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What Do Belt Ranks Mean in Karate?

Understanding Colors and Their Meaning

When you step into a Dojo, one thing that you will notice is that the students are wearing different color belts. Some may be wearing green or blue, while other students have purple and brown. What do these different color belts mean and what is the order of advancement? 

The Origin of Karate Belts

It may surprise you to learn that karate belt colors are not an ancient practice. In fact they only date back to the 1880s.

  • The Legend of Karate Belts: Legend says that students were given a white belt when they began their training. Over the years, the belt would become stained and dirty with sweat, dirt, and blood. Students were told never to wash their belts. Superstition said that in doing so, they would “wash off” their experience. Once the belt turned black, the student was considered a true martial artist.
  • The Real History of Karate Belts: For centuries in Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, martial artists practiced in secret. Because of this secretive nature, they did not have colored belts or other symbols of involvement with martial arts. The idea of a colored belt system actually came about in more modern times. It began with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, in the late 1880s. Before that, students were only awarded certificates as they progressed through the ranks.

Basic Belt Colors Explained

White Belt 

The first belt in Karate is the white belt and it represents the beginning. As the little plant bursts through the soil, it is greeted by the bright, white light of day. The white belt symbolizes the beginning of a person’s desire to learn the skills of karate, and it is worn by those who are just beginning their study.

Yellow Belt 

Yellow symbolizes the first beams of sunlight. As the plant adjusts to the light, it deepens into the golden hue of sunlight. The student is being warmed and stretched in the pursuit of their goals. The yellow belt is worn by a beginner who has learned to practice the basic moves of karate.

Orange Belt 

Orange symbolizes the growing strength of the sun. As the sun grows hot, life becomes more difficult for the little plant. In the same vein, training becomes more difficult for the student. The orange belt is given to a beginner once he or she has mastered karate’s 10 self-defense moves. 

Green Belt 

Green is a representation of growth. The little plant has survived the hot sun and is now sending forth new growth. Green leaves and shoots are spreading out from the plant. The student is growing and becoming more proficient in the basics. 

Blue Belt 

Blue represents the sky that the plant is growing and stretching up towards. The student’s knowledge is expanding and growing. So the blue belt is given to students at the stage of their studies when they begin to learn additional knowledge of the martial art that allows their minds and bodies to continue to grow and develop.

Purple Belt

The day is drawing to an end, the blue sky darkens to purple. The student’s knowledge is deepening and becoming more profound. So a purple belt is given to a student who is transitioning into the advanced stages of study.

Brown Belt 

Brown is a representation of the ripening of a seed during the maturing and harvesting process. The seed is maturing and ripening as the harvest nears. The student is beginning to reap the rewards of all their toil and training.

Black Belt 

Black symbolizes the darkness beyond the sun. Darkness falls and the plant dies. But in its place, there is a new beginning. The student has learned so much, including that there is so much more to learn. The first stage of their martial arts journey is complete, but the journey continues.

Our Belts

Each style of martial arts has their own belt system that represents mastery of each element. At Innovative Martial Arts Academy, our belt system is as follows. 

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Gold
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black

Want to Read More About Martial Arts?

Take a look at some of our other articles about martial arts and IMAA’s course offerings. .

Try A Class!

At Innovative Martial Arts Academy, we’re all about FAMILY and FUN. Our Martial Arts training offers men, women, and children the opportunity to challenge their bodies and minds without the threat of injury and intimidation. Take on the best training in disciplines like Kenpo Karate, Kali, and Aikido and build your skills one day at a time with help of our dedicated instructors. We are proud to serve families across Wake Forest, Wakefield, and the surrounding area with a rewarding experience that can set you or your child up for success in all aspects of life. If you’re interested in learning about our martial arts program, contact us at 919.562.4663, or visit our website.  


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William D.
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This place is great! Charles and his team have fantastic programs for kids. When we started our 3.5 year old son, I didn’t know what to expect. He quickly adapted to the classes and now loves going. Our 2 year old son loves watching and will start as well as soon as he turns 3. Innovative Martial arts also hosted their birthday parties. The kids had a blast doing different activities throughout the birthday party. Can’t say enough good things about this place, and what they teach!
Tara H.
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Innovative Martial Arts Academy (IMAA) is the best place to take martial arts. Charles Falk, the owner, and his staff do a great job teaching martial arts to the students and teaching each student to be confident and disciplined. My son has been with IMAA for eight years - he has earned one black belt and is working on his second.
Niko F.
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Not only are the staff amazing, but there is a mix of fun and learning in the curriculum. My 5 year old daughter absolutely loves this school. She has learned respect and many other aspects making her more focused and well behaved. I definitely recommend this school for you or your child.
Janice P.
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Great school with wonderful teachers. My daughter has a great time learning and everyone is friendly. There is even an adult class that allowed me to try to see if I liked it and everyone was very patient with me. I am thankful to have my daughter be a part of the Innovative Martial Arts Academy in Wake Forest and know she is benefiting from it in more than one way. It amazes me how fast she is learning and how hard she is trying. They have her trying to develop at her fullest with her mind, body, and spirit. I would recommend this school to anyone interested in martial arts.
Kristi F.
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Wonderful place for not only skill development but also personal development. Owner and instructors genuinely get to know students and families and care about them. The lessons learned will provide character growth as well as martial art skills. The owner is also a long time student of many different martial arts, he didn't just buy a franchise, and tries very hard to live what he teaches the students. Proud to have been in this dojo family for 6+ years and proud of the friendships we have made there!

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