The coloured belt system is prevalent in martial arts. It was created by Dr Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern Judo, but currently, the system is used in Karate, Aikido, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Taekwondo.
The primary purpose of the coloured belts is to symbolise the ranking and progress of a martial arts student. Historically, each student had one belt that was dyed every time they graduated to a new rank. This explains why the shades got darker as the students went up the levels. Currently, a new coloured belt is presented upon promotion to a new rank, while the old belts are kept as trophies.
Here is a quick guide to the different coloured belts in martial arts:
When you begin your journey in martial arts, the white belt will be your first belt. The white colour symbolises a new beginning or birth.
In martial arts, beginners are often called knowledge seekers or seeds. The latter represents their potential.
The symbolism of a seed is a recurrent motif in martial arts. Yellow represents the sun warming the seed, just as an instructor sets the foundation for a beginner.
A yellow belt represents the second level in martial arts.
After the yellow belt, you graduate to the orange belt, the third level in martial arts. The third level is aimed at developing strength and opening up your mind and body to new potential.
The symbolism is drawn from the sun’s warming in preparation for new growth seen in the spring season.
This level of martial arts is for a student to hone their skills and refine their technique.
The colour symbolism still follows the seed as this stage represents the sprouting of a seedling. The emphasis is on exploring a new world of possibilities and breaking from a previous ‘bondage’ (the seed buried in the ground).
After refining new techniques, a student is deemed fit to use their newfound strength to join the rank of the blue belt.
The colour represents the sky. As a plant grows towards the sky, a student must accumulate knowledge and grow on the right path. The blue belt level is about growth, confidence and strength.
This level is a significant transition into advanced level martial arts. While the blue belt represents a clear sky and the bright daylight, purple symbolises the sky’s transition at dawn.
Purple belt students have an understanding of what is needed to gain a black belt. This knowledge marks their transition from intermediate martial arts to advanced level.
Brown is the colour of ripening. This is the last belt before reaching the ultimate level. This is a level of contemplation as students appreciate how far they have come since wearing their white belts.
The belt is a mark of maturity and signifies all the dedication and hard work put into reaching this level of martial arts.
The black belt represents the most advanced level in martial arts, and it’s the pride of every student. However, the colour is a symbol of the darkness that lurks beyond the sun.
Students at this stage can fully control their abilities and have enough knowledge to teach and mentor others.
The red belt is used to denote either a pre-black stage or the grandmaster (the stage after a black belt). It all depends on the specific martial arts. The colour represents the power of the holder and their unlimited abilities.
Martial arts students acquire knowledge and skills through rigorous routine training. Their belts symbolise the level of training and attest to each student’s journey to become a master of their craft.