The Tradition that Brought about the Color Belt Ranks in Karate




A dedicated advocate for the community, Benjamin Perlin currently works at Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, a shop that sells recycled furniture and construction materials for affordable prices. Outside of work, Benjamin Perlin is a karate practitioner and is currently a candidate for black belt.

Today’s students of karate are ranked according to the color of their belts. The ranking system consists of different levels for kyu (color belts) and dan (black belt). While karate itself is an old art form, the belt ranking system only came into existence as recently as early 20th century.

How were the color of the belts decided? According to speculative tradition, the belt colors originated from a peculiar habit of washing the training clothes except for the belt. Hence, from a white color, the cloth belt would then undergo several degrees of color changes as the training progressed. First, it turned into yellow, then into greenish yellow-brown. Further soiling of the cloth resulted to it becoming brown and finally, black. This tradition eventually became the source of the formalized tradition of the color belt ranks.

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