The Significance Behind The Karate Belt Order

If you took Karate, you know how meaningful karate belt order is.

However, few people are aware of the meaning behind these colored belt systems.

Judo started the colored belt system in martial arts.

Students in Judo earned colored karate belts based on their achievements.

In Karate, the same belt ranking system applies to the students.

The Shotokan Karate schools were the first to implement the karate belt colors.

In this post, we’ll focus on the Karate belt system, one of the most critical aspects of the sport. 

Most oriental martial arts use a belt ranking system to represent a practitioner’s degree of skill and knowledge. 

Even students receive karate belt colors to mark and reward their progress and skill set.

karate belt colors

How Did Martial Arts Belt System Start?

Japan began and practiced Oriental martial arts for a century.

But they added the belt ranking later.

Before the belt levels, advanced martial arts students receive certificates representing their achievements and ability. 

During the 20th century, the Judo founder and martial artist Jigorō Kanō introduced colored belts in Japanese arts. 

The colored ranking system is not new.

It is an inspiration from the Japanese board game “go.”

These belts are to motivate martial arts students to improve quickly.

Also, it allows those who join tournaments to identify their opponent’s level promptly.

If one is aware of their rival’s knowledge and skill, one can battle reasonably. 

Kano’s initial color scheme consisted of four: blue belt, white belt, brown belt, and black belt.

But years later, the system adapted more colored belts.

Related Reading: The Taekwondo Belt Order – Read More Here.

How Did Karate Belt Colors Begin?

In 1924, Gichin Fukanoshi adopted the colored belt system in Karate.

The Kyu and dan were the unique features of the karate belt order.

Many karate institutions use this ranking system, but the colors vary from place to school. 

What is the Karate Belts Order?

Karate has a rich history in Japanese culture.

However, the karate belt order was a later addition to the martial arts.

On the other hand, the “Black Belt” represents competence instead of mastery.

A person’s Kyu starts at ten and goes down to one. 

After reaching the Black Belt, you also have dans to complete from 1 to 10.

Most karate schools assess new karate students before granting them a white belt; however, this is not standard practice.

How Many Karate Belt Colors Are There?

How Many Karate Belt Colors Are There

There are different Karate styles and practices of ranking systems for the belt order for other karate schools.

Some schools give colors white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, and black.

Sometimes, black is not the highest rank. But mostly, the colors are from the lightest to the darkest.

The typical karate order is the white, yellow, green, blue, brown, and black belt.

Karate Belt Order 

men kneeling in karate suit

In Karate and other Japanese martial arts, the ranking uses Kyu grades to indicate a student’s level of proficiency. 

You call a student at the Kyu-level a Mudansha, which means “without a dan.”

The number decreases as Karate practitioners improve. 

The Isshinryu karate does not have purple and red belts in their karate belt order.

There are, however, classes for each of the different belts. 

A few schools only use white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black belts.

For this reason, belts include two stripes at the bottom of the following belt in the belt order. 

For example, if a person is advancing from yellow to green, two green stripes will appear on his yellow belt when he makes significant progress. 

Whether this is an official procedure or a mere progress tracker of Karate practitioners is not yet clear.

Beginner Belt Ranks

White belt (6th Kyu)

white belt

Your first belt in Karate is white. White belts represent the beginning of the quest. 

The white belt symbolizes students who are only beginning to learn how to manage their minds and bodies. 

White means purity and their passion for Karate which will develop more as they learn. 

White belts also represent the birth of one’s desire to learn the art of Karate; thus, it is unacceptable to strike people on your first day of learning. 

Yellow Belt (5th Kyu)

You will need to pass a test to receive the next rank: a yellow belt. It is essential to assess what you learned. 

Level by level, a student can learn the principles of Karate as they move up and progress.

The first rays of sunshine that penetrate a seedling’s skin and give it a fresh start in life are yellow. 

This representation applies to the yellow belt, which signifies that they have mastered the fundamentals of Karate.

The yellow belt focuses on learning the fundamentals of punches, kicks, and stances. 

Some schools start light sparring at this stage.

There will be light contact to avoid hurting the sparring partner.

Students must get familiar with discipline, attentiveness, and how to avoid being bullied.

You may need around seven to nine months before moving from white to yellow.

Orange Belt (4th Kyu)

As Karate practitioner masters the fundamentals of kicks, punches, and stances in Karate, they will receive an orange belt.

These fundamentals include the ten self-defense techniques taught during the past belt order. 

Students begin to understand the organization and the responsibilities of Karate.

Aside from that, there will be complex moves too.

It may vary for some schools, but demonstrations of complex moves and takedowns are necessary.

The beauty in this martial art, you also get to learn life lessons while knocking out an opponent. 

For example, your instructor will teach you the importance of respect and generosity while relating them to your moves.

Typically, it takes nine to ten months to have a promotion to the orange belt.

Green Belt (3rd Kyu)

Green Belt

After learning the basics, students will be able to show their skills at the next rank: green belt level.

It is where the student’s training takes off. 

Their self-defense skills slowly developed, and their application of the skills progressed.

A student with a green belt can better predict their opponent’s movements, allowing them to strategize.

Green signifies the growth of Karate practitioners, who are starting to hone and solidify their skills.

Mostly, they are intermediate students. 

At this level, students need to take discipline more seriously.

You’ll learn how to hit and wrestle at this point.

It may be necessary for students to practice this at home without supervision. Therefore, discipline is crucial.

It will take you more than ten months before getting your green belt.

Related Reading: Best Binoculars For Sports – Click Here To Find Out.

Adult Belt Ranks

adult belt ranks - Karate Belt Order

Blue Belt (2nd Kyu)

The next rank is the blue belt level, where you display great skill in managing your physical and mental abilities. 

Students may notice an improvement in their control against their opponent during the sparring session.

Their confidence and capability to defend themselves developed, making them more powerful.

A balance to the physical skill level acquired is developing your sense of time.

You’ll recognize how time passes.

The blue color belt represents the sky and enlightenment as you grow. 

When students start to learn more about the art of Karate, their minds and bodies grow along with their skills. 

You can apply your skills in defending yourself at this level.

With parental consent, the student starts actual sparring.

The students can have complete contact during the sparring session with a light touch.

It takes between 12 to 20 months to graduate to the blue belt level.

Purple Belt

Not all Karate schools use purple in their belt order, but for some, purple symbolizes transition.

Purple is an excellent association with dawn’s color, making it a perfect color for the next belt order.   

A student gets the belt color to represent nearing the end of their basic training. 

However, it will not be the end of their Karate journey because they will start learning advanced Karate skills.

Students acquire more complex footwork at this point.

You may also learn valuable life lessons like knowing when to be firm.

You may encounter situations where you need to use your Karate skills for self-defense and not brag.

Red Belt

red belt

Like purple, the red level is not always present in Karate schools.

The color red alludes to the sun’s blazing heat.

However, it could also mean danger. 

Both of these representations apply to students who have a red belt.

Students need to be more cautious during practice. 

As they grow and stretch their skills, similarly to a plant reaching the sun, they need to be careful.

The number of skills and knowledge they have might be dangerous if misused.

Students at this level assist in Karate class to learn how to handle their skills and knowledge. 

For example, they help teach younger students or even do community service. 

It takes 12 to 20 months before you reach the red order. 

Brown Belt (1st Kyu)

The brown belt is, in fact, the highest belt in Karate.

The black belt signifies a different meaning.

In the brown belt order, the student’s physical and mental development reached some impressive extent. 

They have improved Karate skills that they can use against an opponent, but they continue to progress.

If you are a brown belt holder, you better understand physical fights and when to defend yourself.

Brown signifies the process of seed ripening when they are ready to harvest and mature. 

Therefore, students recognize the fruit of their training and studying throughout the years as they mature.

At this level, you can hone your practical techniques with different Karate styles to perfection. 

Black Belt

black belt

The color black represents the darkness that lies further than the sun’s light.

A karateka with a degree black belt strives to learn the physical and mental lessons of the art to their fullest potential.

Many black belts begin sharing their expertise with others to assist them in their progress in their ranks.

Martial artists must be able to protect themselves and demonstrate honor, discipline, attention, and respect in their daily lives at this point. 

The Karate journey doesn’t end here because the black belt also has its ranking order.

Related Reading: What The Heck Is Pickle Ball – Get To Know Here.

Black Belt Mastery Level

Your true karate journey starts when you reach your Black Belt.

Another name for a dan-level student is Yudansha.

There is still promotion in the dan ranks, but mostly the 6th dan onwards doesn’t have any.

The advancement will depend on the headmaster and who they think deserves to rank up.

Each dan level comes with a name and a number.

You can achieve the different dan levels through training. 

It can even take almost three decades to reach the fifth dan for some people.

1st Dan – Shodan

The first dan, also called Shodan, must have a great mastery of the basic skills and principles of Karate. 

2nd Dan – Nidan

Meanwhile, a professional Karateka will land second dan or Nidan if they have mastered the fundamentals of Karate.

3rd Dan – Sandan

The Sandan or third dan is someone with excellent skills in Karate, down to its basics. 

4th Dan – Yodan 

The next dan is Yodan which is the fourth. You need to master both the basic knowledge and practical Karate techniques.

5th Dan – Godan

As for the fifth dan or Godan, you need to be impressive and proficient with essential knowledge and practical Karate techniques. 

6th Dan – Rokudan

Your continuous efforts in studying Karate and intense training will land you in the 6th dan. 

Your exceptional Karate skills and practice of the art for the welfare of humanity will land you a place at this advanced level.

Aside from the physical abilities, this level highlights unique features a Karateka must possess.

As a holder of 6th dan and up, you need to know confidentiality, politeness, generosity, humility, good morals, determination, and self-sacrifice. 

First, you need to understand and master the essence of Karate.

You may also need to be a Karate master to reach sixth dan or Rokudan.

7th Dan – Nanadan

Nanadan, or the seventh day, is the next rank that requires a Karateka to understand Karate and the meaning behind martial art. 

8th Dan – Hachidan

For the eight dan or Hachidan, the time you spend studying and practicing Karate is an essential factor in receiving it.

9th Dan – Kyudan

If you are a ninth dan or Kyudan, it took you almost forty years to land the title.

You are a deserving master with notable titles.

Only a handful can reach the Kyudan level because of the minimum progression time.

10th Dan – Judan

The final dan level is Judan, which is a remarkable achievement. It does not require a promotion test.

However, specific people will choose you from the ninth and eighth dan to obtain the ultimate belt. 

If you belong to a group of high-ranking belt holders, you have a high chance of being selected to rank up to 10th dan.

Karate Belt Orders Used in Europe

Used in Europe

Mikinosuke Kawaishi, a Japanese-born American who moved to Paris in 1935b introduced the colored belt system among his western students in Judo. 

The colored belt allowed students to learn and progress quickly because of the belt’s recognition.  

 Also, they feel motivated by the consistent rewards they get when they accomplish something significant.

Soon after, the Karate students outside Japan adapted the Kawaishi belt system to recognize the differences between white and black belts.

And sometime after that, other places in Japan, like Okinawa, adopted the same system in their Karate ranking.

In today’s world, the color of a Karate belt can differ from one school, so there is no universally accepted practice.

Keichu Ryu Belt Rank

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Black Belt
  • Red Belt

Shotokan Karate Belt Rank

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Purple and White Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Brown and White Belt
  • Black Belt

Shido-Kan Shorin Ryu Belt Rank

  • White
  • Yellow Tip
  • Yellow
  • Green Tip
  • Green
  • Brown Tip
  • Brown
  • Black Tip
  • Black
  • Red or White
  • Red

Kyokushin Belt

  • White Belt
  • Red Belt
  • Red Senior
  • Blue Belt
  • Blue Senior
  • Yellow Belt
  • Yellow Senior
  • Green Belt
  • Green Senior
  • Brown Belt
  • Brown Senior
  • Black Belt

Goju Ryu Karate Belt

  • White Belt
  • White with stripe
  • Blue Belt
  • Blue with stripe
  • Yellow Belt
  • Yellow with stripe
  • Green Belt
  • Green with stripe
  • Brown Belt
  • Brown with stripe
  • Brown with two stripes

Wado-Ryu Belt

  • White
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black

Related Reading: 10 Fun Sports For Couples – Check Them Out Here

Wrapping Up

Different Karate schools have highly qualified instructors that can teach modern Karate to all levels, from beginner’s belts to black belt degrees.

You can see that the kyu grades and dan grades, the ranking system, and the color that goes along with it differ in every style, but one thing stays constant.

The journey of your Karate growth is the most important in martial arts and not where you’ll end.