Karate Journey

Karate Belts – What Are They..?

Karate Belts Colors Karate belts are an adaptation of the Kyu / Dan rank system of Kodokan Judo.

The father of Japanese Karate Gichin Funakoshi who was an acquaintance of the founder of Judo Jigoro Kano introduced the step-up Karate level system to signal a student’s progress in the study of the art.

Today’s system of belt colors, the one used in Shotokan Karate, is based on 20 steps. Ten for the Minor preparatory grades 10th Kyu through 1st Kyu and a further ten for the Major grades 1st Dan through 10th Dan.

Karate Belt Colors

The color of a Karatekas belt indicates her rank and in theory, her ability. Each step forward represents a further accumulation of skills and knowledge.

Outside of Japan each ‘minor’ Karate Level known as Kyu is indicated by a different color. Some Karate Styles also use black stripe attached across or along the belt.

There is less emphasis on belt colors in Japan than elsewhere. There most Karate Styles use only 3 colors; White, Brown and Black.

A Karate Black Belt indicating a rank of first Dan and above wears a plain black cotton or silk covered belt, usually embroidered with the wearers name and/or school.

In some Karate Styles a red belt is worn to denote a very advanced Dan rank.

Background to Belt Colors

Belt colors generally get darker through each Karate level towards Black Belt. This may be symbolic of the time when a plain white sash (Obi) was used to tie a plain white tunic for practice.

If a student trained often enough, the white Obi would eventually darken. This seems a likely reason for the Karate Black Belt to symbolize the most advanced Karate Level.

Karate Grading Tests

Karate Belts Kuro ObiKarate belts are used to indicate when a student has been promoted to the next level.

Improved Karate technique and deeper knowledge of the 3 elements of Kihon (basics), Kata (form) and Kumite (sparring) needs to be shown before the next Karate level can be awarded.

To advance to a new Karate level, the Karate belt holder takes a formal test called a Karate grading examination.

Karate grading examinations for higher ranks include practical, oral and written requirements. These vary depending on the Karate level being tested.

The contents of tests vary among Karate styles but each school has set criteria around…

  • Minimum Time Elapsed from Last Karate grading
  • Consistent Training
  • Proficient Karate Technique
  • Demonstrated Progress
  • Approval or Recommendation of Instructor(s)

M.K.F Syllabus from 10th Kyu up to 1st Kyu:



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