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Everything You Need to Know About Martial Arts Belts


For years, those who practice martial arts like Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, and others have taken part in classes where one of the most significant signs of their skillset is represented by a thin piece of fabric wrapped around their waist. And while they are pretty cool looking, these martial arts belts are so much more than just a fancy fashion statement.

Though many of these fighting and defense styles have been around for centuries, the concept behind martial arts belt colors originated just over 100 years ago.

The idea was first implemented by the same man who invented the art of Judo, which is now an Olympic sport. Jigoro Kano awarded the first belt to one of his students as a representation of his rank of Shodan, or “beginning degree”. The belt was black, which at the time was considered the lowest rank.

It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that Jigoro and masters of other martial arts began to incorporate a system of numerous belt colors as a means to recognize and motivate students.

Are the Belts Part of a Grading System?

Though certain achievements and milestones must be passed in order to reach the next belt level, the idea is to use them for goal-setting and progression as opposed to feeling like a grade in school. If a student is working toward the next belt level and isn’t able to complete all the requirements yet, it is seen as an opportunity to grow instead of looking at it as though they failed a test.

The purpose of each belt is to represent the amount of work the wearer has put in and indicates their level of experience in their respective martial art form. For example, someone who has earned the highest rank of black belt often possesses the knowledge necessary to begin training others to pass on their wisdom.

Benefits of Using Martial Arts Belts

While styles like boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and some other mixed martial arts don’t use belts, we have incorporated them into our Jeet Kune Do system for multiple reasons. Though they aren’t part of the martial art, we use the belts as a means of motivating the children who attend our classes.

Each belt represents a specific stage of the student’s growth cycle as a martial artist. As they continue to train and refine their skills, that small piece of cloth will help them understand where they currently are and where they want to be. The belts are a great tool for motivation because children who take our classes love them and work harder to reach the next level one by one.

Here at NY Martial Arts Academy, the belts are also used as a teaching tool during what we call “mat chats”. These conversations are used to discuss the meanings behind each belt and what it signifies in each students’ current journey. They will also be taught things like how to tie a belt properly.

The mat chats are also a time where we teach focusing techniques. Students learn how to focus on each sense one at a time such as paying close attention to their breathing or listening with their ears.

What Color Belts Are Used in Our Kids Martial Arts Program?

Most martial art forms have a different variation of colors and rankings for each belt that is given as a student progresses. In Jeet Kune Do, a dedicated student who is willing to push their boundaries and diligently practice the art can go from a beginner with a white belt to the highest ranking black belt in a span of around five to six years.

Understanding the strategic purpose behind each belt is a great way to keep kids interested in the class and push them to work harder every week.

To give you an idea of the symbolic meaning behind each belt and their order, we’ve put together this list of the belt progression we use for our students:

  • White Belt  - The white belt symbolizes a birth or beginning of a person’s will to acquire the skills of Jeet Kune Do, and it is worn by those who are just beginning their study. 
  • Yellow Belt - Yellow signifies the first beams of sunlight that give a seedling new growth and new life. As such, the yellow belt is worn by a beginner who has learned to practice the basic moves of Jeet Kune Do. 
  • Orange Belt - Orange represents the growing strength of the sun, so the orange belt is given to a beginner once he or she has mastered Jeet Kune Do’s 10 self-defense moves.  
  • Green Belt - Green is a representation of growth, so it is given to intermediate students who are learning to strengthen and refine their skills. 
  • Blue Belt - Blue represents the sky and the light it provides all growing things, so the blue belt is given to students at the stage of their studies when they begin to learn additional knowledge of the martial art that allows their minds and bodies to continue to grow and develop.
  • Purple Belt - Purple represents the colors of dawn, so a purple belt is given to a student who is transitioning into the advanced stages of their study. 
  • Red Belt - Red symbolizes the red hot strength of the Sun. In the same way that a growing plant must stretch its way slowly toward the Sun, students with red belts learn to be cautious of their practice. As red is also the sign of danger, a student with a red belt is learning to become dangerous in his or her knowledge and skills.
  • Brown Belt - Brown is a representation of the ripening of a seed during the maturing and harvesting process, so a brown belt is awarded to advanced students who are beginning to realize the fruits of their beginner studies and whose techniques have begun to mature.
  • Black Belt - Black symbolizes the darkness beyond the sun. A person who has been awarded a black belt seeks to gain a deeper and further understanding of the physical and mental teachings of Jeet Kune Do. Many people who are awarded a black belt begin passing on their knowledge to help others advance in their own belt rank.

Ready to Enroll Your Kids in a Martial Arts Class?

While the belts are an important part of our training and progression, far more significant is the emphasis we place on each person’s character development during our classes. Martial arts is about learning how to find balance while also gaining skills in self-defense. 

Whether you’re thinking about starting your child in one of our classes or you want to join up yourself, our school is poised and ready to teach you the very special martial art form of Jeet Kune Do. Our instructors have a direct training lineage back to Bruce Lee, who invented this specific martial art.

If you’d like to get more details about our classes such as schedules and other information, give us a call today at tel:+3477213288!