Karate Belt Order & Ranking System EXPLAINED (9 Belts)

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Karate is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. Mastering it requires you to pass certain levels signified by belt color.

These can be different between kids and adults, but here are the standard Karate belt colors in order:

  1. White
  2. Yellow
  3. Orange
  4. Green
  5. Blue
  6. Purple
  7. Brown
  8. Black
  9. Red

This is the most common Karate belt order you’ll find in modern schools.

The typical belt order for Karate is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, black, and red. This is in ascending order, meaning a white belt is the lowest, and a red belt is the highest level you can achieve as a Karate martial artist.

These belt colors demand numerous requirements before you achieve them. To dive deeper, below is an extensive explanation of each color. Let’s go!

Karate belt colors in order

There is a wide variety of Karate styles made popular by different Karate masters as time passed. Some dojos have also made their own unique color order.

In this section, we will discuss the universal (most commonly used) color order of Karate belts.

White Belt

Karate martial artist wearing a white belt

White belt is believed to signify “The birth of new life”. This is the starting point of your Karate journey.

There’s no specific requirement to reach this rank, all you just need is to enroll and you’ll automatically receive a white belt. 

In your white belt stage, you will learn how to do proper, basic Karate moves like punches and kicks. The five basic Karate stances will also get introduced to you. 

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It’s okay to fail; remember, all black and red belts were once a white belt, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

Yellow Belt

Karate martial artist wearing a yellow belt

Yellow belt symbolizes the first ray of the sun. This means that the student’s mind is now open to new learnings in Karate

It takes at least 3 months of consistent training as a white belt, to be a candidate for yellow belt promotion (for adults). Some require a 36-hour log-in time in the Dojo.

To successfully acquire a yellow belt, you need to undergo and pass a grading test where you need to show your improvements along with your fellow white belts. 

To pass the promotion, you must have a good grasp of how to perform the basic stance, and how to execute basic punches and kicks. 

Orange Belt

Karate martial artist wearing an orange belt

The orange belt embodies the growing strength of the sun. This means that the students have improved to perform a more advanced move set than yellow belts.

It takes at least six additional months of continuous training to be considered for promotion.

You must master at least ten Karate self-defense moves to pass the orange belt promotion test. These moves can be Palm strikes, Forearm strikes, and more. 

After becoming a fully-fledged orange belt, you will be introduced to more complex attack combinations. In this stage, you will also start to learn takedowns and basic throws. 

Green Belt

Karate martial artist wearing a green belt

The green belt signifies that the student has survived the sun’s wrath and is now subjected to a new level of improvement.

To be deserving of a green belt, you must train as an orange belt for at least six months. You must show progress in applying certain moves. 

A promotion test is also required. Here, your sensei needs to see that you’re fully aware of what’s happening during a match.

You must elicit confidence and excellent decision-making skills regarding how to act in different situations.

Upon being a green belt, you will now further sharpen your striking skills and senses during a match.

You will also begin to learn the grappling and wrestling part that’s incorporated with Karate.

Blue Belt

Female Karate martial artist wearing a blue belt

The blue belt embodies the sky. Blue belts need to have extensive knowledge of what they already know.

They are expected to show extraordinary self-control and dominance in sparring and competitions.

An average of 9 months of training, while being a green belt, is needed to be a blue belt.

During your time as a blue belt, you will be observed by your seniors and sensei. They will be the ones to decide if you’re ready to join the promotion ceremony or not. 

Here, all your improvements will not mainly come from the gym. It’s up to you to continue honing your skills at home.

Blue belt is all about self-discipline and how you push yourself to improve.

Purple Belt

Karate martial artist wearing a purple belt

Purple belts are expected to master every single move, not only how to throw it but also when, how, and the purpose of a particular strike.

Your fighting IQ and Karate knowledge will be put to the test at this level. At least nine months of training and dedication are needed as a blue belt to be considered for this promotion.

As a purple belt, you must have an in-depth understanding of the art of Karate, not just on its combat aspect.

You must know how to properly move and use your body type for Karate to make opportunities for your strikes to land. 

A purple belt marks your transition from intermediate to advanced.

In the purple belt stage, you will learn advanced foot works, and at the same time; you will also try to get better at what you already know as a martial artist

Brown Belt

A Karate brown belt

Brown belt symbolizes that the martial artist born as a white belt has now entered full maturity both physically and mentally.

A brown belt is expected to have a larger understanding of fighting a resisting opponent. One year of training as a purple belt is needed to be subjected for a promotion.

Brown belts are now considered as advanced Karate martial artists.

As a preparation for the black belt transition, further improvement of overall mental and physical skill will be done at this level. 

Black Belt

Female Karate martial artist wearing a black belt

The black belt is a symbol of a brand new start. To be a black belt, you must be ready to embark on a new journey of a new understanding of the teachings of Karate.

An average of 1.5 years of training as a brown belt is needed to become a black belt. But it could take a lot longer for some.

Being a black belt corresponds to new responsibilities to yourself and other Karate martial artists.

Once you turn into a black belt, you can share the knowledge you have with lower-ranked students.

Dans which distinguish the levels of the black belts are introduced here. First to fifth dan black belts are colored solid black.

Once you reach the 6th to 8th dan, the belt will have alternating black and white patterns.

Each of these dans could be an extra year of consistent training to earn them.

At this belt level, you probably have a bunch of old karate belts that you can upcycle or display proudly on your wall to show your progression.

Red Belt

Karate martial artist wearing a red belt

The red belt is the highest level of elevation that a Karate martial artist could ever reach. The red belt is divided into the 9th dan and 10th dan.

9th dan needs nine long years of training in Karate to earn it. On the other hand, the 10th and final dan require ten years of training to be earned. 

Red belts have reached the peak of understanding of the art of Karate. They can teach effectively to beginners as well as advanced martial artists. 

Differences from other Karate styles

Two Karate martial artists sparring

Karate is not just a martial art by itself; it has a collection of unique styles. These specific styles have their belt color progression that they follow. They also use various techniques that are far different from one another. 

Shotokan

Shotokan Karate’s belt system closely resembles the standard order discussed above. The only difference is the brown and red belts. To reach a black belt, you must pass three brown belt ranks. Instead of the red belt, the black belt is the highest rank. 

Kyokushin

Kyokushin also shares the same color and order but without the purple and red belt. Here, each belt has two levels that’ll be represented by vertical stripes.

For example, once you reach the orange belt, your next belt will still be orange but with a vertical blue stripe. These colored stripes signify your next belt color, which is blue. 

In the case of black belts, the 1st to 10th dan will be represented by vertical golden stripes. One stripe for 1st dan, two stripes for 2nd dan, and so on.

An interesting fact about Kyokushin: It was recently used in a research study to find out more about the relationship between mindfulness practices and the psychological state of Kyokushin Karate athletes.

Shorin Ryu

The Shorin Ryu belt system is a slight combination of Kyokushin and Shotokan. For a white belt to be a yellow belt, they must first obtain a white belt with yellow stripes. Like Shotokan, the brown belt has three levels to surpass before transitioning to the black belt.

Aside from that, other belt colors work the same with the standard order and progression. 

Wado Ryu

What makes Wado Ryu different from other styles’ belt progression is the lack of a white belt. Here, rookies start with a yellow belt. Their brown belt system is similar to Shotokan and Shorin Ryu. Each of the three brown belt levels are represented by a stripe. 

Goju Ryu

Goju Ryu has the least belt colors but has the most extended progression per belt. You will only need to pass the white, yellow, green, and brown belt to reach the black belt’s highest rank. Except for the black belt, every succeeding belt after white will have three levels.

Uechi Ryu

Uechi Ryu’s belt order is one white belt, two red, yellow, and purple belts, three blue and green belts, and four brown belts. After passing all that, you will get a black belt with one horizontal stripe in the middle. 

Shuri Ryu

Shuri Ryu shares almost the same belt order with the standard style but without the red belt. The brown belt has two levels of progression.

Chito Ryu

In Chito Ryu, after the white and yellow belt, the orange to the purple belt will have two respective levels to be surpassed.

Brown belt has three levels while black belt works as usual with its dan progression.

Common questions about Karate belt colors

A collection of Karate belt colors

This topic might bring up plenty of questions, so I’ve put together some answers to some of the most common ones below:

Is it possible to skip the first few belts in Karate?

Skipping the first few belts in Karate is impossible. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Tae Kwon Do black belt or a top-level MMA fighter; you’ll have to work your way up with other white belt beginners.

Money or power cannot buy progress in Karate. The first belts are crucial for one Karate martial artist because they teach the style’s fundamentals. Imagine being a brown belt without any knowledge of the fundamentals. 

How hard is it to get a brown belt in Karate?

It will take you more than a year or even more to get a brown belt, depending on your progress as a martial artist. The Karate style you’re in will also be a factor because some styles, such as Goju Ryu, have three-level progression before upgrading to a new one.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a brown belt; each belt ranking has the word hard along the process. Remember, nothing great will come easy in life. 

What comes after a black belt in Karate?

Based on Karate’s standard belt progression, the red belt will come after the black belt. However, most Karate styles have a black belt as the highest rank. After reaching it, you will have to rank several degrees of black belt.

These degrees are often symbolized by gold or white stripes placed vertically on a black belt. Black belt degree starts from 1st dan to 10th dan.

How many belts are in Shotokan Karate?

Shotokan Karate has seven belts in total. These are white, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown, and black.

How many belts are there in Karate?

In most Karate schools, there are nine belts each student can advance in to reach the pinnacle of mastering this martial art. It can take up to ten years to master all nine belts.

What is the order of belts in Karate?

The order of belts in Karate starts with white, then progresses to yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, black, and finally, red. The red belt is for those that have mastered all aspects of Karate.

How long does it take to get a red belt in Karate?

It can take as long as ten years for most adults to reach the red belt from a reputable school.

Many Karate schools have become less strict over the years, and the popularity of the art has increased. A school that awards you a red belt in less than seven years is very likely not very reputable in its expertise.

Final say on Karate belts order

So there you have it, the Karate belts usually go in order beginning with white and reaching red for adults.

Schools with a good reputation and high bar could take as much as ten years to complete!

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