One of the most common questions I am asked when I mention I practice Shotokan karate is “what belt color are you?”. As with many martial arts, Shotokan karate uses different color of belts to indicate rank. The level of experience and progress is what determines a students rank. The colored belts are associated with kyu level. For example, all students start with a white belt which would be 10th kyu. The kyu level counts backwards as the student progresses towards their 1st dan which is a black belt in most martial arts.
What most people don’t realize is that each school or dojo can have differing orders of belt colors. At the dojo my boys and I attend we will soon be testing for our 6th kyu which is a blue belt at our school. Other dojos may designate 6th kyu with a green belt. In our dojo, 8th kyu is a green belt.
A more accurate way to know how much martial arts experience someone has is to ask them their rank or kyu level. Asking what color of belt doesn’t provide accurate information. If I wear to tell someone “I’m a blue belt”, that might mean something totally different at their dojo.
Unless you are familiar with martial arts, asking someone their rank or their belt level really doesn’t provide you with information anyways. Achieving the rank of black belt or 1st dan usually takes 4-5 years. The experience is different for everyone and is based on the amount of time the person trains and how quickly they progress through the ranks. At first the belt levels seem important, but as you progress, you learn that it’s not about the belt -it’s about the journey and the lifestyle.
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