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Black Belt in Karate

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Karate has an incredible amount of history and dedication that followed the practice despite the years’ changes. Originating from Okinawa as a military tactic for hand to hand combat, the practice has evolved into a worldwide sport.

One of the most significant changes in the practice was that Masters of the art created a ranking system as they taught students the sport. What was once just an item to hold your robes together has become an essential part of the uniform.

The black belt in Karate is the highest level a student can achieve in practice. This article discusses the history behind this rank and why it means so much in Karate.

The History of the Black Belt

In the early 1900s, Karate made its way from Okinawa to mainland Japan. Okinawan Masters adapted the practice to make the sport more approachable by Japanese students.

Before, karate belts and colors did not have significance. This changed when a Master named Jigoro Kano adopted the system by giving students different colored belts representing their ranking. At the time, the belt ranking system only included three colors:

white, brown, and black.

The original black belt was the last in the ranking system and included 10 levels within its title. These levels are also known as dan ranks and were represented by lines of tape across the belt.

Though the art has changed and evolved with modern society, the black belt still commands a large amount of respect inside and outside the practice.

Why is the Black Belt so Important in Karate?

Karate, like many other Japanese disciplines, is steeped in history and honor. This means that achieving a full black belt in the practice took an incredible amount of time and dedication. The belt signifies the student has evolved within the sport in both body and mind and is now ready to further journey.

On average, it can take over five years to get the first dan ranking and upwards of 10 years to achieve the shodan, the highest-ranking. Before you can achieve your last ranking, a student must partake in a practical test in front of a panel and demonstrate what they have learned.

The honor of achieving the last dan, the lowest black belt ranking, is reserved for students with a high level of maturity, that have displayed an immense amount of skill, and have remained dedicated to the art form.

The black belt symbolizes the darkness behind the sun. This symbol represents that the wearer seeks to further their knowledge and skill in Karate. Most black belt holders enjoy sharing their knowledge onto the kyu ranks as it often helps both students ascend in the ranks.


The black belt in Karate has an abundance of history and honor behind it. It is one of the most challenging endeavors many students have tried to achieve. It is not a goal everyone can fulfill, but by displaying a high level of maturity and dedication to the sport, anyone can do it.

Despite being a difficult task to overcome, if you feel that you have what it takes, there is a karate master out there to help you achieve this goal.

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