11-28-2000, 03:00 PM
Not the people...the actual belts. When did the custom of giving a black belt to a student at a certain level of training start? And what did they use before it got started?
According to the rec.martial-arts FAQ (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/by-newsgroup/rec/rec.martial-arts.html):
"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 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."
As far as the "people wore white belts until they got black with dirt" thing, it's pretty much a myth. As the aforementioned FAQ goes on to say:
"The obi distinction is a bit later than the rank system and a bit earlier than the modern uniform and its (modified) obi. Kano originally had his students practice in formal kimono, as some traditional jujutsu systems *still* do, complete with a wide, traditional obi (really closer to a sash than the modern "belt"). Let's just say that Kano's students were as likely to show up with a dirty kimono and obi as you are to show up for a job interview in a mud-caked suit. [...] the notoin that there would be a certain cachet associated with filth in a culture as obsessed with cleanliness and ritual purity as Japan is pretty absurd to begin with."
As for training before a "black belt," I'm sure people wore whatever kind of belt they had that would keep their dogi closed and their pants up.