizing an opponent’s effectiveness in the top position.


Minimum Time Requirement: 12 weeks (24 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student is fairly fluid and well composed in their movements now. They are more elusive in defense and more pressuring in offense. Their actions are becoming more integrated as well, and they are able to put together short combinations. At this level, it is becoming apparent to the Student and observers that they would be viable in a fight.

Striking: The Student is showing greater fluency with more advanced footwork (pivot step, v-step, pendulum step, etc,) and incorporates them more often in sparring, particularly when coached. They also show proficiency with a few different types of strikes (straights, hooks, thrust kicks, knees, stick, etc) and have begun to combine them in sparring at a novice level. Head movement, blocking and footwork are more integrated (which should be evident in sparring and shadow-boxing) and their defense is becoming quite solid overall.

Clinching: The Student is proficient in the basic clinching tree (wrist, bicep, head) including escapes and reversals, and they are familiar with deeper grips (under-hook, over-wrap, body-lock, harness, etc.). They grasp spiraling force conceptually, and take-downs (including throws, sweeps, and tackles) are becoming accessible to them during sparring at a novice level. They understand the importance of taking the back and can be seen attempting to acquire this position in sparring.

Ground: The Student is familiar with top positions (full mount, cross mount, knee on belly, scarf hold, etc.) and can acquire and maintain them at a novice level. More importantly, the student remains fairly calm under these positions with minimum pressure (just the position without being attacked) and is able to breath and relax (maintain composure). They are also able to create space and begin wedging in frames or create holds to, at minimum, mitigate their opponents advantage.


Minimum Time Requirement: 12 weeks (36 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student moves quite smoothly and confidently in sparring now. Their defense and offense are well integrated, with a counter following many of their defensive actions. They are comfortable pressing the attack in sparring, and are becoming more shrewd with how they spend their energy.

Striking: All elements of striking are coming together for them in a fluid unity (striking, blocking, evasive movement, footwork, etc.) They are proficient in a variety of strikes (straights, hooks, uppercuts, elbows, front kicks, round kicks, knees, etc.) and can put them together in combinations at an intermediate level. They are becoming a good counter-striker, sending return shots often after defensive actions in sparring.

Clinching: The Student is showing some integration between striking and clinching in their sparring when in close range. They should be more fluent in taking the back and acquire the position more often in sparring. They should also be more proficient with take-downs and perform them more often in sparring. Likewise, the Student should be able to stop take-downs at a novice level.

Ground: Clinching should lead the Student to the ground more often to acquire dominant positions. They should have at least a couple of ways of reversing top positions (when finding themselves on bottom) and be more able to shield against strikes while reversing/escaping from bottom positions. The Student is proficient with sweeps in open guard against a standing opponent, and should also show some degree of fluency in passing their opponent’s guard.


Minimum Time Requirement: 16 weeks (52 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student is beginning to see the connections between striking, clinching, and ground in both armed and unarmed contexts and is able to transition between them with improving smoothness. They are beginning to become confident entering against an armed opponent while unarmed, but may still struggle with committed execution in sparring.

Striking: The Student is proficient in all empty hand strikes as well as with basic stick and knife use and shows good fundamental mechanics powering all their actions. They are also beginning to incorporate their off-stance with all their skills, though they may not yet move well in their off-stance. Combinations are becoming fluid and striking in the clinch and on the ground is well integrated at this level.

Clinching: The Student is becoming fluid in the clinch – making transitions quite smoothly. At minimum, they are able to counter an opponent’s clinch and return to a neutral position with confidence. They are becoming comfortable clinching against an armed opponent (stick or knife) as well as using those weapons in a clinch. They are able to transition from one take-down to another by following the force of their opponent and exploiting structural weaknesses, and their take-down defense is becoming quite strong.

Ground: The Student is proficient in several methods of escaping from bottom positions and can do so under moderate ground-and-pound pressure. They are also able to perform some submissions from the bottom at a novice level (leg locks, arm locks, neck cranks, and chokes). They are fluent in passing their opponent’s guard and attacking from top position, and they are becoming comfortable grappling against an armed opponent and while armed themselves.


Minimum Time Requirement: 16 weeks (68 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student is becoming  a well integrated fighter that transitions with confident smoothness between striking, clinching, and ground, both in armed and unarmed contexts. Their composure is solid and they remain calm and calculated in sparring. They are beginning to be able to set their opponent up and steer the fight in the direction they want it to go. They are resourceful, and able to change their approach to fit the circumstances.

Striking: The Student is a competent striker that can use their off-stance to perform switch combinations in sparring at an intermediate level. They fight with the same fluidity whether armed or unarmed. All that is left for this Student is to eliminate any particular challenge areas they have struggled with and begin to focus more on tactics.

Clinching: The Student’s clinching is full of tight, smooth transitions. Take-downs are well integrated into acquiring dominant position on the ground and transition almost seamlessly into a finish (such as a restraining lock/hold or submission). It is very hard to take this Student down and attempts often end in reversals.

Ground: Submissions are acquired fairly quickly and smoothly, and are more effective than in the previous level. Passing this Student’s guard is a challenge, and sweeps are starting to transition into submissions and dominant positions. Grappling against an armed opponent and when armed is comfortable now and bears little change in the Student’s movements.


Minimum Time requirement: 16 weeks (82 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Student is transcending instruction and becoming creative with their skills. Principles are starting to become clear and they can apply them to come up with new variations on techniques and transitions. This allows them to recognize the way in which nearly every object can be weaponized. Furthermore, the Student is beginning to transcend external skill and to cultivate internal qualities that are starting to manifest in sparring. They also have a firm conceptual grasp of what they are doing, how it works, and why they are doing it. All that is left for this Student is a bit of polish.

Striking: The Student understands how to strike to effect structure and attack key vulnerable points of the body. They keep constant pressure on their opponent, even when retreating. Sparring is becoming a psychological game as much as a physical one, and they can use tactics to “get inside their opponent’s head”.

Clinching: The Student is showing real sensitivity to the energy (force and structure) of their opponent and can manipulate their posture and motion in ways that are hard for their opponent to see coming. Locking and affectation of human weak points are becoming accessible and functional for this Student in sparring.

Ground: The Student is getting to the point where they can take the position they want and submit their opponent at will because they know so many roads to get there. Their sensitivity is such that they often feel what their opponent is trying to do before it is visible and can capitalize on it before it begins.


Minimum Time Requirement: 16 weeks (98 cumulative weeks)

Overview: The Black Belt has mastered all areas of skill and integrated them into everything they do. They are not performing techniques anymore, but moving intuitively – adapting to the situation as it unfolds. They are smooth, powerful, and precise, have an excellent understanding of how to move their body, and a deep understanding of the concepts and principles of martial arts.

Striking: The Student is difficult to read, always seeming to be in a superior position. Their movements are subtle and relaxed yet remain powerful and accurate. They seem like a ghost, elusive while standing right in front of their opponent.

Clinching: The Student’s sensitivity and ability to effect the structure and movement of their opponent feels mysterious and very difficult to resist. Subtle actions lead to sudden throws, locks, or transitions that seamlessly correspond to their opponent’s motion, force, and structure.

Ground: It is extremely difficult to acquire a firm hold on this Student. They are able to slip through holds, slither out of locks, and reverse positions with fluid dynamism. Their pressure is heavy, yet changeable and they are very difficult to shake. They can transition between ground postures and standing as fluidly as a fish in water.