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Karate belts

In karate, the progress and rank of a student is marked with a colored belt

The belt is called “obi” , its use began at the end of the 19th century when it was introduced by judo founder Jigoro Kano in Japan. Although it simply marks progress, the belt is treated with respect, because it shows the rank of the karate user (karateka) and that is something no one can take away from him. This is its true value and everyone, be it a student or master, treasures it with great care.

Every style has its own system for ranking students and each system has differences in the sequence of colors. However, most of them begin with white and end with black. Students begin their training with the lowest belt rank and that is usually white. Advancing through the colors indicates the honor and skill level of the student. Most of the systems mark progress by darkening the belt color. There are exceptions to everything in different belt systems, but the idea remains the same.


Until a student reaches black belt status, his rank is referred to as kyu, which designates grades and levels. Black belts mark a dan. Dan means stage or step and is a rank given to those who have mastered the art to some degree. Usually, there are 10 stages of mastery from 1st to 10th dan. For each one, a golden stripe is embroidered into the belt. In some systems, additional ranks exist, up to 15th dan. These ranks, however, are reserved for the founders of the style or the so called great-grandmasters. Otherwise, a grandmaster is a karateka of the 10th dan, who in some rankings is recognized with a solid red belt and gold embroidery.

Advancing through belts is not an easy task. Students must show that they are worthy of a new rank by doing a belt examination. These can involve fighting other dojo members, performing sets of katas, which is a martial art practicing of movements, and other tests that can demonstrate the proficiency of the art.

If you are interested in getting a belt of your own, Iaido Jiu Jitsu Kendo Club is a dojo in New York, NY that can train you in many martial arts. Contact us to receive your white belt and gain a better understanding of yourself!