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Old 11-11-2006, 01:04 AM   #1
Joezer M.
 
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Belt color history...

Hi,
does anybody know what the reasoning behind each colored belts are? I mean, ok, so white might symbolize a beginners blank state, but what about, say, brown (in many dojos/organizations, the last color before yudansha)? Or why was black chosen for belts worn by advanced/senior practitioners? Is there a historical/symbolic reason for this?

Regards,
Joezer (who is also wondering why the leader of almost all super sentai teams are colored red... )

I AM in shape... Round is a shape...
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Old 11-11-2006, 02:52 AM   #2
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Belt color history...

I doubt you will find a satisfying reason for the use of colored belts. To me it seems like a martial arts innovation along the lines of the innovation of 'happy meals' or 'bonus saver coupon days' in selling basic products... in other words, the encroachment of crass commercialism onto what was once a simple, practical process. I have never understood what a glaring, color-coded fashion scheme has to do with learning martial arts.
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Old 11-11-2006, 03:32 AM   #3
PhilMyKi
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Re: Belt color history...

As a push in the 'right' direction, try investigating the taekwondo belt scheme. I think it has something to do with the life cycle of nature. Aside from being a visual guide to the 'abilities' of the practitiononer; belts serve the same purpose - keeping the jacket closed.

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Old 11-11-2006, 06:00 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Belt color history...

I first heard it was due to the natural color evolution of the unwashed belt, including that the black with become faded frayed and white again.

Truthfully, I tend just to think of it as commercialism for those needing validation that they are progressing.

But, don't take the color too seriously, with any luck and further training it will change.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-11-2006, 06:39 AM   #5
Mike Grant
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Joezer Mandagi wrote:
Hi,
does anybody know what the reasoning behind each colored belts are? I mean, ok, so white might symbolize a beginners blank state, but what about, say, brown (in many dojos/organizations, the last color before yudansha)? Or why was black chosen for belts worn by advanced/senior practitioners? Is there a historical/symbolic reason for this?

Regards,
Joezer (who is also wondering why the leader of almost all super sentai teams are colored red... )
Brown quite is obviously symbolic of the fact that your aikido is sh*t...

(Sorry couldn't resist. And never thought that I would EVER find myself agreeing with Kevin Wilbanks).
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Old 11-11-2006, 07:19 AM   #6
Roman Kremianski
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Re: Belt color history...

We save the colour belts for the kids class.
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Old 11-11-2006, 09:44 AM   #7
Jaikido
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Re: Belt color history...

I thought it was the natural progression of the colour it will change as you use it. This saves you money as well.
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Old 11-11-2006, 11:00 AM   #8
Qatana
 
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Re: Belt color history...

Colored belts are an indication of grade. Since there is absioutely no uniformity of rank=color even within a particular organisation, not to mention between different arts, how can they possibly have any other meaning?
Yes, my sensei's black belt was in tatters. Because he washes it every time he washes his gi. You can't ecpect that he's be wearing the same belt since 1970. When one wears out he simply orders a new one. No ceremony, no mythology, just something to hold his hakama up...

Q
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Old 11-11-2006, 11:09 AM   #9
Chris Li
 
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Re: Belt color history...

There's a good article covering the origins of the belt systems available at:

http://www.e-budokai.com/articles/belts.htm

It's mentioned in the above article in passing, but the various colors for lower ranks seem to have been introduced in Europe as mentioned here:

http://www.judoinfo.com/obi.htm

Best,

Chris

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Old 11-11-2006, 11:52 AM   #10
DaveS
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
I doubt you will find a satisfying reason for the use of colored belts. To me it seems like a martial arts innovation along the lines of the innovation of 'happy meals' or 'bonus saver coupon days' in selling basic products... in other words, the encroachment of crass commercialism onto what was once a simple, practical process. I have never understood what a glaring, color-coded fashion scheme has to do with learning martial arts.
It's quite nice that if I go to a seminar or to train with another club or if someone new shows up at our club, everyone starts off with a ballpark idea of how much everyone else knows and roughly how hard a given person can be thrown.

We've currently got a system of white -> red -> green -> brown -> black, which seems to be a good number of stages.
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Old 11-11-2006, 12:53 PM   #11
Aristeia
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Re: Belt color history...

belt discussions always kind of amuse me. Everyone is always so anxious to let everyone know that belts are not important to them and are just for "holding the jacket together". It's no less pretentious than the self appointed 10th dans imo.

while belts can be used for commercialism, that's not to say they have to be or always are. It's simply an indication of rank, where you've got to in your particular system. Lets others know what you should be capable of, and gives people goals to aim toward. People work better with goals. It really isn't a big deal.

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 11-11-2006, 02:41 PM   #12
DonMagee
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Re: Belt color history...

I like colored belts for one reason, a guy comes into judo or bjj with a white belt on, I know he most likely has little experiance in the art, and not to throw him high and hard, and to give him some room to work on the mat. If a guy has a blue belt on in bjj, I know not to give him anything, just work out as hard as I can.

I belive the colored belts were basically invented in judo as a way to show a sense of advancement, as well as to allow competitions in a way that would keep lower belts safe. The ablity of the belt holder actually takes on less meaning when you move away from competition as there is no way to accurately certify or verify the ability of the student. I have a very firm idea of how a brown belt in judo's skill level. I also have a very good grasp on how a blue or a purple belt in bjj is. However, I have absolutly no idea how skilled a TKD black belt is, or an aikido brown belt. This is because of the large differences in training methods, beliefs, and requirements between the dozens of organizations and clubs out there. That TKD black belt might be into full contact kick boxing, or he might do no touch point sparing and really have no experience in full contact sparing. Some aikido dojo's might place the black belt bar at a very high status taking half a dozen years to aquire, other's might place it as the starting stage, and get it out in a little over a year.

But it competition arts, a bjj blue belt means that he can compete well against other blue belts in competition. That is really all it means, you have progressed in skill to the point where you really are able to dominate most white belts. Now we need to seperate you so that you can compete with guys on your level.

As for their meaning, I think that is up to the individual club. Some might put spirital meanings on it, other's might put technical meanings on it.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 11-11-2006, 04:03 PM   #13
Qatana
 
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Re: Belt color history...

Then there is "the Modest guy" who ,in a Colored-Belt dojo will wear his white belt "out of humility" and then go on to pound you, belittle you, correct you , make visitors feel unwelcome or inadequate if they are wearing a "higher-ranked" color and don't meet his (whose?) standards.
I won't train with that guy ever again..

Q
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"It is not wise to be incautious when confronting a little smiling bald man"'- Rule #1
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Old 11-12-2006, 03:29 AM   #14
RoyK
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Jo Adell wrote:
Then there is "the Modest guy" who ,in a Colored-Belt dojo will wear his white belt "out of humility" and then go on to pound you, belittle you, correct you ,
Yeah, but wouldn't it be odd to be the only green belt among a sea of white and black?

I think I've read somewhere that brown belts were used to indicate high Kyus because they could tell who's an advanced student because their belts were browner due to blood stains. Don't know if this is true but it's a nice story!
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Old 11-12-2006, 10:24 AM   #15
Qatana
 
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Re: Belt color history...

But my point was that this was in a Colored Belt dojo.Specifically.Our Parent dojo, in fact.
I always ask in advance whether I should wear my colored belt or a white one.

Q
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Old 11-12-2006, 11:51 AM   #16
Charles
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Mike Grant wrote:
Brown quite is obviously symbolic of the fact that your aikido is sh*t...
I think of it as a warning label. The wearer knows just enough to become a safety hazard.
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Old 11-12-2006, 01:02 PM   #17
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
David Sim wrote:
It's quite nice that if I go to a seminar or to train with another club or if someone new shows up at our club, everyone starts off with a ballpark idea of how much everyone else knows and roughly how hard a given person can be thrown.

We've currently got a system of white -> red -> green -> brown -> black, which seems to be a good number of stages.
See Don Magee's post above. Given the massive variation in what belts "mean" in Aikido, if you are using it as a guide to what someone can do, you are more likely to hurt someone than if there were no colors at all. It seems more sensible to me to judge what you can do safely with someone by open-mindedly observing them as an individual and feeling what they can do.

From the little I have experienced of BJJ training, I agree with Don that in that art, the belt really means something consistent that you can base your actions on. The difference is that they are earned through actual competition performance and are much harder to earn than rank at most Aikido schools. Since Aikido is so much more diverse and not competition-driven, this will never be the case with it.

Also, in my view, a simple sparse, aesthetic in the dojo is important to my experience of Aikido. I like the feel of it and I find it conducive to concentration of training. A dojo full of rainbow colored belts just doesn't fit. What's next? A bunch of colorful advertisements and patches plastered on everyone's gi's? Neon signs and advertisement graphics on the walls?

Worse yet, since the colored belts symbolize rank, it's a constant intrusion of the ideas of who's better than whom and the fact that one's training is a performance to be judged into everyday training... still more distraction from simply training.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 11-12-2006 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 11-12-2006, 05:41 PM   #18
DaveS
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
See Don Magee's post above. Given the massive variation in what belts "mean" in Aikido, if you are using it as a guide to what someone can do, you are more likely to hurt someone than if there were no colors at all. It seems more sensible to me to judge what you can do safely with someone by open-mindedly observing them as an individual and feeling what they can do.
Virtually all the training I do with people from outside my club is with other UK shodokan people, and they either use white->red->green->brown->black or the slightly more colorful white->red->yellow->orange->green->blue->brown->black. So it's at least consistant enough to give you a rough idea of where to start...
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Old 11-12-2006, 06:01 PM   #19
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
David Sim wrote:
Virtually all the training I do with people from outside my club is with other UK shodokan people, and they either use white->red->green->brown->black or the slightly more colorful white->red->yellow->orange->green->blue->brown->black. So it's at least consistant enough to give you a rough idea of where to start...
I think you missed the point. The inconsistency is not simply about coordinating color codes, but what the ranks mean in terms of skill and proficiency. Maybe all the teachers require the exact same thing from the students at particular ranks within your local system and refuse to promote people unless they can perform to rigid ukemi standards, but in the US, there is no such consistency - not between organizations, not within the organizations I'm familiar with, and not even within particular dojos.

Assuming anything about someone's ukemi based on their rank is not only dangerous, but also lazy in my opinion. It only takes a few cautious throws and falls to start making an experience-based assessment of another person's abilities and adapting what you do accordingly. If you don't have an opportunity to train with them for long enough to engage in this process, you shouldn't be doing anything risky or brutal with them at all. This seems like a really weak rationalization for colored belts. I especially don't like it because, if accepted, it is going to provide reckless students with an excuse for hurting people: "He was wearing a fuscia belt, so I thought he could handle the double nikkyo skull drop...."
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Old 11-12-2006, 06:19 PM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
David Sim wrote:
It's quite nice that if I go to a seminar or to train with another club or if someone new shows up at our club, everyone starts off with a ballpark idea of how much everyone else knows and roughly how hard a given person can be thrown.
Here in Japan, in the main city dojo of the organization to which I am attached, coloured belts are used only in children's classes, which are very closely supervised by adults. The adult classes follow the normal Aikikai convention and people wear white belts until shodan. I can see some need for coloured belts in judo, and perhaps in Shodokan aikido, but not in my own aikido dojo. We do not hold children's classes and estimation of a person's ability depends on a certain period of training. Actually, I have been very surprised at the variation in quality of ukemi, even among the yudansha who regularly train at our dojo (and who have not trained here as beginners).

So I think the belt worn is not an accurate guide to ability in ukemi. Throwing someone hard or soft is another, separate, issue, in my opinion.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 11-12-2006, 07:28 PM   #21
PeterR
 
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Re: Belt color history...

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I can see some need for coloured belts in judo, and perhaps in Shodokan aikido, but not in my own aikido dojo.

Even within Shodkan some clubs do and some don't. Usually school clubs just do the white/black thing and public dojos (kids and adults) do the colored belts. With the school clubs everyone starts togeather and trains roughtly the same amount -I think there is less need. Personally I like the three colors (four if you include white) we use for the public dojos. It usually corresponds to a years worth of training, it really does give a quick indication of level which is important when people visit the larger Honbu (and they do) and makes the division of training (green belts over there) much easier. Kids happen to like colors - so we toss in a couple more there.

Of course we could do that because of crass commercialism.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-12-2006, 11:11 PM   #22
Lan Powers
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Re: Belt color history...

Just as an aside, I am NOTHING if not crass.....

Lan

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Old 11-13-2006, 11:23 AM   #23
odudog
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Re: Belt color history...

The colored belts was started by Kano Sensei. It is a good way of seperating each person's ability/years of study. Also comes in handy in case you are practicing with someone in which you can't communicate with for you don't speak each other's language.

I was told that the colors are supposed to get darker as the rank is increased. This symbolizes the white belt getting darker as the years of practice adds up and eventually turns all black.
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Old 11-13-2006, 12:46 PM   #24
DonMagee
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Re: Belt color history...

It probably gets darker because it is easier to dye a belt darker in color than it is to lighten it. Rather than buy a new belt, they probably just dyed their old ones.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 11-14-2006, 04:43 PM   #25
Bronson
 
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Re: Belt color history...

Dave Lowry's excellent new book In The Dojo has section on this subject.

Bronson

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