Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
Actually, as the rec.martial-arts FAQ states, "The belt system, as a formalized method of indicating rank, was popularized by Professor Jigoro Kano, founder of Kodokan Judo, around the beginning of [the 20th century]. There are varying opinions as to whether the practice predated Kano's use of it, and where it may have come from, but it certainly wasn't common (the more traditional practice in Japanese martial arts was, and is, the granting scrolls indicating various levels of abilities. The practice was adopted by Karate, formerly a fairly obscure Okinawan folk art, as that art as brought into the mainstream of Japanese martial arts."...
And to hopefully head off the inevitable "black belts came from a white belt gone dirty" urban legend, I'll continue to quote from the FAQ: "An often heard story holds that the colours are explained as follows: a trainee's belts, which, traditionally, were never washed, became progressively dirties with time (starting out white, becoming yellow with sweat, green with grass stains, and so on), finally changing to black over the years. This explanation, alas, is almost certainly fanciful."