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Copyright 2003 James Deacon
[modified: March, 2009]

Originally, so we are told, Usui-Sensei did not employ a formal system of grading in his Spiritual Development and Healing Method.

However, according to some sources, in 1923 he introduced a grading system which was being used by Jigoro Kano (creator of Judo), and as a result, the levels (with 'Rokkyu' being the lowest) in the Usui system are said to have become:

..6th Class - Rokkyu
..5th Class - Gokyu
..4th Class - Yonkyu
..3rd Class - Sankyu
.2nd Class - Nikkyu (CKR symbol taught at this level)
..1st Class - Ikkyu (SHK symbol )
..1st Degree - Shodan (HSZSN symbol)
.2nd Degree - Nidan (DKM symbol)
..3rd Degree - Sandan
..4th Degree - Yodan
..5th Degree - Godan
..6th Degree - Rokudan
..7th Degree - Shichidan (/Nanadan)

(This Ryokku-to-Shichidan grading was also supposedly used by 'Tatsumi-san', whom Dave King claims to have met and studied with in the mid 1990's)

[No mention is made however of Usui -Sensei using the final three levels from the Kano system:
..8th Degree - Hachidan
..9th Degree - Kudan
10th Degree - Judan ]

[Note: also in Kano's grading system, the practitioners at the level of Godan and higher are considered 'Masters' ]

The story goes that this Kano-inspired format was in use up until November 1925, when, under the influence of Juusaburo Gyuda (also known as Ushida) and Kanichi Taketomi, a new grading system came into use.

The grades above Nidan were apparently dropped - and the remaining grades re-formatted into four new levels, called:

V4th Class - Shoden (first grade)
3rd Class - Chuden (middle grade)
.2nd Class - Okuden (inner grade)
..1st Class - Kaiden (grade of explanation)

Weeks later, in Jan 1926, the grading levels were, so we are told, changed once more to:

V4th Class - Shoden (which now included Chuden, and had four sub-levels)
3rd Class - Okuden zenki ('first term' of the Okuden grade)
.2nd Class - Okuden kuki ('second term' of the Okuden grade)
..1st Class - Shinpiden ('mystery teaching' grade)

Between them, Okuden kuki and Shinpiden now covered what had formerly been taught as Kaiden, with the Shinpiden level having almost the same content as the Sandan level in the grading system originally used by Usui-Sensei.

Fumio Ogawa tells us that he learnt Reiki from his (step?)father, Keizo ( a student of Kanichi Taketomi, and also a good friend of Usui-Sensei), and that in Keiso's day the system was comprised of six grades/ levels.

These were called:

..6th Class - Dai Rokutu
..5th Class - Dai Gotu
..4th Class - Dai Yontu
..3rd Class - Dai Santu
.2nd Class - Okuden zenki
..1st Class - Okuden kuki

About 1930-31 Hayashi-Sensei is supposed to have begun teaching four levels:

VShoden (which incorporated: rokyu, gokyu, yonkyu and sankyu teachings)
VChuden: (which incorporated: nikyu, ikkyu and shodan)
VOkuden: (equivalent to nidan)
VShinpiden: (equivalent to sandan)

While I feel it is important to be clear that all claims as to the evolving nature of the grading system up to this point constitute little more than hearsay, we do know that from 1935 - 1936 at least, Hayashi-sensei was using the system of three grades, 
familiar to all students of 
Usui Shiki Ryoho.

While many now refer to the three Usui Shiki Ryoho grades as 'Level 1', 'Level 2', and 'Master Level' (or alternatively: 'First Degree', 'Second Degree', 'Master Degree' ) - certificates issued by Takata-sensei use the terms: 'Introductory', 'Intermediate' and 'Advanced' for the respective courses of training.

After Takata-Sensei's death, in some of the newly evolving, 'western' styles of Reiki - often referred to as 'independent' styles of Reiki - a four-level grading system came into use. The Takata-style First and Second Degrees remained essentially the same, however, the Third Degree became divided into two parts, often referred to as 3 and 3a - with the student receiving the full Master Level attunement/initiation in the first part, but not being taught the attunement/initiation process itself until the second part.

The four-part grading system: Shoden, Okuden, Shinpiden, & Goiku Kaiden ('highest level') used in the modern-day Japanese Reiki system, Gendai Reiki Ho, divides up the various elements of Reiki training in a very similar way to the 'independent', western style grading mentioned above.

The gradings: Shoden, Chuden, Okuden & Shinpiden used in another recently developed Japanese Reiki style - Komyo Reiki - also bear strong similarities to the 'independent' western system; while Jikiden Reiki, which professes to be based on the system of Reiki treatment taught by Hayashi-Sensei in the late 1930's** , employs the following gradings: Shoden, Okuden, Shihan-kaku (Assistant Teacher), Shihan (Teacher), & Dai-Shihan.


While some teachers claim this modern four-level system is an acknowledgement of the four-level grading system supposedly used during the late 1920's, early 30's, it has also been suggested that perhaps the reverse is in fact the case, and that claims about the earlier division  of the system into four-levels are little more than a means of justifying the addition of another level (and with it, an additional set of fees...)

*That is, at a period after Takata-sensei had completed her apprenticeship with Hayashi-sensei. 

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