Every mainstream form of martial arts operates on a series of colored belts to determine class ranking and skill. You’ve probably even seen them shown in popular films and media. But what exactly do they represent? This month, we’re diving into the true purpose of martial arts belt colors and why they are so sacred to traditional martial arts.
History of Colored Belts
There are many myths and legends pertaining to the colored belt system. Stories range from the belt darkening over time as the student sweats and bleeds throughout his/her journey to skill mastery, to the belt never being washed as a sign of respect for the knowledge gained throughout the student’s journey.
The Meaning of Martial Arts Belt Colors
The truth, however, is a bit more whimsical than that. Rankings and meanings are listed accordingly:
1. White Belt
White represents the start of one’s journey into martial arts. It is clean, innocent, a mere seed that aptly absorbs anything that comes in contact with it; thus, a white-belted student is such.
2. Yellow Belt
Yellow captures the moment a martial arts student in training begins to “see the light” of his/her Sensei’s teachings. It is considered a rebirth of the soul as the student opens himself/herself up to new ways of thinking.
3. Orange Belt
Orange represents the burgeoning strength found at the center of the sun. In this case, as a student’s knowledge grows, his/her capabilities become enriched.
4. Green Belt
Green signifies the union of the seed (white belt) and the power of the sun (orange belt), thus helping the student blossom into a self-sustaining sprout of knowledge and growing proficiency with his/her skills.
5. Blue Belt
Blue represents the finish line of sorts for the green-belted sprout to aspire to. As the student continues to learn and master his/her skill, he/she reaches up to touch the blue sky, growing fervently as he/she progresses.
6. Purple Belt
Just as the sun sets each night, giving way for night to cast a new theme over the earth, purple signifies a student’s maturation of skill. It ultimately serves as a bridge to understanding the qualities that an advanced student possesses.
7. Brown Belt
Brown showcases the rounded journey of the student from seed (white belt) to growth (green belt) and ultimately maturation (purple belt). It is here where a student begins to reap the fruit of his/her labors earned through previous belts.
8. Red Belt
Moving back to the sun metaphor, red represents the hottest portions of the sun. In this stage, a student learns how dangerous his/her skills can be to opponents. In Aikido, he/she learns how to control these skills in a way that does not bring complete devastation to adversaries unless necessary.
9. Black Belt
Finally, the black belt represents a student’s exodus away from the unwavering power of the sun. It is in this last phase that a student reaches complete understanding of his/her martial art, thus signifying the graduation from pupil to master. At this point, a black belt will either continue his/her martial arts journey elsewhere, seeking further enlightenment, or cultivate white-belted seeds of his/her own.