MARTIAL ARTS BELTS: HISTORY AND MEANING

Posted on October 06 2017

MARTIAL ARTS BELTS: HISTORY AND MEANING

With most types of martial arts (Karate, Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, Judo and more), the color of the belt that a martial artist wear signifies their rank within their style of martial arts.  The belts that are used with a specific martial art signify the martial artist rank within that given style. There is no universal means or ranking within the martial arts world.  More or less, the belts tell others how much the wearer knows about the specific martial art.

The use of belt colors in martial arts is an old practice, dating back hundreds of years.  Belts and their use and meaning in martial arts was started by Jigaro Kano. He created the style known as Kodokan Judo.  Kano started out by using only white and black belts to signify rank within Judo.  His reason for using belts, was to specify which students could compete in different level and activities.

Shortly after Kano introduced his idea of using belts, other belt colors were introduced to the world of martial arts.  Over the years, it became a great way of telling what experience a student had in the form of martial art they practiced.  Other styles began to use this system as well over the years, including Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu and several others.

The only problem with using belts to signify ranking, is the fact that one school may have different requirements from another school.  Even though they both may teach the same style of martial arts, their ranking system and requirements to get a certain ranking may be totally different.  This can cause confusion in ranks, especially if a black belt from one school isn’t as versed in the style as a black belt from another school.  Even though most schools stick to the same criteria, there are schools that choose to incorporate their own unique style as well.

Although most martial arts styles use belts to signify rank, there are some martial arts out there such as Shootfighting that don’t use belts at all. The styles that choose not to use belts don’t go by rankings either, as they are more or less for self-defense purposes. These styles are great to learn for protecting yourself - although they differ from the traditional sense of martial arts. MMA, which is a mixture of various styles, has no official ranking even though many school have tried to implement a belt ranking in MMA.

All things aside, belts are an innovation to martial arts.  They give students something to aim for, and a reason to keep practicing.  Most students that study martial arts aim for getting the black belt, which is the most prestige belt in martial arts.  A black belt takes years of practice to obtain, as the student will move through many lower ranked belts before getting the opportunity to try and earn the black belt. Some martial art have belts higher then black, such a the red belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to signify a master or grand master.

Recent Posts