Karate Belt Order: All 9 Most Common Belt Ranks In Order

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Karate is a historic martial art that signifies a student’s development by color levels that go in a particular order.

Most modern Karate schools in the Western world will use nine belt colors taking a student from complete beginner (white) to a master (red) in this order:

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

To learn more specifics about how a student will earn each color…

AND how the many different Karate styles could change the requirements to earn them, keep reading to get the Karate belts in order.

White belt

Karate white belt

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

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

In your white belt level, you’ll learn basic Karate strikes like punches and kicks and the five fundamental Karate stances.

Almost every Karate style starts with white, like in most other martial arts that have a colored belt system.

White belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Wado Ryu: There is no white belt in this style!

Yellow belt

Karate yellow belt

Yellow belt symbolizes the first ray of the sun, where the student’s mind is now open and receptive to new learnings in the Karate system.

Adults often need to have at least 3 months of consistent study as white belt to be a candidate for the yellow belt.

Some Karate schools will make 36 hours of training necessary to get the promotion, too.

To successfully acquire the yellow belt, you’ll need to pass a grading test where you’ll show your improvements alongside other white belts who are attempting a promotion.

The group grading test is a common part of levelling up in Karate and something to expect for each new belt color.

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

Yellow belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Shorin Ryu: To earn Yellow belt, students must first have earned their yellow stripes during the white belt level.
  • Wado Ryu: New students start at the Yellow belt (instead of white) for this style.
  • Goju Ryu: Belt has three levels before progressing to the next color.

Orange belt

Karate orange belt

The orange belt embodies the growing strength of the sun where students are expected to have become better educated past the basics of the previous belts.

Adults should expect to have studied Karate for 6 months of continuous training to be considered for this promotion.

You must master at least ten Karate self-defense moves to pass the orange belt promotion test.

Some of these Karate moves will likely be the palm strikes and forearm strikes among a few others.

You could be tested on your defensive strikes against an attacker to show that you can keep composure and respond intelligently.

Inside the orange belt you’ll be opened to more complex combinations and basic takedowns and throws that make Karate so unique.

You might also be subject to more regular sparring as your confidence grows and you show proficiency for applying your techniques.

Orange belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Goju Ryu: There is no orange belt in this style!
  • Chito Ryu: This style has two levels to progress in this color.

Green belt

Karate green belt

The green belt signifies that the student has survived the sun’s wrath and is now ready for a new level of teachings.

To be deserving of a green belt, you must train as an orange belt for at least 6 months and show progress in moves and stances once again in a promotion test.

You must display confidence and excellent decision-making skills regarding your choice of stances and defensive strikes you use in different scenarios.

Upon being a green belt, you will now further sharpen your striking skills and senses during regular sparring and drilling of more advanced techniques.

You will also begin to learn more of the grappling, grabs, and partial-Judo-wrestling parts of Karate.

Green belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Goju Ryu: Belt has three levels before progressing to the next color.
  • Chito Ryu: This style has two levels to progress in this color.

Blue belt

Karate blue belt

The blue belt embodies the sky. Blue belts need to have extensive deep knowledge of the strikes, stances, skills and their variations.

They are expected to show extraordinary self-control and dominance in sparring and competitions as these both become far more regular.

An average of 9 months of training during the green belt is needed to reach blue.

During your time as a blue belt, you will be observed much more closely by your sensei.

At this level, you are expected to make your Karate training a part of your daily life—using time at home to practice and deepen your understanding.

Blue belt is all about reaching for the sky and investing time into study to progress further.

Blue belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Goju Ryu: There is no blue belt in this style!
  • Chito Ryu: This style has two levels to progress in this color.

Purple belt

Karate purple belt

Purple belts are expected to have mastery over almost every Karate strike, throw, stance, and skill.

Not only that, but have a greater level of understanding of not simply how to throw a strike, but also when, why and its purpose.

Your sparring IQ and Karate knowledge will be put to the test at this level considerably more than before.

At least 9 months of training and dedication are needed as a blue belt to be considered for this promotion to purple.

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

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 places a firm stance in the sand that you are now an advanced Karate practitioner.

In the purple belt stage, you will learn advanced footwork and more dangerous Karate methods now that you are respected to do so safely.

Purple belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Kyokushin: There is no purple belt, instead each belt has two levels represented by vertical stripes of your next belt color you are progressing to earn.
  • Goju Ryu: There is no purple belt in this style!
  • Chito Ryu: This style has two levels to progress in this color.

Brown belt

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 and will be challenged considerably to display this ability.

It could take 1 year/12 months or more as a purple belt to have the potential for promoting to brown.

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

Brown belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Shorin Ryu: There are three brown belts within this style.
  • Goju Ryu: Belt has three levels before progressing to the next color.
  • Shuri Ryu: This style has two brown belt levels.
  • Chito Ryu: This style has three levels to progress in this color.

Black belt

Karate black belt

The black belt is a symbol of new beginnings in a whole new level.

To get to a black belt, you must show massive dedication and humbleness to learn from your master.

It could take as long as 1-2 years as a brown belt to reach the promotion to black. For some students, it could take much longer.

Being a black belt corresponds with new responsibilities to yourself, your Karate practice, to your dojo/master and to your fellow students.

When you reach black belt, you effectively become an additional instructor as you have earned the capacity to teach lower belt ranks.

The black belt is also where “dans” are introduced—which means step or stage in Japanese.

Dans are individual Karate belt levels within each belt itself, which typically go from 1st dan up to 10th dan.

The dans can be represented by different colored stripes, which may include gold, white, red, and even blue—each Karate style could offer differences in how they are applied.

Every dan could require an additional year of study to earn the next level.

Black belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Shotokan: The student must pass three different brown belts to earn the black belt, which is also the highest rank (no red belt).
  • Shorin Ryu: Like Shotokan, students must pass three brown belt levels to earn black.
  • Kyokushin: Black belt is the final belt color and has 10 ‘dan’ levels (1st to 10th) and each is represented by a golden stripe on the belt.
  • Wado Ryu: Like Shotokan & Shorin Ryu, there are three brown belt levels, represented by stripes.

Red belt

Karate red belt

The red belt is the highest level of elevation that a Karate martial artist could aspire to.

Depending on the system of Karate, 9th dan and 10th dan (after black) could be represented by the red belt along with additional stripes.

Some say that the 9th dan is up to 9 years of Karate study, while the 10th dan requires up to 10 years of study.

Red belts have reached the peak of understanding in their Karate form.

They will be respected by their peers and belt holders below them, often being significantly involved in the training of younger students.

Red belt differences in Karate styles:

  • Kyokushin: There is no red belt, instead each belt has two levels represented by vertical stripes.
  • Shuri Ryu: There is no red belt within this style!

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