Karate belt order of colors [Explained]

The karate belt order and meaning is the part of an integral part of the educational process of the martial art discipline. And more, the different karate belt colors and different karate belt levels form its complete system as is.

This article is about to explain the karate belts and levels in a short and easy manner.

What is the correct karate belt order?

In what order do belts go in karate? – This question occurs as an obvious thing.


What is important to understand: There is no correct karate belt order. But there is a common one from which other obi (belt) systems are being interpreted.

The karate belt colors order may vary from karate school to karate school, even within the same style. It depends on the karate style, traditions, and own karate belt ranks rules.

What do stripes on a Karate belt represent?
Some schools may have karate belt colors with stripes. Karate belt stripes meaning: the stripe tape on the belt marks the progression inside the rank before the next level.

You start to train in karate and with time you may discover that another karate school has a bit different belt order for karate or requirements to achieve each new level.

Don’t worry, it’s a common practice in many martial arts styles.

Karate belts order

How did the Karate belt ranking system migrate from Judo?

The Karate belt ranking system was adapted from the Japanese martial art of Judo. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, introduced the colored belt system in the late 19th century to indicate a student’s progress and skill level.

The original system had only two colors, white and black, with the black belt signifying mastery of the art.

The Shotokan karate-do founder, Gichin Funakoshi, trained in Judo before he developed his own style of martial arts, Shotokan Karate, and introduced the belt ranking system to Shotokan karate in the early 20th century. Funakoshi’s system added additional colors to the belts to indicate progress and skill level, with each color representing a specific level of mastery.

Today, the Karate belt ranking system has become an integral part of the martial art, with many different styles and variations. The colored belts serve as a visible sign of a student’s progress, skill, and dedication to the art.

In what order do belts go in karate commonly?

In this article below you will find examples of karate belt system colors in different styles and schools.

NOTE: For the correct karate belt order at your dojo ask your Sensei!

And here are all the karate belts in order that you can see in karate:

Karate belt order of colors
Karate belt order of colors

What are the 9 belts in karate?

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Red
  • Brown
  • Black

Karate belt order JKA

As mentioned before, the karate belt order is integral and used in all karate academies over the world. But the belt rank may vary from school to school. The same is with the JKA karate belt order. Nevertheless, the JKA belt order is one of the main belt systems in karate.

Karate belt order JKA
Karate belt order JKA; screenshot form Karate Dojo waKu

You will not find a drastic difference. But attention should be paid to Dan ranking rules by each school.

What does JKA mean in Karate?

JKA stands for Japan Karate Association (協会, Kyokai). It’s, actually, one of the oldest karate organization in the world that was established in 1948.

What karate style is JKA?

JKA represents the Shotokan karate style.

How many belts are in JKA karate?

JKA karate belt order has 10 Kyu and 10 Dan. Dan grading classes take place four times per year, Kyu grading – is twice per year.

karate belt grading order
Karate belt grading order by JKA; image caption from jka.or.jp

Karate belt order Shotokan

Shotokan karate belt order varies from school to school. Usually, it is a traditional Shotokan karate belt order with 8 or 9 Kyu ranks and 5 black belts Dan ranks. But sometimes additional colors are added.

Here are Shotokan karate belt color levels in order by three different schools:

karate belt order shotokan
ATKO Shotokan school
shotokan karate belt order
Eastleigh Shotokan Karate
traditional shotokan karate belt order
SKC Calgary NW

Wado-Ryu karate belts

Continuing to review the karate belt rank order of different schools, let’s take the Wado-Ryu – one of the major karate styles.

Often, Wado-Ryu karate belts represent the most common order of karate belt colors. Here is one of the possible karate belt systems of Wado-Ryu school:

  • White belt – starts with 9th or 10th kyu, depending on the school
  • From 8th to 4th kyu – yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple karate belt.
  • From 3d to 1st kyu – brown belt
  • Black belt from 1st to 5th Dan

Kyokushin karate belt order

The same as the JKF, the Kyokushin karate belt order is one of the main belt ranking systems in karate.

kyokushin karate belt order
Kyokushin karate belt order; screenshot from Karate Dojo waKu

Do you have to earn a white belt in karate?

No, the white karate belt is the zero-step in karate training. Everyone who starts to train in karate is a white belt. It applies to most martial arts – BJJ, aikido, taekwondo, etc.

What are the karate belts in order for kids?

The kids and junior karate belt order system is the same as the order of belts in karate for adults. But very often the youth belt order is added with additional colors or belts with stripes.

Karate belt colours

junior karate belt order
Junior karate belt order by Trifu Dojo Kyokushin Karate; screenshot of all karate belts in order from the Trifu Dojo site

Which karate belt is the highest?

The order of karate belts starts with white. But this is only the start of karate colors.

Which karate belt is the highest?

The highest belt rank in karate is black. But the black belt has also rank levels – Dan ranks, from 1st to 10th degree black belt karate.

How does look like a Dan karate black belt test?

In the next video, you can see an episode from a karate black belt test by JKA.

One more video on how do you get a black belt in karate.

It’s full footage of the Goju Ryu karate black belt test where brown belt karate students confirm their right to be black belt holders.

Brown belt karate kata Heian

Each karate belt ranks by color for some reason. As in any other martial art, the rank in karate is a mark of one’s expertise and degree. In simple words, Dan ranks are the karate black belt levels.

Every level of karate do belt ranking requires specific knowledge of techniques that differ from belt level to belt level.

Here is an example of brown belt karate Kata Heian Godan

Is Dan higher than black belt?

The karate Dan ranks are applied to those students who have achieved the black karate belt level. Further, the black belts are split into Dan ranks: karate black belt 1st Dan, karate black belt 2nd Dan, etc.

Martial arts dan ranks exist in different combat styles. For instance, the Brazilian jiu jitsu dan ranks are called “grau”, in Portuguese it means “grade”.

What karate belt did Elvis have?

As it is known, Elvis Presley started to train in karate in 1958 and was very passionate about martial art.

In 1973 he got his 7th degree black belt under Master Kang Rhee.

elvis karate belt
Elvis Presley’s karate gi and belt in TigerMan Karate Dojo; screen caption from memphismagazine.com

Karate Belt Display Ideas

How do you store a karate belt? If you struggle to find the best way to store all your karate belts, read our article about the best karate belt display ideas.

martial arts belt display

BJJ blue belt vs karate black belt

Today in any modern martial art discipline there is a belt ranking system.

The same as in karate Brazilian jiu jitsu has also its traditional jiu jitsu belt order system.

But in martial arts, there is one more common thing – comparison and opposing. Martial arts fans often enthusiastically adore comparing different combat sports – aikido vs karate, Shaolin monk vs MMA fighter, BJJ fighter vs arm wrestler, etc.

This fate caught up also the karate and BJJ fighters.

BJJ blue belt vs karate black belt fight video

P.S.: We have to admit, that these guys are in quite different weight classes. So let’s give some honest points above to the karate fighter.

P.S. 2: But, at the same time it’s a black belt vs blue belt. It means the BJJ blue belt athlete has a much lower skill rank.

Does it equal them? (Rhetoric question).

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