If you’ve ever wondered about the different colored belts in the martial arts here are some answers that may interest you.

The belts you see today being worn by students of the martial arts were not always common practice. History tells us that Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo in the early 1900’s is credited for instituting the ranking system commonly used today. Master Kano believed that a visual reminder of the students progress in training would be beneficial and could also indicate the hierarchy within the Judo club or dojo.

In the early years, students were either a white belt or a black belt with no other ranking in between. There was a myth, that a student would start with a white belt and wear it until it just became so dirty and filthy it appeared black. This is a myth and not based on any reality that we know of. Can you imagine how disgusting and smelly a belt would be if worn for years without cleaning?
As martial arts styles progressed and became more publically accessible, schools changed with the times. People like to see progression and advancement in rank to make them feel like they are achieving success in their training and to know that they are doing things right.

The range of colored rank belts will vary depending on not only the style you are studying but also the age group you fall into. Some styles are very stringent in awarding rank and keep the amount of belts awarded to about 5. In most styles, if you are consistent with your training and work hard you can achieve a black belt in about 5 years so that would be 5 belts throughout your training. In some styles there can be as many as 3 belts per year awarded so you can do the math and figure that there would be many more rank colors for that school.

The awarding of “stripes” on each colored belt is usually an indication of progress made while wearing that belt and also indicates how close that student is to moving up to a new rank. Some traditionalists scoff at having so many different rank colors and stripes.

For me, I believe that colored belts are a good thing in today’s world as most people find value in knowing they are achieving their goals and if giving them a new belt or stripe occasionally helps to keep them motivated that is always a good thing. Kids especially find advancing in rank important and normally they need far more time to train and mature before reaching black belt so having enough rank colors to move a child from a kids classes into adult classes in a very smart idea.

My personal belief is that it is important to have age appropriate training, kids that are 4 through 6 should not necessarily be training with kids that are 7 – 12 while some older kids may not be mature enough yet to train with adults even if they may look like they would fit in with them. A good instructor will make sure your child is training in the appropriate age group for them and the ranking system is usually going to be different for every age progression.

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