Deciphering the Belt Ranks- The Absolute Basics
Belts! When having a conversation about martial arts they always seem to come up. ‘I am a brown belt!’ ‘I am a purple belt!’ ‘I am a blue belt!’ ‘I am a black belt!’
That’s great! But what does it mean? The fun/frustrating/interesting part of belts is this: It varies. From system to system, and sometimes from school to school, the number of belts, the order they are received in, and what, precisely, they mean changes. Sometimes drastically.
What usually stays the same is this: The belt is symbol of your rank within a system. The advancement in rank is usually achieved by a combination of class attendance and mastering a certain skill set. The ranks usually start at white and progress forward through other colors. I was once told the belts got darker as you progressed to show the amount of the knowledge that you have accumulated.
‘Black belt’ is a term that is well known, if not always well understood. It would be inaccurate, I feel, to say black belt is the end of the ranking system. For one, most systems have black belt degrees, or dans, that further ‘rank’ an individual who has earned their black belt. Other systems have belts beyond black. However, the most important reason would be that you should not view any one rank as the ‘end’ of a martial arts journey. It is just another milestone along the way. The goal, many feel, should be to never stop learning, and always keep growing.
And something a little more specific:
So, we cannot wrap up the summary of all belts in all systems into one neat little package. What we can do is go over the belt systems that we have here at House of Martial Arts.
At House of Martial Arts we rank in two different belt systems. We have a traditional style, based in ‘stand-up’ arts, called Hawaiian Kenpo. Hawaiian Kenpo is a system that may be what you think of when you think ‘martial arts’. This system incorporates punches, kicks, stances, forms, and self-defense techniques with a heavy focus on what happens from a standing position.
The basic adult belt system for Hawaiian Kenpo has 10 belts in total. They are: White, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Brown III, Brown II, Brown I and Black. For someone who starts as an adult, trains consistently, and purposefully, one can expect it to take about 5-7 years to earn their black belt. That being said, life is a very real thing and it is not uncommon for it to take longer.
Our kids in this system receive belts with a white stripe through the middle until such time that they move to the adult program, and begin to learn more real life application and variation to the system.
The second system we practice and rank in is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has gained popularity over the past few years with the rise of MMA and the Gracie family. It was originally a self-defense system designed to give a small individual a chance to win against a larger person. What makes BJJ different is that is has a much larger focus on how to fight and defend from the ground. When I am speaking to someone completely unfamiliar with BJJ I usually tell them it looks a bit like wrestling but the objective is very different.
There are fewer ranks for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu than most other systems. The adult belts are White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. An individual can easily expect to spend a minimum of 10 years training to get from White to Black belt in BJJ.
The system as a whole also takes a pretty firm stance against awarding a Blue Belt to anyone under the age of 16. They have a different color set for children. These belts are White, Grey, Yellow, Orange, and Green.
It is hard to sum up everything there is to know about belts in one mere post, even for only two systems. However, this provides a good starting point. We are always available to answer any questions you might have about either system or how the ranks work.