Last Updated on September 27, 2022
Karate practitioners wearing colored belts may not be unusual for many of us. But do you ever wonder what the colors mean?
Karate is undeniably a subject of global interest nowadays. A karate master's ability to smash wood and stone with bare hands never fails to captivate the attention of many individuals.
Karate comes with various tests; the ranking system measures one's progress in mastering the art, explaining the karate belt order.
Learning your way through the colored belt system is one exciting journey, so please read on and find out more about it.
The Belt Order System and Their Meanings
Despite the common origin from the island of Okinawa, different karate styles continue to develop through time. Karate eventually evolved into Japanese Do, or the development of mind and body as a single unit.
The various karate tests may come in many different forms, but the only standard that matters is testing against oneself and others.
It was in 1882 that the colored belts in karate were formalized by Jigoro Kano, also the founder of Judo, and introduced to Japanese schools. Additionally, Kano assumed a standard ranking system showing achievement and experience.
By the time karate came along, Judo was already well-known in Japan; hence, Shotokan karate master Gichin Funakoshi replicated this ranking system to establish prestige.
Different karate organizations can have diverse ranking systems. Karate-do being the method of physical, psychological, and spiritual development, influences how the basis of these rankings is not solely on one's physical ability.
Grading systems may vary from one karate school to another. Hence, visiting ten different karate schools or clubs may also mean witnessing ten distinctive karate belt systems.
It does not take a lifetime to master karate, contrary to popular belief. Each person is unique, and some are more innately skilled than others.
Maybe you want to learn it for self-defense, to get into shape, or are merely curious about martial arts. Regardless of what sparked that interest, here are things you must know about the karate belt order:
1. White Belt
Many metaphors are associated with the white belt, the first karate belt a Kyu-level student receives. The white belt symbolizes wearing an empty canvas, relevant to beginners who technically know nothing at the start of their martial art journey.
As the student progresses in the karate class, they will become more familiar with the colored belt system.
Students generally progress from white belts to black belts when they reach a level of proficiency and commitment that qualifies them to teach. Each karate style awards a specific karate belt varying in colors to showcase a karateka's training level.
Additionally, bearing a white belt means there are new techniques and principles that a student can still learn or develop. Besides rank symbolism, the white belt also holds the gi together, which is why it is an integral part of the karate uniform.
Despite representing innocence or lack of knowledge in karate skills, the practitioner must wear the white belt with pride. Martial artists bearing the white belt are at the beginning of their karate learning.
The white belt shows a student's eagerness to accomplish the next three to four months in karate training before progressing to the next skill level. Karate students bearing the white belt means they understand and respect the dojo etiquette and adhere to its philosophy.
2. Yellow Belt
The yellow belt order symbolizes the rising of the sun or the peak of the day. This karate belt order means the student needs to learn more skills.
Receiving such a belt color means the martial arts practitioner is making excellent progress and sees a clear path ahead in his karate education. Karate masters award the yellow belts to students exhibiting great potential in advancing in their ranks.
Through this belt system where one can demonstrate his progress, it inspires a karate practitioner to continue and excel in training.
Yellow belt levels are where the karate training starts focusing more on the physiological aspects, emphasizing the harmonious use of mind and body.
3. Orange Belt
If a yellow belt represents the rising of the sun, an orange belt symbolizes the setting sun. A karate student bearing the orange belt has more experience and has been training longer than someone with a yellow belt.
The learner might have reached a new benchmark in his karate education but still has a long way to go.
Since the belt order varies per school or organization, some would have white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, and black rankings. Others could have their orders as white, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and black.
Regardless of the diversity in the belt ranking system, karate practitioners in most schools typically get an orange belt after mastering the basic self-defense moves. The student can confidently define Kyokushinkai, master the dojo etiquette, and fold the karate gi properly.
Upon earning an orange belt, the karate training focuses more on physical conditioning and offensive karate moves. The orange belter student can skillfully demonstrate basic stances, strikes, and kicks.
4. Green Belt
If novices wear white, yellow, or orange belts, you will notice that those in the intermediate level wear blue, green, or purple belts. The green sash is the first belt a karate practitioner receives following an assessment.
After demonstrating an increased practical application of the skills, it's the next belt someone receives upon completion of the beginner level.
The green belt level symbolizes growth, like a seed, meaning the karateka learned the fundamentals and is now prepared to take on new challenges. During such part of training, the student refines his karate skills.
With that in mind, someone awarded the green belt can expect the following steps in training to be more demanding. After receiving the green belt, the introduction to the principles of balancing emotion commences.
There will be an endless refinement of skills when training for karate; after all, the core objective of such martial arts is perfecting one's self.
Remember that it might seem overwhelming at first. This skill level demands maturity, alongside physical and mental endurance, to keep everything in balance. For some schools, green belt training typically lasts for ten to twelve months, while others only require four-month training.
It is such a time when the student learns to become more sensitive to the opponent's intentions. Aside from refining the techniques, the student also develops the skill of moving based on reflexes.
5. Blue Belt
While the blue belt represents the sky's color, it could also mean mastery of the water element in karate. Students bearing blue karate belts learn new skills focusing on adaptability.
Blue belt trainees develop the trait of reacting to certain circumstances accordingly.
Upon reaching the blue belt level, the student will have a better understanding of how to use karate skills based on his strengths and weaknesses.
During blue belt training, the student learns various techniques such as reverse stance and double front leg round kick. Part of the training is utilizing all acquired techniques from skill levels in previous karate belt colors and using them in sparring sessions.
Besides flexibility, blue belt students can expect their training to emphasize coordination, which will help them use and control balance and karate techniques.
Due to the varying belt levels and practices in different schools, some claim that the blue belt is not part of the belt ranks. Most practitioners focus on the grade level because the colors can change their meaning from one club to another.
6. Purple Belt
By this time, we already know that karate belts have more significance than just part of the gi in martial arts. The purple belt, for instance, is the sixth belt order that a Kyu student receives, while some may receive this colored belt in another grade level.
Purple belt ranking signifies the sunset or the onset of dusk. The karate student, at this stage, is nearing the end of his colored belt journey.
This belt order is when the student transitions from the intermediate to advanced belt ranks. You can expect trainees bearing purple belts to have a more profound understanding of what's ahead further in training, which is the black belt.
Receiving purple karate belts means the martial arts student fully understands how to use their body in executing basic blocks and strikes. Aside from techniques from previous belt ranks, the student can now do hooks, upper cuts, hook kicks, back kicks, and spin raps.
Other schools also teach students bearing the purple belt with jumping double front snap and front leg roundhouse. Moreover, wearing purple belts represents karate learning momentum, including mastery of strategic movements.
Exercises, drills, and routines are essential to obtaining the next belt. It takes no less than a year to complete the purple belt training.
7. Red Belt
Wearing the red belt means the student is progressing well through the ranks in Shotokan training. In several martial arts, red-colored belts symbolize danger.
Advancement in learning and physical capabilities could mean danger if the student never knows how to use them well. Therefore, part of the red belt training teaches the students awareness and control of all acquired skills.
For some modern karate schools, red belts come before the black belt; for others, the brown belt is between the red and black belt order. On the other hand, red belts are the highest order of all the karate belts in traditional Okinawan karate.
Nevertheless, these red belts also signify mastery, and most individuals who have them dedicated their lives to learning martial arts. Karate masters and those from higher ranks are ones you'd typically encounter wearing the red belt.
During the training, the student learns various kicks, footwork, strikes, self-defense, jumps, and hip throws. Teachers encourage their trainees to be practical and creative in integrating all acquired skills.
8. Brown Belt
Having a brown belt in karate means the person is capable of self-defense and can participate in modern karate competitions. In Japanese arts, someone who owns a crown belt is also well-known as the world's most dangerous animal.
Experts in martial arts bearing the brown belt have formidable minds and bodies, using various techniques to their advantage. But even as powerful and skillful as these students with brown belts may seem, they still lack the refinement and control of a black belt karateka.
Despite the crucial point that a brown belt represents in a student's karate education, a significant gap exists between this belt color and the black belt.
Many brown belt students often quit at this stage, knowing that regardless of this remarkable milestone and accomplishments, they still have a long way to go.
At the brown belt level, the students interact more with the black belt masters. And sometimes, they can't handle the intense training from these masters, causing discouragement in pursuing further.
A brown belt signifies that the student is a black belt apprentice. Being an apprentice means these students expect more rigorous training to match their position in the dojo hierarchy.
Generally, there aren't many differences between the third, second, and first Kyu brown belt tests. Upon attaining the brown belt, some organizations do not require further assessments beyond this point.
In these organizations, someone with a third-Kyu brown belt pursues training until ready for the first-degree black belt test. If the students fail this test, they get the second or first Kyu as the consolation prize.
However, different organizations may have distinctive ways of handling the brown belt level. For some, obtaining the brown belt may seem like an endurance race.
9. Black Belt
Beginners are often curious about how long it takes to get a black belt. But in most cases, your commitment to studying and practicing martial arts determine your training duration.
Aside from observing dojo etiquettes, the student must display physical and mental preparedness to progress from wearing the white belt to a black belt.
You will know someone's Kyu level by observing the color of the belt tied to their gi or uniform. A student undergoes a physical test and gets the black belt or Dan grade for achieving an advanced level of proficiency in martial arts.
This physical test will gauge how capable the student is of delivering combination techniques effectively, including strikes, locks, punches, kicks, chokes, holds, and throws.
The student must display competence in self-defense against armed or unarmed attackers to successfully obtain the black belt in karate.
To do so, these students must master the skill of utilizing their limbs as powerful weapons; they understand that all techniques make up a fighting system.
If a Kyu ranking shows you a descending numerical order, you can expect otherwise in the dan rankings. The first Dan is the lowest tanking, and the tenth is the highest.
Undeniably, the advancement to the first-degree black belt can be challenging. Some schools have ten or more black belt ranks, and no student can progress until he achieves all pre-requisites of his current mastery level.
While some may see the first-degree black belt as an achievement, mastering the art can still be a long way to go. But someone who reached the 1st-degree black belt must be proficient in all techniques and capable of teaching them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the order of the colored belts in karate?
White, yellow, orange, green, blue, and black are the different karate belts signifying a unique belt-ranking system. The different shades of karate belts at the Kyu level closely resemble the colors of the rainbow. Several karate dojo and organizations now include ninth and tenth Kyu.
Organizations use changing belt colors in every Kyu advancement to motivate students. However, karate styles don't consistently associate rank with specific belt colors. Some karate belt colors mean higher ranks in one dojo, while the same colors mean lower levels for others.
What belt color represents the highest rank in karate?
In the karate belt system, the black belt is the highest belt ranking karate practitioners can achieve. Advanced students demonstrating proficiency in the art of karate techniques and adhering to dojo etiquettes and philosophy receive the black belt.
There are different black belt degrees; a student receives the 1st-degree black belt at the beginning of a new phase in training. As you progress through the different black belt degrees, new learnings will help make you more competent and confident in your skills.
What is the order of karate belts for kids?
The different belt colors in every dojo show a karate student's rank and mastery of the art. As per the International Shotokan Karate Federation, rankings above the black belt are well-known as Kyu grades. Contrarily, the Yanks of black belt and above are dan ranks.
The white belt is for beginners. Eighth Kyu students wear yellow belts, seventh Kyu students wear orange belts, and sixth Kyu students wear green belts. Further, fifth or fourth Kyu students bear purple belts, while the third, second, and first Kyu students have brown belts.
What is the significance of Kyu and Dan in karate?
The karate belt is a common name signifying the Kyu level of a martial art practitioner. Kyu and Dan ranks comprise the belt ranking system originating from Japanese martial arts. Due to the fame of this belt ranking system, people now use it to rank game players across Japan.
Kyu is the grade under the black belt, with the tenth Kyu as the lowest and the first Kyu being the highest. On the contrary, Dan is a black belt rank, with the 1st Dan as the lowest level and the tenth being the highest ranking.
Each progress you make through the ranking system measures how your skill level develops on its way to the top spot. It is sometimes challenging to determine what the belts represent.
Different organizations have various meanings for what each color means. One pro tip to avoid confusion is that a lighter-colored belt signifies a lower rank, while a dark color shows a higher level.
Nonetheless, improving your overall character matters more in learning karate than developing your skill. Leveling up the ranks is an honor, especially as one reaches the 1st-degree black belt, but it should only come as a bonus.
More than anything else, karate mastery should leave you with enhanced concentration and mental keenness.