How To Tie a Karate Belt

Here are the steps to tie a Karate Belt Easily,

1) Place the Center on your stomach
2) Wrap the belt around your waist, Bring Both Ends to the Front
3) Place the Left Side Over the right Side
4) Take the Left Side and Pull it up under both of the other layers
5) Make Sure the Belt is tight and snug, and the ends are even
6) Place the right side over the left side
7) Pull the Right end back up through the loop
8) Pull both ends horizontally tightening the knot

how to tie a karate belt
How to tie a Karate Belt

How Many Belts Are In Karate?

So, how many belt ranks are in karate? 

This is a very, very common question people search for, especially those who have not trained in the martial arts or they’re looking to get into one. Or maybe they’re currently in one martial art, but they see another school do something different, and they’re like, “Well, why isn’t my belt rank like that?” 


So, this seems to be a very common point of curiosity among the martial arts community. Now, in my personal opinion, belt ranks are both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing about them is, they’re a great motivator. 


It’s something to work towards. When a person takes an art, it’s always good to see achievement. Even though that particular belt doesn’t represent hard work… 


It shouldn’t be the focus of your training; it is still an excellent motivator and psychological tool. Additionally, it helps instructors keep track of where students are in class. However, belt ranks are also a little bit of a curse because unfortunately, there’s a lot of people who join martial arts just to chase the rank. 


Rather than worrying about the quality of the training. So basically, you know, there are pros and cons to it. So as long as you keep in mind that the belt is really nothing more than a piece of fabric to keep your uniform closed. 


This is just going to be a fun little exercise, just to see how different systems do this differently. So, we’re going to take a look at how many belts there are in karate. Not every martial art uses a belt ranking system. In fact, the concept of colored belts as rank is a relatively new one in the history of martial arts, but we’ll get back to that. 


Many arts don’t have a colored ranking system at all, but sometimes, especially in commercial, American, and European schools. They will adopt similar ranks, such as colored sashes, shirts and sometimes, chevrons. Colored belt ranks are more commonly found with arts that have Okinawan, Japanese and Korean roots. But before we get into the different styles, let’s point out two primary classifications of belt ranks. 


The Kyu and Dan ranks. Kyu ranks are levels before black belt, and they count backward as you progress through the system. Dan ranks begin with a first-degree black belt and count up as the student progresses. Some arts and schools will count white belt as a Kyu rank, and others consider white as an unranked beginning level. 


The red belt is an interesting rank in and of itself. And it often means different things in different systems. In some arts, it marks the beginning or novice student. While in others, it’s simply another color level throughout different curriculums. However, sometimes red is the color of mastery, and it might even hold high regard, even higher than that of the black belt. 


So, where did the tradition of using colored belt ranks begin? 


There is a commonly told origin story, in which back in older and more traditional days, Karate practitioners simply wore white belts and never washed them. It was said, that as they trained, these belts would get dirtier. And over time, sweat, dirt, grass, and blood would discolor the belt as the darker and darker levels. This would hold that the darker a practitioner’s belt was, the more experienced than they were. 


This was very commonly noted as the origin of the belt system. However, it exists as a legend and is most likely untrue. The historically recorded origin of the belt ranking system can be traced back to Judo, and it’s founder, Jigoro Kano. He is also credited for instituting the traditional karate gi as we have today. 


Prior to his influence, most students trained in traditional clothing or Kimonos. Kano founded Judo in 1882, and in 1883 he awarded two students with a black belt. He felt that these students had reached a level of expertise, and he wanted to recognize their skill, so he turned to the sport of swimming, which was very popular in Japan. 


Swimmers who excelled in their skill were awarded black ribbons. So Kano decided to carry this tradition over to Judo. At this time, the ranks were simple black and non-black. Judo had six Kyu rankings, and Kano later decided to add other belts to mark the progression. His original colored rankings were light blue, two white belt levels, and three brown belt levels before reaching black. 


Later, as Judo spread and more practitioners carried the art around the world, these ranks were separated into more distinct colors of: White, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown and then, black. Sometimes, blue and purple swapped places. It is also said that Kano took his inspiration for the Kyu/Dan designations from a popular 2,500 year old Chinese board game called Go. In which, players are ranked by skill level with beginning Kyu ranks and expert Dan ranks. And thus, the colored belt system was born and was soon adopted by various martial art systems. 


Now, before we take a look at some examples, it’s important to understand that there isn’t always a standard ranking list, even within the same art. Many arts are divided into organizations that will modify their own independent curriculums and therefore, employing different color schemes. 


This can vary from school-to-school, but we’re going to take a few minutes to see how some arts utilize this ranking system. Many traditional Japanese and Okinawan karate systems will use the same colors, but the order of those colors will be widely different from each other. Shotokan founded by Gichin Funakoshi is often white, yellow, orange, blue, green, two purples, and three levels of brown. 


Now, not every Shotokan school follows this and there is some degree of variation. But this is one of the common Kyu sets. Dan ranks are often recognized as 1 – 10. However, Funakoshi himself never personally awarded anyone higher than fifth Dan. Shito Ryu, commonly has nine Kyu ranks and 10 Dan ranks. This is an art that often excludes a white belt as a Kyu and considers it no rank. With the ranks proceeding as, white with a yellow stripe, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, three brown belts and then, 10 Dan ranks. Now while, Shito Ryu colors can change from school-to-school, we see far more variation in Wado Ryu and Goju Ryu. Wado Ryu usually has 10 Kyu ranks and eight Dans. 


But, there are many different color schemes employed by different schools. Goju Ryu is an art that is governed by many different organizations, and each affiliation uses their own schemes as well. Typically, with 10 Kyu and 10 Dan ranks. Kyokushin, a powerful, full-contact karate system is a bit more standardized with most curriculums falling under white, orange, orange with stripe, blue, blue with stripe, yellow, yellow with stripe, green, green with stripe, brown, brown with stripe and then, Dan levels of black belt. Sometimes, red will take the place of orange. Now, my art of American Kenpo is one of those arts that has divided into a thousand different directions and is splintered among many different organizations, each as different as the next. Kenpo may perhaps be one of the most politically divided arts. 


However ironically, it seems to have one of the more standard colored ranking systems. Most Kenpo schools, even those with completely different curriculums, will follow this belt color system. White, yellow, orange, purple blue, green, three browns and 10 degrees of black belt. 


Now, even though sometimes, you’ll see the three levels of brown belt separated into red and red/black. Kenpo is a system that traditionally treats red as the color of mastery and that is evidence in the black belt ranks. Each degree of black belt receives a half inch red stripe, half an inch apart. To show that we slowly master our art in increments. When a student reaches fifth degree, the belt receives a five inch red block. And then stripes are added until reaching 10th degree, marked by two solid blocks. 


Originally however, the founder of American Kenpo, Ed Parker, used the white, brown, and black color scheme that Kano used in the beginning. Only adding more colored ranks later as the curriculum grew and advanced. 


Now when it comes to JuJutsu, we are definitely talking about a classification of martial art that is divided into many, many different systems and we could spend all day covering each and every one of them. Like many karate styles, JuJutsu will use standard colored belts in different orders. However, you’ll often see red belt here marking the beginning or early rank. 


In the World JuJutsu Federation, ranks are typically red, white, yellow, orange, green, blue with a white center stripe, blue, purple, brown with a white center stripe, brown, black with a white center stripe, and then black. In the art of JuJutsu that I am currently training in, San Yama Bushi Ryu, the belt orders are white, orange, yellow, green, three browns and then, 10 levels of black. 


This brings us to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, one of the more popular and widespread arts, today. When it comes to belt ranking, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu holds one of the stricter standards of belt rankings across different schools. Each belt takes a significant amount of time and practice to achieve and practitioners take each rank and the respect that comes with it very, very seriously. 


In most BJJ schools, you’ll find ranks set as white, blue, purple, brown and then, black belt. This is pretty standard and interchangeable between schools. However, once in awhile, you’ll come across a school that might add a green belt rank, usually as a novice or a youth rank. There are 10 Dan levels and the belts are marked distinctively with belts that are black. And then they go into coral patterns and ultimately, to red belt, which signifies a grand master title of ninth or 10th Dan. 


The red belt is a highly respected rank and it takes a lifetime to achieve and it is held by few. As I mentioned earlier, not every art utilizes colored belts for ranks. Aikido is typically one of those arts. While some schools may support colored belts, many only allow students to wear white or black belts. In many Aikido schools, Dan students will wear a Hakama when they have achieved that level. Swinging now over to the Korean arts, we see much more variation again. Hapkido may have different versions of their colored ranks. But generally, you can expect to see white, yellow, green, blue, red and, 10 Dan levels, or at least some close variation of this. Hapkido is also one of the arts that reserves the rank of 10th Dan for their grand Master. 


Taekwondo is split into a couple of different organizations, but you will also see very different color grading from school-to-school, with nine Don ranks available for living students. The standard belt ranking for the International Taekwondo Federation is white, white with yellow tip, yellow, yellow with green tip, green, green with blue tip, blue, blue with red tip, red, red with black tip and then, black belt. Tang Soo Do is similarly split between different organizations and like most of the other arts, you’ll find a myriad of different color schemes. 


Hwang Kee, the founder of Mood Duk Kwan, originally established white, green and red as the colored belt ranks before going into the Dan levels. However, what is really interesting about Moo Duk Kwan, is a custom that is followed by select schools. Traditionally, Dan ranks are represented by black belts, but rather belts that sport a midnight blue color. This falls into the philosophy of black representing perfection and no one can be perfect. 


It is commonly said that Kee believed that black is a color to which nothing else can be added. 


So the Dan holder wears midnight blue to show that he is always learning. And finally, we’re going to take a look at Ninjutsu or specifically, Bujinkan Ninjutsu, that is an international organization that incorporates various Ninjutsu lineages. They have a little bit of a different approach to the colored belt rankings. 


In Bujinkan, there are nine Kyus, but they don’t traditionally follow the same belt color ranking. Beginning students are unranked and they wear a white belt. Upon achieving a ninth Kyu, they will then wear a green belt if they are male or a red belt if they are female. These students will wear these same belts from ninth to first Kyu and when they achieve their first Dan, they will wear a black belt. Sometimes, schools will use stars or other insignias to denote which rank they are at. 


Additionally, there are 10 Dan ranks, but 10th Dan has five sub-level ranks to it. These additional five ranks are certifications that signify a Master has learned everything there is to learn about that particular lineage. Very few achieve these ranks and they’re typically, more discrete. So, that was just a fun look to see how Bujinkan offers a bit of unique spin on the colored belt ranking system. 


In any case, belt color is just a measuring system and a syllabus guide and in no way actually, determines your skill in any art. The belt should not be the goal, but rather you should focus on the skills that the system teaches you. 


So, there we go. That’s just a brief look at all the different belt ranks and the different karate and martial art systems. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what color you are, it’s just a piece of fabric. It doesn’t represent your actual skill or the hard work you put into it. It’s just a milestone, it’s a tool of measurement. Whether you use it for a psychological encouragement or you’re one of those people who want to just chase belt levels. 


So in the end, all that’s really important is the quality of training you’re getting, regardless of whatever belt rank you are. Here’s to keeping your pants up. As always, I like to hear feedback from reviewers. 


I’m actually curious, for those of you who train in maybe some Kung Fu systems or other systems that don’t have belts. 


  1. How do you guys rank? 
  2. Do you have a rank? 
  3. Just kind of, what are some of the ways you differentiate your different levels? 


I would love to hear from you.

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