What's with All the Colored Belts in Martial Arts?
With many styles of martial arts, the student is given colored belts that will signify their rank within that style of martial arts. Since the ranking system varies from one martial art to another, they have no universal meaning or ranking within the entire martial arts world. The color of the belts that are used with martial arts signify your rank only within that style. More or less, they tell others how much you know about your specific martial art.
When you consider the practice of martial arts dates back thousands of years, the use of belt colors in martial arts is a relatively new practice. Colored belts and their use in martial arts was popularized by a man named Jigoro Kano, who created the style known as Kodokan Judo. Kano started out by using only white and black belts to signify rank within his style of martial arts. He found that with large groups of students, it was hard to remember each one's level of training. He began using several other colors of belts to specify which students could compete in different activities.
Shortly after Kano introduced his idea of using various colored belts, the idea started to catch on throughout the world of martial arts. Over the years, it became a great way of telling what experience a student had in his style - just by the look of his belt. Other styles began to use this system as well over the years, including Karate, Taekwondo, and several others.
The only problem with using various belt colors to signify ranking, is the fact that one school may have different requirements from another school. Even though they both may teach basically the same style of martial arts, their ranking system and requirements to get a certain rank may be totally different. This can cause confusion in ranks, especially if a student from one school isn’t versed in the same style as a student from another school. Even though most schools stick to the same criteria, there are schools that choose to incorporate their own unique style as well.
Although most sports oriented martial arts styles use colored belts to signify rank, there are some competitive martial arts out there such as Shootfighting that don’t use belts at all. Most of the styles that choose not to use belts are more or less for self defense purposes. These styles are great to learn for protecting yourself - although they differ from the traditional sense of martial arts.
All things aside, colored belts are an innovation to martial arts. They give students something to aim for, and a reason to keep practicing. Most students that study martial arts aim for getting the black belt, which holds the most prestige in martial arts. A black belt takes years of practice to obtain, as the student will move through many lower ranked belts before getting the opportunity to try and earn the black belt.