Belt Requirements

A Brief History of the Martial Arts Belt Systems

A brief history of gup/kyu/dan (kyu is the Japanese equivalent of gup) ranking systems and belts, follows:

Before Jigoro Kano invented Judo, there was no kyu/dan ranking system. Kano invented it when he awarded “shodan” to two of his senior students (Saito and Tomita) in 1883. Even then, there was no external differentiation between yudansha (dan ranks) and mudansha (those who hadn’t yet attained dan ranking). Kano apparently began the custom of having his yudansha wear black obis in 1886. These obis weren’t the belts karateka and judoka wear today – Kano hadn’t invented the judogi (uniform) yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. They were the wide obi still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern gi and its modern obi, but he still only used white and black.

Karateka in Okinawa didn’t use any sort of special uniform at all in the old days. The kyu/dan ranking system, and the modern karategi (modified judogi) were first adopted by Funakoshi in an effort to encourage karate’s acceptance by the Japanese. He awarded the first “shodan” ranks given in karate to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and Kasuya on April 10, 1924. The adoption of the kyu/dan system and the adoption of a standard uniform based on the judogi were 2 of the 4 conditions which the Dai-Nippon Butokukai required before recognizing karate as a “real” martial art. If you look at photographs of Okinawan karateka training in the early part of this century, you’ll see that they were training in their everyday clothes, or in their underwear.

Most other arts that have ranking/belt color systems adopted them from the Japanese.

There is specific criteria for each belt attained at World Karate Studio. In essence, when students take their test for any potential belt color, there is specific criteria designed for students to demonstrate mastery on their promotion test. World Karate Studio utilizes the forms of Tang Soo Do, a Korean Martial Art that developed 2,000 years ago. Tae Kwon Do is taught and utilized for testing criteria for strikes and Olympic-style punches. American Freestyle Hapkido is utilized for full-contact competition and comprehensive self defense. Each student who attends World Karate Studio has the opportunity to receive a manual that gives all the criteria for all the belts so students can prepare themselves and plan for the requirements and training necessary for belt promotion.