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Old 04-29-2003, 07:58 PM   #1
sean mcdonnell
Dojo: Bucks County Aikido
Location: Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 12
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Belt System Question.

Is it just me or do anyone else's dojos not have a belt system?( By belt system I mean colored belts that indicate your level of experience) Everyone I've told this to online has been like, "That's weird, I wonder how that works." Well I'm not exactly sure either but It seems like your either a white belt or a black belt. Also some of the senior students wear hakamas by choice. I've also read on Aikidofaq.com that there is no belt system in Aikido. I assume then that it is not traditional to have a belt system but different dojos have picked up on the idea and used it. Consider my Sensei was an apprentice of Kisshomaru Ueshiba( son of the founder) I would suspect that he would be following the original traditions. I would be interested to hear if anyone else trains at a dojo with no belt system. I also realize that this topic probably came up in the past, but I just found this site a month ago so give me a break.

Thanks alot,
Sean McDonnell

"Sad? What do I have to be sad about?" -Sephiroth
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Old 04-29-2003, 11:07 PM   #2
akiy
 
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Hi Sean,

As is the answer with most questions, the answer to this would be, "It depends."

My current dojo has people with dan rankings wearing a black belt and those who have yet to reach shodan (1st degree black belt) wearing white belts. We allow pretty much anyone to wear a hakama, although people usually wait until after their first test (5th kyu).

However, I've also trained at places where they wear colored belts in the adult system. Most of these places wear a white belt at 6th and 5th kyu, a blue belt at 4th and 3rd kyu, and a brown belt at 2nd and 1st kyu. I've also been to dojo where they had even more colors reminiscent of my days in karate (yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, red, brown)...

Some dojo reserve hakama at shodan, others somewhere below that, and others allowing people to wear hakama from the beginning. Other aikido dojo (eg Yoshinkan) hardly ever wear a hakama -- even the teachers -- outside of a large, public demonstration.

To top it all off, I've also heard of organizations wherein people wear different colored hakama according to their rank (including a white hakama near the beginning of their training).

So, in my experience at least, it all really depends on the organization and the dojo on what type of "belt" system a dojo uses...

Hope that helps,

-- Jun

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Old 04-30-2003, 02:01 AM   #3
JJF
 
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Dojo: Vestfyn Aikikai Denmark
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We use colored belts for the kids.

Grown ups:

All kyugrades: white belt

All dangrades: black belt

Hakama is worn from 3. kyu

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 04-30-2003, 05:11 AM   #4
ian
 
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Hi Sean,

As far as I am aware the coloured belt system developed to encourage children in what was then becoming a 'sport'. This also helped its export to the US. I think coloured belts are useful for children, especially in aikido where it takes alot of patience to reach some degree of proficiency.

The whole idea of a grade system is a modern invention. Traditionally you would be taught martial arts individually or part of a select few. No grade would be awarded, you would just complete the training and when your teacher felt you were good enough to instruct you might end up with an instructors certificate.

Obviously everything has changed now and martial arts on the whole are taught in classes where anyone can join. Especially in the more sports orientated martial arts and martial arts directed towards childern for health education the grading system assists with competition (so similar level students can compete) and encourages people.

I think grades are useful in aikido because it helps people formalise what they know, and people can work towards gradings and feel confidence in certain techniques once grades have been achieved. However I think in many cases the full knowledge and experience of an instructor is rarely passed over to students now since there are several students at different stages of development, may of whom won't stay with the instructor to the point of being able to teach themselves.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 04-30-2003, 05:14 AM   #5
ian
 
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P.S. we don't have a belt system. Hakama wearing at any level is through recommendation; usually when they have an understanding of the principles of aikido and would be conidered a suitable role model for other students.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 04-30-2003, 05:48 AM   #6
Karen Wolek
Dojo: Kingston Aikido
Location: New York
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I think it depends on the individual dojo, affiliation, and/or style. We only have white belts (5th thru 1st kyu) and black belts (dan ranks) at my dojo. Hakama are worn by dan grades.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 04-30-2003, 07:13 AM   #7
opherdonchin
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
Location: Baltimore
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I've seen:

White for kyu ranks
Black and hakama for dan ranks

White until first test
Blue for 5th and 6th kyu
Purple for 3rd and 4th kyu
Brown and hakama for 2nd and 1st kyu
Black and hakama for dan ranks

White until first test
White and hakama to 4th kyu
Brown and hakama to 1st kyu
Black and hakama for dan ranks

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 04-30-2003, 07:21 AM   #8
Daniel Mills
 
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Dojo: Kokyu Aikido Association.
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At the dojo I train at, the system is as follows;

White - "8th Kyu" or ungraded.

Yellow - 7th Kyu

Orange - 6th Kyu

Green - 5th Kyu

Blue - 4th Kyu

Purple - 3rd Kyu (introduced to break up the 12 months training to 2nd Kyu, as a 6 month check to make sure all was on track, etc. as far as I can gather..)

Brown - 2nd Kyu

Black Tag - 1st Kyu (+ Hakama)

Black - 1st Dan.

And onwards.

As an Aikidoka of less than three weeks, I'm fond of the fact I can judge who to ask which questions, and who to believe when it comes down to techniques

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Old 04-30-2003, 07:32 AM   #9
MikeE
 
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Our system is:

mukyu: White

rokkyu: yellow

gokyu: blue

yonkyu: purple

sankyu: purple

nikyu & ikkyu: brown (plus hakama)

Works very well.

When I started I was in a white/black system with hakama at shodan. I really like the colored system better. I find colored belts at seminars act like a "handle with care" sticker for more experienced aikidoka...ensuring safe and fun training for all.

Just my personal opinion.

Mike Ellefson
Midwest Center
For Movement &
Aikido Bukou
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Old 04-30-2003, 08:45 AM   #10
Eric Garcia
Dojo: Texas Tech Aikido Club, Aikido of Midland
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With The United States Aikido Federation, 5th kyu is the begining level.

At our dojo, we have a colored belt system for those that are not yet yudansha(sp). When we attend seminars that are given by other USAF dojos we wear white belts, unless we have reached the level of Shodan.

-Eric Garcia
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Old 04-30-2003, 08:59 AM   #11
JimAde
Location: Boston
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I like colored belts specifically for seminars (and visiting other schools). While a colored belt doesn't guarantee anything, it at least gives you SOME idea of your partner's level before you start practicing.

I suppose the rebuttal to this would be that you should use connection and awareness to assess your partner, but I'm all for cheating when I can

Remember: No matter where you go...There you are.
-Buckaroo Banzai
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Old 04-30-2003, 09:06 AM   #12
opherdonchin
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
Location: Baltimore
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I like the white until black system best, although I've trained under it the least. I feel like it really reinforces the idea that rank doesn't matter and the idea that we are all students. I think that putting on a hakama at 5th kyu or 6th kyu like we do in ASU dojos is just plain silly.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 04-30-2003, 09:36 AM   #13
Alphete
 
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In our Dojo here @ Buenos Aires we use the colored belt system to help newbies and between ourselves to know at wich level are each of the students. As Mike Eleffson said, it serves as a Handle with care label (for lower ranks) or You can start getting rough (for higher ranks).

The colors we use, differ a little bit in the number than the ones I read you use in the US.

We use

Begginers - White

5th. Kyu - Yellow

4th. Kyu - Orange

3rd. Kyu - Green

2th. Kyu - Blue

1st. Kyu - Brown

Hakamas are only worn by Shodans and higher ranked students.
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Old 04-30-2003, 09:50 AM   #14
Dave Miller
 
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Colored belts:

Sean,

The use of colored belts is pretty much an American invention to allow for some visual encouragement of progress. I have seen as many as 10 different colored belts being used. Of course, the other side of this is that they get to charge the student money every time they test for a new belt-rank. (another American invention)

I spent a summer training in a Shotokan Karate dojo in Sapporo and they had just two belts, white and black. That is the traditional system in most Japanese martial arts. I don't know if "traditional" judo uses colored belts or not (it is, afterall, a sport).

In my aikido dojo, we use:

white: go-kyu

green: yon-kyu

brown: san-kyu and ni-kyu

brown with black stripe: i-kyu

black: shodan and above

The bottom line is the color of belt is not always a good indicator of how good a martial artist really is. I've seen black belts that were of shaky compitence and lower belts that were quite outstanding.

DAVE

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Old 04-30-2003, 10:15 AM   #15
acot
Dojo: West Michigan Aikido
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
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Here in Taiwan we use the same as they do in Bueno Aires...

Begginers - White

5th. Kyu - Yellow

4th. Kyu - Orange

3rd. Kyu - Green

2th. Kyu - Blue

1st. Kyu - Brown

Hakamas are only worn by Shodans and higher ranked students.

Also we don't touch the Bokken until Shodan either, and the Jo until Sandan. the ROC Aikikai organzation it seems to be very politcal (as they all are), and the training format by rank has become some what different from what is found else where.

Ryan

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Old 04-30-2003, 10:38 AM   #16
GregH
Location: Harrisburg, Pa
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Hello all,

I'm seeing in my handbook

7th kyu white w/ stripe

6th kyu yellow

5th kyu yellow w/stripe

4th kyu blue

3rd kyu blue w/stripe

2nd kyu brown

1st kyu brown w/stripe

Greg
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Old 04-30-2003, 10:53 AM   #17
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Ungraded - white

5th and 4th kyu - green

3rd, 2nd, 1st kyu - brown w/ hakama

shodan - black

We're a university club so we tend to get lots of turnover, and I think the colors are helpful for the new students, but those of us who have been around a while know that it's not a big deal.

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-30-2003, 10:54 AM   #18
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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P.S. We don't have tests, and subsequently no testing fees. booya!

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-30-2003, 11:05 AM   #19
jxa127
Dojo: Itten Dojo -- Mechanicsburg, PA
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Quote:
Greg Hahn (GregH) wrote:
Hello all,

I'm seeing in my handbook

7th kyu white w/ stripe

6th kyu yellow

5th kyu yellow w/stripe

4th kyu blue

3rd kyu blue w/stripe

2nd kyu brown

1st kyu brown w/stripe

Greg
Just to expand on Greg's point, we're an Aikido Association of America dojo, and the belt ranks are standardized across the association.

Generally, we don't put too much emphasis on belt ranks, but it is an easy way to tell who the senior students are. I view the tests as a good method for checking one's progress and readiness for responsibility -- as long as one doesn't put too much stock on tests and belts.

Regards,

-Drew

----
-Drew Ames
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Old 04-30-2003, 11:22 AM   #20
akiy
 
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Re: Colored belts:

Quote:
Opher Donchin wrote:
I think that putting on a hakama at 5th kyu or 6th kyu like we do in ASU dojos is just plain silly.
Why do you think it's silly?
Quote:
Dave Miller wrote:
The use of colored belts is pretty much an American invention to allow for some visual encouragement of progress.
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."

The FAQ continues a few sentences down: "Some of these schemes are elaborately hierarchical; some schools use no belt ranking system at all. White belts almost always indicate beginners, black belts indicate those who have reaches some level of ability. There are various colors used for rankings both below black belt, and for high ranking black belts, and various explanations as to what they mean. The color schome -- and the implications for school etiquette -- vary from system to system and perhaps from school to school."

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."

-- Jun

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Old 04-30-2003, 11:47 AM   #21
William Boyd
Dojo: Aikido of Reno
Location: Reno, NV
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At the dojo I attend kids wear colored belts. The grown ups at kyu ranks wear white belts & dan ranks wear black. At 3rd kyu the hakama can be worn.
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Old 04-30-2003, 12:28 PM   #22
Doug Mathieu
Dojo: Aikido Bozankan
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Join Date: Apr 2002
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Hi

In Canada I have seen a variety of systems too both for coloring belts and wearing Hakama.

I do think however more Dojos here go straight from white to black and somewhere at 3rd kyu and up Hakama start being worn.

I have trained in Judo with colored belts and in the last 12 years in Aikido no colored belts until black.

I was happy under both systems. However, if Aikido didn't have a ranking system itself I probably would have been less satisfied. I'm one of those people who need positive feedback at times that I'm progressing.

I have also seen at times students (not to many) who have a reverse snobbery about not coloring belts as in they are above going that route and have a superior attitude to training.

I'm not sure about wearing Hakama at any level unless the organization you train within all do it. I have heard more than once from a kyu rank student who got hurt when a senior person assumed they could go with a technique harder than they could. Granted the senior student should have avoided it but the fact is it happens.

This could be an arguement for an organization at least to systemize this kind of detail rather than have individual Dojo's decide wht they want to do.

All the best
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Old 04-30-2003, 12:38 PM   #23
Dave Miller
 
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Re: Re: Colored belts:

Quote:
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."

-- Jun
Nice find, Jun. It makes sense that it started with Kana and the sport of Judo. I gladly (and humbly) stand corrected.

As for the urban legand, I had heard that before too. Nice to see it dispelled.

Domo Arigato Gozaimashita

DAVE

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Old 04-30-2003, 12:38 PM   #24
Joe Jutsu
Dojo: Currently relocating
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At my dojo we have colored belts as incentives for the kids' class, but for adult classes the system goes: White 5th-3rd kyus, brown belt with hakama 2nd-ikkyu, black belt with hakama at dan grades.

I've traveled to a few other Ki Society dojos and have seen colored belt systems there for adults, so yeah, I guess it's kind of dojo specific. Personally, I like wearing a white belt until 2nd kyu, it's one less thing that this college student has to pay for, and while walking through our rec facility on campus where my club meets I almost feel "incognito" with my white belt on, because I am a beginner but a beginner with 2+ years of experience. It's my understanding that in most other MA's I would no longer be a white belt.

Interesting question though, I've enjoyed reading about all the different systems out there.
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Old 04-30-2003, 12:41 PM   #25
Dave Miller
 
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Question White belt when visiting:

Is it a generally agreed upon practice that regardless of your rank that you always wear a white belt when visiting another dojo?

DAVE

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