White is the symbol of purity, at least in the English and Japanese based cultures. The new white belt student might be
described as pure, being completely ignorant of the requirements of the art. The purity is lost as soon as the first exercise
is performed in the dojo. The pristine colour is gone forever through sweat and dust, and the journey through the colour
spectrum begins. There
is no shame in being a white belt and the instructor, more than the others, is aware of this
because he or she too was one once. In the Honbu dojo in Japan, while under Mas Oyama, the tradition was that
uchi-deshi (live-in or full-time students) white belts would shave their heads as a sign of their dedication. The third year
uchi-deshi, newly graduated black belts, also did this to indicate humility, symbolizing the return to the spirit of a beginner.

Red - Stability

In some countries or dojos, the red belt is not used. For a while, in Japan the white belt gains first one black stripe, then a
second one. Currently (1997) the system for the IKO(1) is an orange belt. The reason for the change is that in some karate
systems, the red belt actually denotes a very high rank e.g. 5th dan or higher, and to have junior kohai wearing such a belt
would belittle those red-belted yudansha. In the run-up to and throughout the red belt training, you develop the very
basics of karate. You unlearn any ideas you had about how to fight, and you learn about your body. (Anyone who has
been through this stage will tell you that this is where they learnt their body had muscles where they didn't even know they
had places!) It is here too that you begin to develop a sense of balance and coordination between the various body parts,
with an emphasis on stance. Dojo etiquette is also learnt at this stage.

Blue - Fluidity and Adaptability

While the red belt aspects of training must be continued, now the karate-ka begins to work on the upper body, strength,
flexibility, and coordination. It is here that you learn to overcome the urge to "Take it easy", and if successful, training
becomes a pleasure. The student begins to feel the benefits of training with an increased sense of well-being, a bigger
bounce in ones step, and overall better fitness. Here the karate-ka must start taking control of mind and body. This might
take the form of not showing the pain of being hit during sparring, not showing exhaustion during training, not wiping the
drop of sweat of ones nose because one hasn't yet been told to, not yawning despite extreme tiredness etc...

Yellow - Assercion

Here you learn to focus your power, by concentrating it on the hara (the general area of the lower abdomen) or even the
tanden (the single point in the lower abdomen that more or less is located at the centre of gravity of the body). Fortunately
for most of us, this point is just behind where we tie the knot of our belts. This is the first level where training begins to
concentrate the psychological aspects of training, with an emphasis on mind-body coordination. It is here that the
karate-ka must begin to develop both power and speed when performing techniques. The yellow belt is the last of the "raw
beginner's" belts and the karate-ka begins to take control of his or her life. body, and environment.

Green - Emotion and Sensitivity

Green belt level is the stepping off point, the first level of the senior colours. With the concentration now centered at the
heart, the karate-ka is more aware of his unique discriminating intelligence and the importance of benevolence and
The green belt learns to accept others for what they are by being aware that in relation to all things, there is more to it than
meets the eye. The green belt realizes that power without wisdom and compassion is destructive, dangerous and callous.
Sosai states: 'Strength without justice is violence; justice without strength is impotence.

Brown - Practice and Creativity

By now, one should be very strong and very comfortable in the execution of all techniques, while continuing to strive to
achieve ever higher levels of skill. In sparring, the ability to control a junior opponent through timing, distance control and
sensitivity, should be highly developed.
The brown belt strengthens his faith and resolve in his own path by studying the paths of others, taking note of their strong
and weak points and adjusting his own attitudes accordingly.


The step from brown belt to black belt is the most important in the life of the
karate-ka. Practice in techniques should now be for the purpose of fine tuning. Black, like white, occurs rarely in nature
and is often not regarded as a colour as such. This is the colour of spirit.
Black is the colour of strength. The black belt is the strongest of all karate-ka, and no coloured belt can cover him. Like
the white belt that gradually became black, his black belt slowly fades, becomes frayed at the edges, and turns white
again. Thus, the circle is inevitably complete; the master becomes the student once more.