We've talked about why we bother using a belt system but what does each individual belt mean? Believe it or not there is a reason for the colours in most belt systems.
History states that the order of the belts were based simply on colour. Back when belts were first introduced, heavily saturated colours were more expensive and valuable than colours like white or yellow. This is why, more often than not, white, yellow, and orange are typically seen at the beginning while red and brown are more often seen closer to black belt. The more saturated the colour was, the more valuable it was and thus, the higher in the ranking system it was placed. In this sense the rank order would be as follows but may change slightly from school to school and may have slight variations in colour (i.e. a black stripe down the middle)
Looking beyond why the belts are placed in the order they are placed in, there are meanings to each basic colour of the belt system.
WHITE - Symbolizes new birth. Every new martial
arts student begins at white belt. This is the
beginning. A new comer, starting a new path in life.
YELLOW - First rays of sunlight. This student has begun to learn the basic moves in martial arts and is just beginning to grow.
ORANGE - The growing strength of the sun. As a student begins to learn more in the martial arts, their knowledge and understanding grow stronger each lesson.
GREEN - Growth. In the spring time everything begins to go green again as it grows. The same applies to karate students. A green belt is meant to signify the growth and progress a student has made in their journey.
BLUE - Sky and water. These two things are vital to any living thing. Blue belt is when students begin to expand their knowledge beyond basic blocks and stakes. They begin to learn and understand more philosophy, more about how their bodies work for them, and they begin to see the deeper meaning behind martial arts.
PURPLE - New dawn. This belt represents a student who is beginning to near the advanced stages of their training. These students will soon be on a closer, more serious path to black belt.
BROWN - Ripening. Brown belt represents the maturity of a student. These students have realized the efforts and lessons that were put forward in their beginner stages of training. Those techniques are becoming second nature as each student continues their karate journey.
RED - Symbolizes the red-hot strength of the sun. It also symbolizes danger. These students have begun to set their sights on becoming black belts. Their knowledge and skills can be dangerous if tested and they have spent their journey training, growing, and understanding their lessons, skills and applications.
BLACK - Darkness beyond the sun. Not meant in a negative way. These students have reached what most assume is the end of the journey. It is just the beginning. Black belt symbolizes the basic understanding of martial arts. These students should seek a deeper understanding of the teachings of karate. There is more to be learned and gained on this journey. Often, at this rank, students begin to pass down things they have been taught to help others achieve similar goals a black belt student once had themselves.
While order and colours may vary from dojo to dojo, the philosophy remains the same. Belts were never around when karate started however, when they were introduced, they were introduced with purpose and it is important we understand the significance of our belts. Not just where they hold us on the ranking scale.