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
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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