What are the coloured belts in martial arts?

What are the coloured belts in martial arts?

Many people have some knowledge on the coloured belts of martial arts. Most are aware that white belts are for beginners and then black belts are for advanced individuals, with a bunch of other colours in between.

Then, there’s dan black belts that go through to 10th dan, of which from around 4th dan to 7th dan, are considered master teachers and are usually awarded other titles such as Shihan or Hanshi for their years of contribution to martial arts teaching.

From around 7th dan, they are usually awarded the title of grand master and is usually only achieved through a lifetime of dedication to martial arts. Very few in the western world have achieved this.

There is a specific colour progression involved in the belts which also varies significantly from style to style and even club to club, so other naming systems were adapted. For example, in the Japanese martial art of Karate, they are given a name known as Kyu.

A white belt, for instance, would be known as 10th Kyu then progressing through to 1st kyu just before black belt.

These ranking systems in a sense make the rankings a little more universal amongst martial artists, so colour does not come into the equation.

Another example that has names for rankings is the Korean martial art of Taekwondo which uses a progression known as Geup. For instance, a white belt would be a 10th Geup.

In ancient times, certainly in Japan, there were no coloured belts as such. A student would simply have a white belt to hold their uniform together. And over time, it would get worn and dirty and look as though it was black accordingly. After many years of training, the master would award the student a black belt.

Coloured belts were only brought into existence through the western world as they want to give students a way of identifying their progress.

Nowadays, students are presented with completely new belts and can keep their older belts as mementos. And because it still takes years to progress, having a trophy case of awards and belts can drive a student further.

The colours of the belts are now typically symbolic of a seed being planted and then growing.

In this article, we will discuss the coloured belt system used in SHIRUDO Hybrid Martial Art, the philosophy of what it represents and how you can achieve each one.

White belt, 10th Kyu

A beginner in a white belt represents a fresh start and new beginnings. Just like a seed is planted, this belt is the start of a student’s growth journey.

This first stage of martial arts training is the defining start of any journey.

Yellow/white stripe belt, 9th Kyu

(Encouragement, halfway to Yellow)

Yellow belt, 8th Kyu

Just like a seed needs sun to grow further, so does a yellow belt holder. It represents the sun as it warms the student and promotes growth.

A yellow belt student is still a beginner, but they are starting to learn as they receive more knowledge and direction from their master.

Yellow and orange belt students

Orange belt, 7th Kyu

The orange belt signifies the sun again as it continues to nurture the seed to encourage growth. As the spring season approaches, the student still learns and grows into a strong, vibrant plant.

At this stage, the mind should be willing to undergo more changes in order to achieve their potential.

Green belt, 6th Kyu

Just like a seed bursts forth from the ground and begins its journey as a sprouting plant, so does the green belt representing a student.

The student goes from being more of a beginner to a more intermediate learner.

Rather than being a seed in the ground, the sprouted plant can begin to take in more sun and instructions to grow and spread out.

Green and blue belt students

Blue belt, 5th Kyu

The sky is blue – and that is where the student is growing toward. They are looking at the blue sky and growing higher and higher.

A blue belt student should be gaining confidence and skill that helps them stand firm in the art. The sky is the limit for a student at this level.

Red belt, 4th Kyu 

The red colour symbolises the changing sky from daytime to dawn. This typifies time passing and knowledge being solidified. It is also SHIRUDO’s halfway point to black belt.

A red belt holder will begin to understand what it takes to progress toward a black belt, and they should be taking steps to grow towards the complete mastery of martial arts.

Brown/white stripe belt student

Brown/white stripe belt, 3rd Kyu

As the seed matures, its colour becomes darker – just as a student matures.

Brown belts have come a long way from white belts. And as they grow even more towards the ultimate black belt, they can reflect on all the previous colours.

Brown belt 2nd Kyu

Solid brown belt symbolises the fertile earth that the seedling, which has sprouted and grown,

is starting its journey to the next stage of growth.

Also, as a student reaches this level, the earth colour acts as a warning to always have respect and awareness for the various skills acquired.

A student who is at this stage must master their skills as well as their emotions and resolve.

Brown/black stripe belt, 1st Kyu

This symbolises the coming together of all the elements and the understanding of having good fertile soil (strong foundations), a constant supply of water (sound instruction) and strong sunlight (strong role models).

A student who is at this stage must now think of how their journey has brought them to this very crucial point before attaining the black belt.

Black belt students

Black belt

The precious and so desired black belt symbolises what is beyond the bright sun, the fertile soil and the constant supply of water.

It is at this stage that a student is considered advanced and can start a journey of passing on their knowledge to others. For most martial artists, this stage is known as kindergarten or the fruit-bearing stage, producing new seeds.

A black belt holder has control over his body, his mind and the skills passed down through the ages. They are still growing and learning more each day.

For those that go beyond this stage, there is another set of levels called ‘Dan levels’ which is considered as advanced instructor rankings (A maturing of the fruit and dropping new seeds to grow).

These are typified by vertical stripes on the black belt that range from 1-7, with levels 8, 9 and 10 usually only being awarded to lifetime masters.


Basic guide to coloured belts in martial arts infographic

No matter what level you are at, there is always room for improvement and growth.

If you are interested in learning and growing in SHIRUDO Hybrid or perhaps continuing to nourish your skills as a martial arts student in a modern, powerful style, then book a free class with SHIRUDO Ultimate Martial Arts gym.

Our philosophy is that no matter your age, sex, ability or nationality, everyone can grow and develop in this truly world class style in a proudly nurturing family environment with internationally acclaimed instructors and coaches.

You can book a free trial or view more of our various classes on offer to see what is right for you.

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