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 Martial Arts

The Martial Arts Belt System

What is a belt system?

The folklore surrounding the history of the black belt is that all martial arts students began their studies with a white belt, which they did not wash so over time it became soiled and dirty. First the belts would turn brown and then eventually for those who studied long and hard enough their belt would turn black.  The black belt indicated the studentís success at mastering their martial arts skills.  There is no basis for this story but it is interesting so it is worth repeating.

History denotes that the use of belt color to signify rank was "invented" by Jigoro Kano who was the founder of judo. He only used white and black belts, and finally in the early 1900s  the colored belt system of awarding rank was created.

Almost all martial arts award colored belts to denote rank.  As you enter a martial arts studio you will often see a row of tied belts on the studio wall. This is a display of the belt hierarchy from beginner to expert.


Between the universal white, beginners belt and coveted black, experts belt, each style has its own progression of colors, some with intermediate stripes within a rank.  Most forms of the martial arts have ten levels of color because it is easy to identify 10 growth stages. These stripes and/or belts are earned by the student who has learned all of the new requirements as well as retained and improved old techniques. Simply stated ranks are associated with different color belts, and color varies depending on the martial art being studied.

Ranking examinations are given on a scheduled basis after specific intervals of regular training. The exam is performed by the students in front of  an examination board. It is usually comprised of three parts: form, basic technique demonstration, and basic sparring demonstration. Sometimes questions will be asked that the students must answer.  Upon passing the rank examination, the student receives their new belt in a belt ceremony and then progresses to the next level of training.   They will then be eligible for the next ranking examination.  It takes most individuals four to six years to earn a black belt. It really depends on the student, their work ethic and their determination.