In many martial arts, belts are used to indicate rank or expertise. Each martial art usually has its own belt system with different skills and requirements for each belt level. Typically, a black belt is the highest ranked belt one can achieve. Different belts of different colors usually make up the stages leading to the black belt.
The use of colored belts to denote rank or ability in martial arts is a relatively recent invention in the long history of martial arts. It is believed that a belt system intended to indicate rank was first used by the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, in the late 19th century. Judo directly influenced other Japanese martials who then adopted their own belt ranking system.
The establishment of martial arts schools and the commercialization of martial arts also influenced the adoption of belt systems. Many students enroll and train in the hopes of one day reaching their black belt.
The value of a black belt can vary widely depending on the martial art. In some martial arts, a black belt is considered an expert level and can only be awarded after more than 10 years in which a person can be required to have proven their skills through competition and regular training. In other martial arts, a black belt can be achieved as a juvenile after a few years of occasional training. Martial arts that guarantee black belts and reward them after a short period of training often see their legitimacy questioned.
Which black belt takes the longest to achieve?
Judo - 4 to 6 years old
The exact length of time spent training in judo before receiving a black belt depends on many different factors. For example, grading standards and belt criteria can vary widely depending on the academy and region of the world you decide to train.
Judo has different ranking systems depending on the region, but in general the judo ranking system is divided into two ranking systems - kyū and dan ranks. Kyū ranks come first and consist of 6 colored belts (white, yellow, orange, green, blue and brown). Once a student has reached the final Kyu grade, they can then test their first black belt in the Dan grading system. There are 10 Dan black belt ranks with the first Dan black belt known as "Shodan".
Unlike other martial arts, a black belt in judo is not considered an expert level. “Shodan” literally translates to “first level” or “beginning stage”. Exam requirements for a Shodan belt vary depending on the country, age group and of course the class being tried. The exam itself may include Kata or a demonstration of skill in competition.
With regular training and dedication, it wouldn't be unusual for someone to earn a Judo Shodan black belt in 6 years or less.
Karate - 4 to 7 years old
Karate has four main styles: Goju-ryu, Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu. Each has their own techniques and may have their own promotion criteria depending on the academy and their
In general, to get your black belt, you must pass the 10 “kyu” levels. The first five levels (rows) are signified by colored belts: white, orange, red, yellow and green. The sixth and seventh levels are represented by a purple belt, and the eighth to tenth levels are represented by a brown belt. Once the last brown belt is reached, the next step is the first black belt, or Dan belt. This is commonly known as Shodan and is the first level out of 10 of the Dan Black Belts.
The exact time it takes to reach Shodan or any level of Dan Black Belt depends on the amount of time spent in training, skill, and discretion of the person awarding the belt. In general, it is believed that a Shodan black belt can be achieved by about 5 years of regular training.
Jiu Jitsu - 9 to 13 years old
There are several variations of Jiu Jitsu today, with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu being the most popular form. This is in part due to its prevalence in MMA and the success the Gracie family has had in promoting it over the past 25 years. In BJJ, a black belt is considered an expert level and may require many years of regular training.
The exact criteria for the belt may differ by academy, with some schools requiring black belts to have demonstrated their skills through teaching or even in competition.
Like other martial arts, the time taken to earn a black belt in BJJ depends on many factors and can vary widely between academies and regions. However, it is widely accepted that it usually takes on average 10+ years of regular training to receive a BJJ black belt.
The most popular criteria for ranking belts in BJJ were created by the Brazilian International Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). By their standards, a black belt recipient must be at least 19 years old. When you add up their minimum edibility standards for other colored belts, the minimum amount of time an adult can achieve a black belt is 4 years and 6 months.
There can be great variations in the amount of time spent training when it comes to awarding a BJJ black belt. Previous grappling experience, age and athleticism often play an important role. For example, a young professional MMA fighter who trains every day (including Gi training) is much more likely to receive one faster than a 40 year old amateur grappler who can only train twice a week. UFC Hall of Fame member BJ Penn received his BJJ black belt after only 3 years and 4 months of training. BJ would go on to become a BJJ world champion as well as the UFC middleweight champion.
Taekwondo - 3 to 5 years old
Unlike some other martial arts, Taekwondo does not have a traditional ranking system that has been passed down through the centuries. In TaeKwondo, the ranking system is a rather modern innovation to keep in step with other martial arts. The ranking system is modeled after the Karate ranking system, but is divided into junior and senior ranks.
The junior system is made up of colored belts called Geups. The exact number of geups depends on the exact style of taekwondo being taught with between 8 and 12 ranks depending on the school. The senior system is made up of black belts with each rank of black belt known as Dan. There are generally nine levels of Dan in taekwondo.
The Taekwondo Ranking System is designed to encourage young people to continue training until they reach the top ranks. With regular training, we learn that a student can obtain their first Dan black belt in 3 to 5 years.
Aikido - 3 to 4 years old
Aikido practitioners generally progress by promotion through kyu grades and Dan diplomas similar to other martial arts. Not all Aikido organizations use grade belts. Some only use white and black belts to differentiate kyu and dan ranks, while others use colored belts.
The testing requirements for a black can vary greatly depending on the Aikido organization. In general, it is taught that a black belt in Aikido can be achieved within a few years of training.
For just over 3 years I have been training in Kung Fu and Muay Thai. Learning any martial art is a physically and mentally challenging process that takes years of practice to master. Here are 4 tips I wish I had known that can improve your training and reduce the time it takes between novice and grandmaster.
Flexibility is a fundamental trait of any good martial artist. Having this early on in your training will help boost you ahead for many reasons. Firstly, the more advanced techniques in martial arts require you to be extremely flexible, it’s to begin learning them without the required flexibility to do so, and thus you will be learning advanced moves earlier in your training if you’re already performing a perfect split. Secondly, you need to kick high, sometimes higher than your own head. If you’re training in a martial art that is fight orientated, such as kickboxing, being able to kick your opponent in the head is one of the best moves you have in your arsenal of attacks. If you are studying an art such as Kung Fu, flexibility will dramatically improve your technique in forms, helping you to score those extra points in competitions for your technical ability.
One of the best ways to learn, I have found, is directly from the horse’s mouth, in this case your master. Typically, in your classes, your master will demonstrate a technique that they want you to practice with a partner. If they don’t ask for volunteers before performing each technique, go ahead and tell them before the class starts that you would like to be involved in the demonstrations. This will help you get a real feel for what they’re trying to show you, as you can miss subtle techniques that may be out of your vision. Volunteering to be demonstrated on can seem scary, but remember that they are a master of what they do, and they won’t actually be performing the move with the intent to hurt you.
Hitting pads is good for when you’re learning a new move, but you will find you begin performing the technique in a much different way when faced with something that will hit back. Simple things like remembering to cover your head when throwing a kick or punch will become deuxième nature after being punished for dropping your guard, even for a split deuxième. You may be asked or required to participate in a fighting tournament at some point of your martial arts journey, and the best way you can prepare for this is sparring. Remember that it is for the purpose of learning, not knocking each other out as quick as you can. You will begin to learn how to spot and react to your opponent’s openings, and how to defend against different moves. Forget being stronger or faster than your opponent, being an éclairé fighter is what will give you the advantage come fight night.
Your training doesn’t begin and end when you enter and leave the doors. My Kung Fu master always told us that “practice is good, but perfect practice makes perfect”. When you train at home make sure you are performing each technique properly, as if you were in class, bad vêtements form fast and are extremely hard to be undone. Purchasing a large mirror is a great investment so you can l'étude yourself at home. Also watching scènes of other people performing techniques will help you to see how different techniques should look when you’re not at class.
Did you set a new year resolution this year ? If so, do they happen to be martial arts related ? Do you think you will actually achieve them ?
Statistics for failed New Year’s resolutions run anywhere between 45-80%. Now that another new year is here, it’s time to focus and set our eyes back on the prize in order to not become part of this rather bleak data. tera help you, on this post, I’ll be highlighting a couple personal tips that may help make both your short-term and long-term goals stick
Focusing on small milestones, following your détermination, challenging yourself, and finding what inspires you can help you make improvements for the rest year and meet or even surpass your martial arts goals and beyond !
You’re much more likely to stay motivated and make improvements if you’re doing something you enjoy. What is your absolute favorite thing to do at your martial arts school ? If you love to spar find ways to push yourself harder. Ask your instructor for pointers. Train with higher-ranking students. Seek out tournaments in your area for a challenge.
What if you’re doing what you love, and you’re already good at it, but you don’t know how to improve ? Avoid stagnation by digging deeper into your favorite activity. Find ways to go out of your comfort zone. Ask for help and feedback even in areas where you feel you are at your best. For example, if you enjoy doing forms, ask your instructor to work with you on finer details.
Play around with timing and emphasis. Enter or at least attend a tournament to see how other martial artists practice forms and see what you can learn from them. Seek out master classes, seminars, and clinics in your area. If you want some fun and relaxation while you practice consider taking a martial arts holiday.
Alternatively, you can also work on your training from the comfort of your own home by joining an online martial arts training. As you won’t even have to step foot outside, there’s simply no excuse not to keep up your practice !
Think about your long-term goals and then break it down into small milestones. Do you want to be able to do fifty push-ups in one set, but right now you can only do ten ? Don’t burn yourself out on day one trying to do all fifty. You may injure yourself or simply become discouraged that you can’t reach your goal immediately.
Slow down. Scale back. Try adding five extra push-ups per week, and over time you’ll build up the strength and stamina you need to meet your goal.
Maybe you have transferred schools and need to relearn the particular forms or self-defense techniques practiced at your new school. I have seen this happen with black belts and higher-ranking color belts who have transferred to my dojang. For example, a fellow black belt practiced Taeguk taekwondo forms at her old dojang, but now she needs to learn the Palgwe forms that we practice.
Rather than trying to learn everything at once, which will likely feel overwhelming, start with one technique or one form. Ask an instructor or another black belt for help. Watch videos online. Move on to the next technique when you are able to perform the first one without any guidance or prompts.
Sometimes you have to do things in martial arts that you don’t enjoy as much but you still have to do due to coutume, chic schedules, and keeping your practice well-rounded. Martial arts may be the hardest thing you do, but it shouldn’t feel like drudgery. Think about what you don’t enjoy as much in chic or what you dread doing, and try to figure out why you avoid it. Perhaps you don’t like it because you’re not very skilled ( yet ), you don’t do it very often, you find it stressful, or you simply find it boring.
Challenge yourself. Find the “fun” in something that has simply felt like work. It’s easy to get better at something you enjoy and you’re naturally good at doing. Just think of how it will feel when you make improvements in an area where you have continuously struggled.
Leveraging your strengths can help you develop skills in areas where you struggle. For example, if sparring is particularly challenging, be mindful of other times when you use blocks or strikes such as in forms or self-defense. Make them as sharp and powerful as you would in a faster-paced sparring match. Ask your instructor to incorporate quick reaction drills into classes. Attend extra sparring classes, and if you are a black belt or higher ranking, attend lower ranking sparring classes and offer to coach or referee. Teaching a skill can help you make vast improvements in your own practice.