Origin of colour belt system(s)

Discussion in 'Discussions on Language, History & Culture' started by AussieGirl, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. AussieGirl

    AussieGirl Valued Member

    Each style of martial art seems to have a belt or sash colour system, and I'd love to know a little more about this historical origin. Did each style independently begin, or did one start and the others follow? Why do martial artists wear belts or sashes anyway?

    Can anyone point me to some definitive resources about this history?

    I found this very interesting document about karate belts, but it doesn't mention its relationship with other martial arts disciplines. http://www.minrec.org/wilson/pdfs/History of Belts and Ranks.pdf
     
  2. Latikos

    Latikos Valued Member

    Kano Jigoro introduced colored belts with his Judo.
    At first only white and black, with time passing he added others.

    Other styles just took idea.

    Not sure about the sashs though.
     
  3. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    For Chinese martial arts it was taken from the Japanese model. Traditional ranking is instructor and student. You'll find the same with most martial arts which have adopted the belt system in order to fit into the modern paradigm.
     
  4. huoxingyang

    huoxingyang Valued Member

    Belts/sashes are useful for holding your clothes shut or your trousers up :p

    Sashes are just a more "chinesey" alternative to belts (though the wearing of belts/sashes was not an unknown element of Chinese martial arts uniforms/costumes prior to the adoption of a coloured system to denote rank, for example see above).

    Some kung fu schools in the West just use karate belts since they are/were cheaper and easier to get hold of in the early days.
     
  5. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    As I understand it Kano took the idea of grades from swimming grades.
    In older japanese arts it's the menkyo kaiden system rather than the dan/kyu system.
     
  6. Xanth

    Xanth Valued Member

    Belts and sashes are simply a means to identify progress and reward students hard work. Unless you are learning rope technique, the belt itself has no function. Belts also are not equivalent in differing martial arts, or sometimes even schools of the same art. Traditional ranking goes from light to dark. About the only equivalent belts are white and black as they denote beginner vs expert.
     
  7. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    Belts are a historical training thing.

    In the old days belts were just used to stop the Gi/Kimono from coming loose. But over time with training the belts would get dirty. Although they started off white they would get dirt and blood on them. You could tell how long someone had been training by the color of their belt.

    This is because in the old days people did not realize that you had to separate whites from colors before putting them in the washing machine. At first belts took on light colors like yellows, but over successive washes colors mixed and they became darker producing blues, browns and finally blacks.
     
  8. AussieGirl

    AussieGirl Valued Member

  9. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Tom bayley....that's an old myth and not true.
     
  10. raaeoh

    raaeoh never tell me the odds

    I hope he knows that. But......
     
  11. Hannibal

    Hannibal Angriest MAP resident.... Supporter

    Belts denote rank which typically (albeit sometimes loosely) proximates to ability within the system

    This is nothing new - in fact the Henry VIII actually had a ranking system in place for teaching martial pursuits
     
  12. Alansmurf

    Alansmurf Back on the mats !! Supporter

    Marital pursuits .....
     
  13. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member


    I AM PAYING THE PRICE of believing what people write on the internet and not listening to the old oral wisdom. Because you said it was a myth and not true I did not sort my whites and now my training T shirt is PINK.

    It might be a myth but there is truth in myths.
     
  14. Hannibal

    Hannibal Angriest MAP resident.... Supporter

    Not always... Although pink is cool
     
  15. pecks

    pecks Valued Member

    heh - pink training shirt definitely says "don't even think about it"
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    As an instructor, I tend to look at belts as "book marks in the curriculum"... they generally tell me how far a student has progressed, what they have studied, and what they should be studying in general. With a quick glance, I can put students on appropriate tasks within a class.

    Granted, I tend to be quite flexible and like to mix groups and topics - review for the senior guys and new stuff for the lower ranked guys who can handle it.

    In general, I break the color belts into three groups:

    Beginners (White, Yellow, Orange) - these students need to be watched closely to make sure they are getting the basics and reviewing the core foundations. Generally I protect them more.

    Intermediate (Green, Purple, Blue)- these students tend to have a good foundation and a good hunger to learn more. They are proficient enough to work at a higher level of contact and require less supervision, although generally there is a need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't exceed what they can handle (and to protect their partners sometimes).They also have to be watched with their partners because at this point some students think they 'know it all' and haven't tempered the knowledge with quite enough experience.

    Advanced (brown) - these students usually have a strong foundation and good knowledge of the core foundation. They can be trusted to work with junior and senior students without (intentionally) getting hurt or hurting someone. At this point, some of the training focuses on learning more by learning to teach this (warm ups, supervised instruction of a technique, etc). These students are committed, well trained, work hard, and are expected to be able to start directing some of their own training goals.

    Black belt - has demonstrated the core knowledge of the system satisfactorily and now is learning to teach the core curriculum while assisting the instructor. Also, the curriculum shifts now to improving and refining the core material and applying it in smoother and smoother ways.
    (We then divide the black belts into 9 levels, but I won't get into that)

    As easy as it is to say that a 'belt doesn't mean anything', within the context of a school, they do... on one hand they should give a good indication of where a student is in the curriculum and they should give an indication of how hard you can go with them/what they can handle. By black belt, they should be a pretty good representative of the school in terms of quality of instruction. That said, it is much harder (or sometimes impossible) to compare belts across schools and arts.
     
  17. pecks

    pecks Valued Member

    Good post.
    That reminds me, we once had a guest instructor. I was paired up with a black belt, and we we doing a basic punch/block drill. The thought came into my mind, that my instructor always tells us to punch straight when doing this (as opposed to punching off-centre, towards where you know the block is coming). So I did, and I hit the black belt straight on the nose. I then had to spend the next two hours training with an extremely annoyed and un-cooperative black belt.
     
  18. Travess

    Travess Misplaced Melancholy Supporter

    Exactly - Couldn't have put it any better myself!

    The error, I am sure you already realise, lies completely at the Black Belts feet (or nose, if you'd prefer) not necessarily for his clear error in judgment of the incoming technique, but certainly for his attitude that followed. I personally have more time for a technically flawed black belt, who is more humble and gratious, than I do vice versa.

    Travess
     
  19. Latikos

    Latikos Valued Member

    Same here.
    Among the first things we learn and teach is that a hit has to go there, where it's supposed to be. Not to the side or above the head (for example) or whatever.
    When we are supposed to hit the nose, that's where we're aiming at.
    I actually got a slap to the back of my head when I accidentally didn't once :D

    If your partner doesn't pay enough attention or is too slow - tough luck.
    Of course the speed and such depend on how far the partners are progressed: If I were to hit full speed to a newbie, my teacher wold probably rip my head off.
    But with a blackbelt? Punching in slow-mo and I know my teacher would be standing at my side, asking what I think I'm doing.

    I never had annyone being annoyed when he got hit so far luckily, and vice versa I wasn't.
    I got a hit to the nose once, because my partner was hitting there, where I was supposed to evade - wh had a laugh (the instructor asked what we were laughing about and started to after explaining) and kept going.
    I didn't even consider to be mad or anything.


    EDIT: A little more at topic:
    Most of the time the group gets two different techniques to learn: One for the newer people, one for those who are of a higher grade (or if the teacher decides anyone can do that as well; I usually get lucky to do the advanced things); that or everyone does the same from the beginning - that depends on what is done.

    A belt should show, what the carrier is at able to do - at least roughly.
    But even I already know cases, where a higher graded (BB) person then I am does most worse then I do.
    Just as there are people who can do better, then the belt would make one think.
    BUT: When being on seminars and such and I have higher graded person in front of me - I admit it: If we were doing throws, for example, I wouldn't ask, if he can fall properly, because I expect that. I would ask a yellow belt (i.e.) though.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017

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