Black belt is the ultimate in martial arts
The culture of black belt was started by Jigoro Kano, the founder of
Judo, in the 1880s. Since then the black belt has come to signify the
highest level of competence. The other common colors in belt systems are
orange, yellow, green and brown. These are awarded to students who have
achieved different levels of proficiency.
Some martial arts schools also award blue, purple and red belts but these
are less common colors. The important point to note here is that colors
do not stand for the same thing universally. What they signify varies
from one martial arts style to another.
For example, certain schools put the red belt high up in the 9th degree
Others award it to children who may have qualified technically to the
black belt level but cannot be awarded the belt because they are not
ready to shoulder the responsibility that comes with it.
In Japanese art forms, the black belt has subdivisions called Dan grades.
Higher degrees mean higher ranks. A Dan who is a degree higher will wear
a black belt with more stripes than the lower degree. The added insignia
depict seniority. Now both the Koreans and the Chinese are adopting the
There is an interesting theory, unsubstantiated, about how the belt
system came about. The earliest martial artists began their training
wearing a white belt. With time, it became stained black with sweat, dirt
and blood. What immediately goes against this theory is the uncommon
standards of hygiene that are typical of traditional dojos. Martial art
schools are not street fighting centers, but temples of learning…no
bloodied or soiled uniforms would be tolerated inside. However the
argument that could go for this theory is that some schools encourage
that the belt should not be washed because washing it would mean washing
away the knowledge.
In some schools a black belt can be easy to obtain, in others it is quite
hard to get. However, in most schools black belt tests are quite
rigorous. Black belts tend to be handed out more easily in the West than
in the land of its origin: Japan. In Japan black belts are given with
time which means that the person getting them has a fair level of
experience and skill. A black belt holder is certainly not a master as
the westerners tend to think. It merely means that a person has reached a
stage where the basic journey is over and a longer road has to be taken.