Many karate practitioners wear an “obi”, a karate belt, tied around their “dogi” or “gi”, the exercise outfit. Most often made of thick cotton, the obi signifies the skill level of its wearer.
There is a common legend about the origin of the tradition of karate belts. It is often said that martial arts practitioners started their training with a white belt, and then that belt became black from all of the sweat and dirt associated with years of practice.

The other version which is more commonly accepted is the story of Dr. Jigoro Kano, a Japanese man who is said to be the founder of modern Judo, was the first to invent the coloured belt system. He thought that it would be an effective indicator of student progress and awarded the first “black belts” sometime around 1880. Then, Gichin Funakoshi, an Okinawan gentleman who founded Shotokan Karate, adopted the belt ranking system used in Judo from Dr. Jigoro Kano. There is extensive evidence that the two were at least acquaintances, if not friends.

Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin karate, practiced both Judo and Okinawan Karate before adopting a belt system for Kyokushin karate, his own style.
At EMAR DOJO, we follow the 10 kyu “level” system. There are 6 belt colours: white belt, red belt, blue belt, yellow belt, green belt, brown belt and black belt. All belts besides the white belt can have stripes to indicate further progress. Here is a summary of the different karate belts. Traditionally, the progression of learning karate follows these steps:
1. Position – Stance
2. Balance – Control of position
3. Coordination – Control of balance and position in technique
4. Form – Performing above correctly
5. Speed – Increase the rate of performance without loss of form
6. Power – Strengthening the technique
7. Reflex – The technique becomes a natural movement. It is essential that the progression is not rushed but instead developed at each stage.


In English history a man of valor and dignity who excelled in the arts of combat and social amenities was rewarded with the title of Knighthood. A designation which let it be known to all that he was a man not only of honor, but also of great fighting ability. This was true in Japan where the same type of men were called Samurai. In neither country was the man nor his rank to be taken lightly. For the prowess and title of each commanded respect!

At this time both of these countries consisted of feudal states in which men, like the knights and samurai, were a necessary product of the social conditions in which the lived. A situation which does not exist today. Yet the desire for a man to excel in a martial art, for discipline and self-defense, still exists.Today a man strives initially in the martial arts to become a “Black Belt” in karate to learn to fight. But as his training progresses, he should become aware of a stronger calling, the molding of himself into a better person, not only in fighting ability but also in dignity and honor. This has traditionally been the goal of the martial arts student.

The black belt is an award or honor given to the modern knight or samurai who has sacrificed many hours in disciplining and honing his body and mind to achieve the epitome of physical and mental attainment. The black belt is the symbol of an expert.Originally, the ranking system was established to provide a series of levels by which students could measure their progress. The first black belt awarded for karateka is known as a “Sho-dan”.

This means the student has mastered the basics of the art and is now ready for a more advanced form of training. The student who continues training will now receive “Dan” ranks or degrees of black belt as he progresses

Black belt shows that the person wearing it has mastered all the skills and the ability to perform as well as teach all of the basic techniques. At this level, the student poses a great ability within him/her to enlighten others with his knowledge. It is not the final level, it is not the end, and it is not a final achievement. Instead, it is a brand-new beginning – practitioners have now learned the basics and are ready to venture out into the world and find ways to further grow.


Practical / creative level
This is a very important level in training, which should be undertaken in serious, responsible and mature frame of mind.
By now, the brown belt should be very strong and very comfortable in the execution of all techniques, whilst continuing to strive to achieve ever higher levels of skill.
In sparring, the ability to control a junior opponent through timing, distance control and sensitivity, should be highly developed.

Junior students tend to feel that they can trust the brown belt and the brown belt should respect that trust through honesty, integrity, and loyalty.
You must constantly take a step back and look at yourself, make sure you are in control of the personality and the contents and prejudices of the mind; & not vice versa.
Every brown belt must brace himself with a brave heart and a will of iron, have faith in the beauty of the unknown that lies ahead.

Improvements in own technique are gained through participation in tournaments. Through that, one can then truly see if one’s training has been effective.
All too often, the brown belt becomes complacent at brown belt, satisfied with being at the top of the junior grades.
Be aware of this and learn to overcome through continuous hard training and moving on to the next belt level.
Do not stop your Kyokushin Karate training path here.

(Belts description is cited from “The Budo Karate of Mas Oyama” written by former student and interpreter to Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, Cameron Quinn)


Emotion/Sensitivity Level

Green is first level of the senior colours.

The green belt is now more aware of his unique discriminating intelligence and the importance of benevolence and compassion. He would realize that power without wisdom and compassion is destructive, dangerous and callous. Just as Sosai states: strength without justice is violence; justice without strength is impotence.

The green belt would, by now have excellence in all his basic techniques, basic movement patterns, and be able to deliver all required kata. He learns to combine his technique with speed and strength that has been developed through hard training.

At this level, all green belts should work on the power aspect of karate. Kyokushin is power karate. The green belt should be able to demonstrate this power.

Sensitivity and timing- one must learn to feel the opponent’s intentions and balance, and how to time the use of techniques for maximum effect. You should also look into advanced technical concepts and methods; finds personal likes which you will begin to adopt into your own karate.

Remember, actions are reflexes, not premeditated moves. A technique happens naturally, without thought.

The green belt should have glimpses of the state of mind known as zanshin, where the body acts perfectly without conscious effort.

Every green belt should strive to develop a mature and fearless attitude in kumite, while mastering a deceptively calm and unassuming approach to self-defence and daily life.


Level of assertion

Apart from concentrating purely on physical skills (such as balance, stability, eye/hand co-ordination, and general technical ability) as compared to previous belts, yellow belt also requires serious consideration to the psychological aspects of training- perception, awareness, assertion, and other manifestation of will-power. Students are expected to apply his/her intellect and awareness in co-ordinating the basic physical concepts of karate with his/her own mind’s immense potential.

Be confident in your growing abilities and be decisive in your every actions. Do your best to refine your karate knowledge and learn to perform all the movements in a pure and correct way.

Fears are overcome by confronting them confidently.


Level of fluidity, adaptability
Blue, the symbolism for colour of water.
Blue belt at this level develops a basic ability to adapt and react fluidity. Just as water adapts to the shape of whichever object is holding it. Adaptability grows through kumite (sparring).
Independence begins to establish itself; the student learns to adapt karate to best suit his physical strengths and weaknesses. Development for a strong body, especially in the torso and arms takes place. Special attention is paid to training push-ups using the fore fists and finger tips.
In terms of flexibility (physical and mental), students at this level should do relatively well in stretching (which can be achieved through regular stretching).

Enthusiasm wanes sometimes to the point of despair, with desire to give up. Remember these are part and parcel of training; being able to recognise stumbling blocks in your journey of learning and appropriately dealing with them successfully is essential.
Stay calm in the midst of a raging battle (be it during kumite or your internal battle), the spirit and mind of a true Kyokushin Karate student shall remain unshaken.


Level of stability
Progressing from white belt comes the red belt. The major focus at this level is understanding the physical base.
Power and progress are built upon a solid foundation. Fundamentals such as your stances (eg. sanchin dachi) are very much reinforced and expected to be perfected.

At this stage, a lifestyle and vision of ambition, gratitude, persistence and vitality should be adopted. Every student must establish a commitment to attending classes. There can be an internal battle for each individual in overcoming self-defeating stubbornness that resists the desire to attend lessons. It is your battle to win. Red belts should be enthusiastic in training, treasures dreams of greater things to come.


Level of purity and potential
Being new, unaware of the requirements of Kyokushin Karate and lacking in experience of it, the white belt’s heart is said to be full of hope. From this hope sprouts the first enthusiasm to train and learn.