The NiN Ranking System

The Process- Students complete individual curricular pathways. With each pathway they earn a patch. Each ranking level below requires a certain number of additional new pathways to complete. Ryū/Dragon is considered the "Nature Black Belt" level. Adult/guardians submit student Pathway achievement to Pathways Dojo for tracking purposes. When a student has completed the required pathways for a rank, the student leader applies for rank promotion with Pathways Dojo. Instructor Certification follows a similar trajectory based on the number of Pathways led by an leader. For example, once you have led students through the first 3 Pathways, you can apply for Kame/Turle Instructor Certification.



NiN, , Level 1. This is where it all starts. Requirements = complete the 4 skills of the NiN Pathway. Total Pathways = 1

Kame, 亀, (Turtle). Level 2. Requirements = complete 2 additional pathways. Recommended: Knife Safety + path of choice. A turtle is a creature of Earth and Water. Any 2 additional Pathways other than recommended also will promote rank. Total Pathways = 3

Ootori, 鳳凰, (Phoenix/Firebird). Level 3. Requirements = complete 4 additional pathways.  The phoenix connects with fire, wind, and disappears/reappears from the void. Any 4 additional Pathways. Total Pathways = 7

Tora (Tiger). Level 4. Requirements = complete 4 new pathways. The tiger knows the arts of invisibility, survival, and self defense. Total Pathways = 11

Ryū 龍 (Dragon). Level 5. This is the equivalent of our "Nature Black Belt"! Requirements = complete 5 new pathways. The dragon knows all the pathways. Total Pathways = 16


The NiN Bandana

A centerpiece for our youth training programs is the NiN Bandana. It serves multiple purposes. Foremost, it is used as a place to put student Pathway Patches after they complete each course (ex. Shelter, fire, water, or hanbo patches). The bandana patches also show student rank patches and allow instructors/facilitators to track student progress. For example, the first patch students earn is the NiN Rank patch. After they earn two more Pathway Patches, they earn the next rank patch (Turtle/Kame). Much like earning new belts as progress occurs in a dojo, we have found that students are highly motivated to earn their patches and to place them on their bandana. We also use the bandanas for blindfolded skills including during each of our end-of-program initiation ceremonies. The bandanas can also be placed on display at home.

We place our rank patches in the center of the bandanas and the smaller pathway patches on the ends of the bandana.

The bandanas we use are black, 100% cotton and measure 10 in X 44 in (25.5 cm X 112 cm). You can simply purchase your own fabric and cut to size. We use this length as it is long enough to allow patches on the end and center with space to tie it on the head. If you would like to order our custom bandanas (stitched along the edge to avoid fraying), contact us at with the subject line “bandanas”. Custom orders take 2-6 weeks to make plus shipping time, so we recommend ordering them before your program starts.


NiN Iron-On Patch Instructions


What you need: NiN Bandana, Iron, ironing board, patch, washcloth or tea towel

Step 1: Set the iron setting for cotton.

Step 2: Before placing the patch, iron the area where you want your embroidered patch to be for about 30 seconds.

Step 3: Place the custom patch on the heated area then cover the patch with a washcloth or a tea towel. Move the iron over the washcloth or tea towel in a slow circular motion for about 90 seconds.

Step 4: Lift the washcloth or tea towel to make sure that the patch is applied correctly. If the patch is applying correctly, you can proceed to Step 5. If the patch is not adhering to the material, continue to heat the patch for 30 additional seconds.

Step 5: Turn the bandana over. Place the washcloth or tea towel back over the patch, then iron the patch again for about 30 seconds. Be sure to move the iron in a slow circular motion.

That’s it! Enjoy your new patch!

Note- if your patch starts to detach at any point, try re-ironing the back side for 60 seconds. If that doesn’t work, it never hurts to add a little needle and thread.

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