Understand The Meaning Of Karate Belts


One of the things that confuse people that want to learn karate and even the students of the ancient martial arts sometimes is the belt ranking system. It is just so hard to keep up because just when you think you finally understand it, someone else comes in with their own ranking system, and they usually have the belt to back it up too.

However, this article should give you a better insight into the belt ranking system. 

The two colors that no one disagrees about are the black and the white colors. The white for an absolute beginner and the black symbolizing a master. 

The problem lies in ranking the color of belts in between. The major problem is caused by different schools having slightly different orders of belt ranking. However, here are some of the accepted orders:

White, yellow, green, orange, red, blue, purple, brown, black
White, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, black
White, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, black

The orders of belts above are the most common orders seen today in the karate belt ranking system. However, these belts don’t just rank people from beginners of martial art to supreme experts. The colors are also symbolic. Only darker shades of colors were used to show increased ranking.

White belt

It is said that when a plant is born, the first thing it meets when it pushes through the crack in the ground is the bright white sunlight. This is used to show the beginning of a martial arts journey. The new karate kid… (clears throats!) student is ready for the journey and is ready to grow.

Yellow belt

Now that the plant is exposed to the bright white light of the sun, as it starts to grow it gets exposed to the yellow part of the sun. This shows that the new student is showing signs of progress and is willing to open his/her mind to the ways of karate and the teachings of the master. This is the stage of transformation.

Orange belt

Now the yellow sun has turned warm and it radiates its incredible heat on the newly growing plant. Now this is for a student that has grasped the basics and fundamentals of the art of karate and is now willing to take on more teachings from the master.

Green belt

The sun is now shining even brighter than before but rather than falter under the heat of the sun, the new plant doesn’t only thrive but also blossoms and its leaves are fresh and green. The student has now learnt all of the basics of karate and did not break. He/she is now willing to take on more responsibility. The student is not a seed anymore; he/she is now more like a small green plant.

Blue belt

The plant is now growing taller and bigger without stopping; instead, it reaches for the big blue sky up above. Now the student develops his skills further on the basis of the knowledge he gathered while he was in the green belt level. 

The student is now a capable fighter but is willing to learn even more to control his/her body and mind in the ways of karate. The sky is not the limit, it is just a point they are reaching for.

Purple belt

In the quest to become better and reach for the sky, the night begins to creep up on the plant. The sun sets and the sky is now the color of purple/violet as the plant still reaches for it, but does it ever reach it. 

This is the end of the blue belt level and the beginning of the something more, the purple belt was not designed to be a part of the past, it is a preparation of the student into the dark times ahead. 

It is a preparation for the black belt. The student is now an advanced fighter, he knows how to combine technique with ability.

Brown belt

The darkness continues to grow. The plant can no longer see a glimpse of the blue sky it once sought; it bows down towards the brown soil. It is humble as it remembers its beginning from the brown soil. 

The student of the brown belt is someone that is ready to mature into the higher ranks of the masters. The student is now humbled by the journey that got he/she to the brown belt level as they see that what lies ahead is even greater.

Red belt

The sun sets one last time but this time it is not blue, yellow or white. The sun sets in a red soulful color that indicates that the end is near.

The plant stays humble as the red light from the sun shines on the now weak leaves. The student is now at the stage of intense dedication. The only way to move forward from here is by seeking the unknown, what lies beyond this red light they may ask, what lies ahead. 

The student is now regarded as dangerous as a result of all that they have learned. The student now needs to learn absolute control.

Black Belt

Everything that has a beginning has an end, and the end of the journey of the plant is here. The plant dies. The plant however has learnt and grown. The plant reached for the sky thinking that was where greatness lay, but in the end, it went back to its roots and discovered; With every end there is another beginning. 

For the student this signifies the end of their transformation from an unskilled white belt hitching to learn, to a master of the ways of karate, mature and wise with the earning of the black belt. 

However, by now the student knows that his/her journey has only just begun. The black belt student knows he has to seek knowledge and enlightenment with the skills he has. And most importantly the end for the student is the beginning for others, therefore, he is obliged to share his knowledge with others who are willing to learn.

How long does it take to earn a black belt in karate?

For a student to complete this journey, it takes time and dedication. There is no specified time that it takes for a student to earn a black belt in karate as it depends on the dedication of the student and the ranking method of the school. 

Though factors such as age and frequency of training affect the promotion of a student in the belt system.

Typically, an adult student that trains twice a week regularly can attain a black belt level in five years. However, some very dedicated student has been known to earn theirs in two to three years. Though this is unusual and is not recommended by karate masters as they believe doing this in a shorter period of time reduces the time taken to obtain the karate wisdom. In karate it is more than just the skill, it is also about the knowledge. 

Children also follow a similar timeline as adults and they go through the same standards of training as adults. If the child is below 16, the child is awarded a junior black belt and when the child comes of age, he/she is retested in order to be awarded the actual black belt.