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Karate Belt Colors

Updated on February 24, 2016

Karate is a method of self-defense using open hand combat and weapons that was developed in the RyuKyu archipelago which is now Okinawa Japan. There are two main branches of Karate; Okinawan (Traditional), and Japanese Karate. Traditionally belts were not used in karate when it originated.

Today in karate rank represents how much experience you have, and it shows that you were competent enough to pass the written and the practical test. The test usually consists of questions on the basic elements of the art. As your belt rank gets higher the level of difficulty of the test also increases.

The Color Scheme

There is no standard color scheme for any martial arts. That is completely dependent upon the dojo’s master. It is rare that any two Martial Art will share the same color scheme. What is common among many dojos is the color that the beginner gets which is white and the final stages are usually black. Below are some examples of some color schemes from various Martial Arts:

IsshinRyu Karate

1. White

2. Yellow

3. Orange

4. 5th Green

5. 4th Green

6. 3rd Brown

7. 2nd Brown

8. 1st Brown

9. 1st Degree Black Belt

10. 2nd Degree Black Belt

11. 3rd Degree Black Belt

12. 4th Degree Black Belt (Beginning of Masters Rank who wears red and white belt at formal events)

13. 5th Degree Black Belt

14. 6th Degree Black Belt

15. 7th Degree Black Belt

16. 8th Degree Black Belt

17. 9th Degree Black Belt

18. 10th Degree Black Belt (Grandmaster who wears a solid red belt at formal events)

Shotokan Karate

1. White

2. 8th Orange

3. 7th Orange

4. Green

5. 5th Purple

6. 4th Purple

7. 3rd Brown

8. 2nd Brown

9. 1st Brown

10. 1st Degree Black Belt (goes straight to tenth degree Black Belt)

As we can see the scheme is somewhat similar but different.

Significance of Each Rank

Usually each rank carries some meaning. Dojos usually do not modify this however it is not a crime to do so and it is possible to see variation by dojo. White, being the common color among dojos, usually symbolizes innocence, and new, fresh start, while Black usually symbolizes the opposite.

How the Belt is Worn

It is common of most martial arts to wear the belt (obi) around the waist with the obi knot below the belly button, with two sides of the belt hanging down on either side. The method of tying the belt is very simple.

In summary, Karate was founded in the Okinawan islands where there was not a formal ranking system by belt color. This tradition began as Karate became more and more Westernized. The belt colors denote a particular kyu’s (student) experience, knowledge and competence. Each belt is awarded after a testing system that is done at each belt level. The colors of the belt gains its order based on the dojo. Being a karateka (A person who practices Karate) about to test for my next I can positively say that the color of your belt should not matter greatly to you. But you should enjoy each belt rank and aim for perfection and not the next belt rank.


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