The Colour grading in Martial Arts
I do not know a single 'advanced' Tai Chi practitioner who is
not most happy to study again and again what we all together
call "the basics". These are the people who have come
to understand the implications of 'mastering the art' and (without
exception) understand that certain things, such as teaching
that art to any willing to listen and learn, is expected from
From student to teacher, from impetuous to circumspect, from
taking to giving and from war to peace, this is the objective
of Martial Arts training and those that do not fully understand
this follow a short path with no reward other that egotism
and selfishness awaiting.
One of the golden rules/philosophical roots of Tai Chi is
to 'be like water and constantly seek the lowest point via
the way of least resistance'. This must be firmly understood,
appreciated and accepted to permit and then encourage an attitude
of first 'non-attainment' and then later 'no-mind'. This is
all achieved ONLY with diligent and repetitive practice and
(surely you understand by now!) never completed. Those that
find fault in this system or 'culture' are those who hold
on to an attitude of superiority that should not/cannot be
tolerated or endorsed as Budo or True Martial Art.
Black and White
The thickest part of the white section of the yin yang symbol
represents maximum yang. Let us say for now that in terms
of the natural cycle of day and night, maximum yang is when
the sun is at its highest in the sky and at its hottest and
brightest. Furthermore this theoretical representation operates
on the micro and macroscopic level and the thickest white
(maximum yang) may represent mid summer and the thickest black,
mid winter … and so on and up to being born (minimum
yang), adolescence and maturity (maxim yang) through to middle
age (medium yin), old age (retirement) and then death (maximum
yin). It is worth noting now that when we are born we need
to be cared for and fed and then at old age we return to that
sort of condition again, just as sure as day follows night
and winter follow summer (or vice versa, depending upon which
way you look at it!).
When a person begins martial art they are assumed to be a
white belt i.e. at least yang if not maximum yang. In other
words, like a person in the mid day sun they are hot, agitated
and perhaps impetuous. As training continues they graduate
through coloured belts until they ultimately attain black
belt status. By then they are, as a consequence of proper
training considerably more yin; inward, cool and calm.
It so happens that if laid out martial arts belts in the
order that they awarded - and if you could then - just like
you can do with a TV or monitor screen, turn the colour down
or convert to greyscale, the belts would show up as black
to white with the grey in between all in the correct gradients.
But of course, this is just a coincidence that today's technology
may render to us. The reason for this order or sequence of
colours is far more organic.
The Obi (belt)
A (Belt) is normally used to distinguish different grades
in the Martial Arts. Two metres long, wrapped twice around
the jacket. Five centimetres wide and made of several layers
of cotton stitched closely together to make it strong and
With no colour and in the 'raw' state at the completion of
the production process this material is creamy white. This
is the colour of the martial artist's first "GE"
or uniform (the standard judo/karate type 'suit') - including
the belt. This 'new' belt was, in days of old, the ONLY belt
that a martial artist would ever pocess.
If the practitioner practiced a lot or for a long time he/she
might treat themselves to a new white ge now and again but,
at least in days of old, the same original belt would be used.
To show progression in training and to avoid a miss-match
in sparing or competition the belt would be dyed with of course
(days of old!) natural dyes and colour extracted from nature
were used. The easiest colour to first change white too by
this 'natural' or organic method is Yellow.
Today the most common grading system, using coloured belts,
is called the Dankyu system. Coloured grades outside of Japan
are normally in the ascending order of:
White - 6th Kyu
Yellow - 5th Kyu
Orange - 4th Kyu
Green - 3rd Kyu
Blue - 2nd Kyu
Brown - 1st Kyu
Black Belt - 1st Dan.
White Belt - signifies "innocence".
Yellow & Orange Belt - signifies "the earth from
which the "plant" (meaning student) takes root".
Green Belt - signifies "growth".
Blue Belt - signifies "towards the heaven".
Brown Belt - signifies "danger".
Black Belt - signifies "the persons skill and mastery
White to Yellow - 3 months or 25 hours training.
Yellow to Orange - 6 months or 100 hours training.
Orange to Green - 9 months or 150 hours training.
Green to Blue - 12 months or 200 hours training.
Blue to Brown - 18 months or 300 hours training.
Brown to Black Belt or 1st Dan grade - 30 months or 900 hours
A student that has successfully progressed through the Kyu
grades then may enter the Dan grades.
Whist a Black Belt signifies "the persons skill and
mastery over fear" the honerable student will understand
that it means only that and that he/she is now considered
as simply ready to improve and perfect skills.
Essentially the awarding of a black belt signifies that the
student is ready to BEGIN a wider study on through the Dan
grades from 1 too 10 as follows:
1st To 2nd Dan grade - 2 years
2nd to 3rd Dan grade - 3 years.
3rd to 4th Dan grade - 4 years.
4th to 5th Dan grade - 5 years.
1st Dan - corresponds to that of the "student".
2nd Dan - corresponds to the title of "disciple".
3rd Dan - corresponds to the title of "confirmed disciple".
4th Dan - corresponds to the title of "expert".
5th and 6th Dan - corresponds to the title of "spiritual
7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Dan correspond to the title of "specialized
1st. Dan to 5th. Dan would wear a plain Black Belt.
6th., 7th., 8th. Dan would wear a Red and White Belt.
9th. Dan wear a Red and Black Belt.
10th. Dan wear a plain Red Belt.
The higher the grade the longer it takes in time to reach
the required level. The pattern is that it becomes the same
number of years as for the next grade to be reached i.e. to
reach an 8th Dan from a 7th Dan would take approximately (another)
Only 9th & 10th Dan grades are entitled to hold the title
of "Master". The highest Dan grade is usually reserved
for the founder of a school or style. Some Masters wear a
White Belt - indicating that they have come a full circle.
Rank structures differ from country to country. Japanese
schools usually have fewer grades than European schools. According
to the style, association etc. the grade colours may vary.
A colored belt awarded in one school or system cannot be compared
with that earned in another style or association. In some
styles belts are awarded solely through competition - winners
get promoted, losers are not. In other systems promotion is
achieved by demonstration of technical skill or through formal
examinations. Another reason why the colours of the belt follow
the above order is the fact that each colour can be dyed into
the next colour, hence a student can retain their original
belt for many years.