Sports 101: Color Coding on Belts in Karate


Karate was developed in Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan in the 17th century. The word “karate” is a combination of two Japanese characters: kara, meaning “empty,” and te, meaning “hand.”  It is performed barefoot in loose padded clothing, with a colored belt indicating the level of skill, involving mental as well as physical training.

Color coding on belts in Karate is the ranking system that signifies the achievements of new levels of expertise in Karate.  The system was originally implemented by Dr. Jigoro Kano (1880’s), who was a “Founder of Modern Judo.” Gichin Funakoshi an Okinawan “Founder of Modern Karate” (Shotokan Karate) also adopted this kind of ranking. The said practice was then adopted into other forms of martial art disciplines.

What is the meaning of the colors on the belts?

For beginners, white and yellow are the usual belt color that a student has.

White – The white belt is always given to the new martial art student to signify beginning. White belts are mostly used in martial arts disciplines including karate, taekwondo and judo. White color is the first belt given to student who just entered the world of martial arts.

Yellow – This belt color signify sunlight, a very good way to represent progress of beginners in martial arts. It signifies learning.

Intermediate skill level

Orange – When a student first showcases his or her growth in body and mind, orange belt is the first color given to a student. Just like the sun warms the earth and prepare for spring.

Green – This belt represent growth of the seed that sprouts upward. The seed being the student of martial arts that learns to develop and refine his or her techniques using the foundations and the discipline behind it.

Blue – This belt signifies the growth of the green sprout reaching the sky. Blue is the color of the clouds which the student tries to reach through continuous development.

Advance skill level in martial arts

Purple – The purple color represent dawn, a transition of an intermediate to experienced advanced level students. A symbol of change as the student prepares for the black belt.

Brown – Brown belt is the color that signifies the ripening of the seed. A color the symbolize maturity of the student. The student can now start reaping the benefits of martial arts.

Red – This color of the belt represent the red heat of the sun. A student who has advance skills and abilities in martial arts wears this color. This signifies the danger that a student possess if he or she will use martial arts on wrong doing.

Black – The highest belt color in martial arts, including karate, judo and taekwondo. This signifies the darkness beyond the sun.  A complete opposite of the white belt, black belters are student who have completion and maturity and is also can become an influence to other students.


The highest level belt in karate is black, though there may also be levels of black belt.Within the black belt level, a separate ranking system breaks down mastery into degrees, or levels of achievement.


“Karate is a lifetime study.” – Kenwa Mabuni


This post is brought to you by Afterschool AE, the one and only source of after school program providers in United Arab Emirates.

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