An “obi” is a karate belt that’s tied around the “gi” (or dogi) of a karate practitioner. The obi, which is usually made from thick cotton, signifies the level of skill of the wearer.
A common legend surrounds the origin of karate belts. Many believe that martial artists practitioners began their training with a white belt. However, the belt eventually became black due to all the sweat and dirt from years of practice. This is not true according to our dojo. This story is not supported by any evidence. Given the high standards of cleanliness and hygiene at all karate dojos we have seen, students who show up wearing dirty uniforms would likely be refused entry. This logic also applies to not washing your karate belt.
We believe in a different version of the story. According to Japanese legend, Dr. Jigorokano was the inventor of the colored belt system. It was a way to measure student progress. He awarded the first “black belts” in 1880. Gichin Funakoshi (an Okinawan man who founded Shotokan Karate) adopted the Judo belt ranking system from Dr. Jigoro Kano. Evidence is abundant that they were at most acquaintances, if certainly friends.
Masutatsu Okinawan Karate was practiced by Masutatsu Okinawan Karate. He then adopted a belt system to Kyokushin Karate.
Shinkyokushin Karate Belt System (New Kyokushin Belt System)
Shinkyokushin follows the 10 kyu “levels” system. There are six belt colors available: the white, orange, blue, yellow, green, brown, and black belts. To indicate progress, all belts can have dashes except the white one. Below is a list of all the karate belts.
White Belt (Mukyu No Kyu) This is a beginner’s belt that shows no progress. White is the color of purity and innocence in Japanese and English cultures. The white belt serves two purposes: it holds the gi (karate costume) together, and it teaches the student how to tie and wear a belt in karate.
Orange Belt, X Kyu This is the first karate belt a student gets after passing an examination. This belt is awarded to a student who has made significant progress in karate. The student must have learned Kyokushinkai and dojo etiquette. They also need to know how to properly fold the karate-gi. A student must demonstrate basic stances, strikes and defenses as well as kicks. The student should learn basic karate skills, and discard any previous ideas about fighting.
Orange Belt with Black Dash (IX KYU) This is the second Shinkyokushin Karate belt. Students are expected to show improvement in their body awareness, coordination, balance, and patience. Students are required to know the history of Kyokushinkai- Shinkyokushinkai, and be able to demonstrate various stances. At this level, basic kata taikyoku ichi is introduced and taikyoku ni is introduced.
Blue Belt, VIII Kyu – This belt is third in Shinkyokushin Karate. Students are expected to keep learning the basics from their orange belt training and learn new concepts and movements. Students at this level are expected to improve their upper body strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. This level is where karate practitioners learn to control their bodies and minds. The examination requires a variety of stances, strikes and defenses as well as kicks and kata. Kumite (friendly fighting/sparring), is also required.
Advanced Blue Belt with Dash (VII Kyu). This level is for students who have made significant improvements in their ability to control their bodies and minds. This is usually manifested in students’ unwillingness to compromise and the desire to train hard despite exhaustion. It is also possible to breathe “Ibuki”
Yellow belt (VI Kyu), – Shinkyokushin’s yellow belt is for students who have demonstrated great potential to improve their training and have a solid grasp of the principles of karate. The yellow belt is where the emphasis shifts slightly to the psychological aspects of training and a lot of attention is given to harmony of mind and physique. This means that coordination is given a lot of importance. Multiple strikes are introduced: uraken shomen, uraken sayu, uraken hizo, uraken oroshi, uraken mawashi, nihon nukite, and yuhon nukite. A pinan sono ni kata, which is also used in conjunction with the gedan Mawashi geri Kick – the low roundhouse kick, has been introduced.
Yellow belt with dash (V Kyu). The advanced level of Shinkyokushin Shinkyokushin Shinkyokushin requires the ability to do one-handed pushups as well as the moro ashi dachi, which is a more advanced position. The yellow belt is often considered the last beginner belt. Its wearers should begin to apply their new knowledge to their environment and show their control over their bodies.
Green Belt, IV Kyu – The traditional roundhouse kick (jodanmawashi geri), and new strikes such as shuto sukitsu, shuto umi komi and shuto hizizo are some of the highlights of Shinkyokushin Karate’s green belt. The physical requirements for the sahchin no kata are increased. This level is where practitioners are expected to grow spiritually and physically in preparation to moving up to higher belts.
Green Belt with Dash (III Kyu). This is the advanced green belt in Shinkyokushin Karate. It requires that practitioners become proficient in using their elbows. Numerous elbow strikes are introduced: chudan hiji ate, chudan mae hiji ate, age hiji ate, ushiro hiji ate and oroshi hiji ate. Pinan sonoyon and Taikyoko Sono Ni in Ur are the two new katas.
Brown Belt (II Kyu – Karate’s brown belt is not something to be taken lightly. Practicers must complete a 15×1-minute kumite, among other demanding requirements. This belt is where students really discover themselves. Black belt practitioners learn from black belts, and are able to observe their techniques while reflecting on their own style. They may also develop their own techniques and combinations that will make them unique as karate students.
Brown Belt with Dash (I Kyu), This advanced brown belt in Shinkyokushin Karate is the last before the black belt. Before a student can attempt to receive a black belt, they must have it for at least 12 months. This is the level where the student applies the knowledge gained from previous belts to improve his or her technique. New strikes such as ryutoken tsuki or naka yubi-iponken are introduced. The ura katas also require defenses such as kage uke or chudan haito umi uke.
Black Belt II Dan (Shodan), Black Belt With One Dash Senpai Please note that students who are taking this exam for Shodan will be tested for their endurance and ability to execute all the basic techniques. Gyaku may require all basic techniques to be learned. Further, the applicant must be able to teach these basic techniques. The applicant must also be physically fit to learn all the techniques. Even those who don’t do karate know the terms “black belt”, kyokushin dark belt, “shinkyokushin dark belt” or “karate blackbelt”. It is a term that few people understand. It is not the last level, it’s not the end and it is not an ultimate achievement. It is instead a new beginning. Practitioners have learned the basics and are now ready to explore the world to find more ways to grow.
Black Belt II Dan – Black Belt with Two Dashes Senpai The second level black belt is possible after at least two years of black belt holding. One of the requirements for the second level black belt is to be able to demonstrate all techniques from previous grades. A higher level of tameshiwari is required for the Nidan. This requirement requires a mandatory break with any Tobi Geri nominated on the list. A high level of physical fitness is required, including 100 push ups, 200 one-handed pushups, 400 crunches and 100 squats.
Black Belt III (Sensei)- Black Belt With Three Dies Sensei– Candidates must have completed courses on Kumite Referee, Kata Judging and all of the techniques required for the previous levels. Advanced kata such as sushi-ho and garyu, seipai and pinan Sono Go in Ura are also required. The physical requirements for the position include 120 pushups + 2×35 single-handed push-ups, 500 crunches, 100 sit-ups, and 3×50 jumps. Candidates must also have been second degree black belts for at least three years. They also need to be able to teach and have a good knowledge of Shinkyokushin history and karate.
Time Limit between Karate Belt Examinations
10 th KYU to 3 rd KYU
Minimum 4 months between grades
3 rd KYU to 1 first KYU
Minimum 6 months between grades
1 st Shodan
Minimum 12 months between grades
Shodan to Nidan
Between grades, minimum 2 years
Nidan to Sandan
Between grades, minimum 3 years
Sandan to Yondan
Minimum of 4 years between grades, on the recommendation of WKO Branch Chiefs
Yondan to Godan
Minimum 5 years should be between grades, as recommended by the WKO Branch Chiefs
The Progression of Learning Karate
- Position – Stance
- Balance – Control of the position
- Technique coordination – Control of balance, position and coordination
- Form – Correctly performing above
- Speed – Increase performance without sacrificing form
- Power – Strengthening your technique
- Reflex – This technique is natural and becomes instinctive. It is important that each stage is carefully planned and developed.