The Belt

The Belt

Common myths about Karate belts and a step by step instructional on how to tie your belt.


The belt is called “obi”. It indicates the rank of the student. Every style has a different system of belts. Universally they go from lightest to darkest, starting with white and eventually ending with black. There are many exceptions to this rule; one of the most common is that 7th and 8th degree black belts will wear a white and red belt, and 9th and 10th degree black belts will wear a solid red belt.

Respect For the Belt

The belt must be treated with respect. There are many ridiculous explanations for why, but here are some very simple facts. The rank is something that can never be taken from you, but the belt your instructor gave you can become damaged or lost. That is all there is to it, and because of this we must take care of it. Think of it like any other clothing item you have received. If it becomes dirty, wash it. Washing a belt simply makes it clean, but be careful not to ruin it in the wash by using bleach or other harsh chemicals.


There are many myths that have gone around over the years about how washing a belt removes the knowledge that the karateka (karate student) has put into it. The concept of wearing a belt to show rank in martial arts was established by Jigoro Kano in Japan around the turn of the century. Before that it was used by the Japanese swimming teams. Gichin Funakoshi adopted its use when he introduced Karate to Japan. For the two or three centuries before that, no one ever wore a belt for anything other than holding their pants up. These masters of Karate were capable of retaining all their knowledge, and washing the clothes they learned karate in. With all of this in mind, please be hygienic and wash your belt whenever it needs it.

How to Tie the Belt

How To

Tying the belt can be accomplished in six easy steps:

Step One

Wrap the belt around the waist and bring the free ends back to the front.

Step Two

Cross the free ends of the belt on top of the middle of the belt so that they lay flat. (Do not cross the belt in the back).

Step Three

Take the free end of the belt that is on top down, come up behind all the wraps of the belt, and pull the free end out.

Step Four

Now let it lay down towards the ground.

Step Five

Take the top end down, behind the bottom end and pull it out through the loop.

Step Six

Pull tight.


Many schools will also embroider their belts. One side will have the the name of the karate student and the other side will have their rank. This is completely a personal choice. There are many who have a simple black belt and believe that personal ability will indicate rank without the need for embroidery. There are others who are very proud of their achievement and want to show it off. Neither is wrong, but one is obviously more “traditional”.

By KruczekKruczek on FacebookKruczek on Google+Kruczek on Twitter Visit author's website

Theodore Kruczek is the founder and head writer of the Okinawan Karate-do Institute. He is a 4th Degree Black Belt in Okinawan Shorin-ryu with more than 14 years of experience. This site was created as his way of both teaching his own Karate and learning about others.

Comments (9)

    • Glad it was helpful. The only thing that I didn’t emphasize in this is that you shouldn’t cross the belt in the back. However, there are many other styles who would disagree about this.

      Hope your blog does well. I will check it out every now and then.

  1. Embroidery, I wear (Shotokan Karatedo, 松濤館空手道) on my left, and on my right I wear an enso. My school I study under, United Shotokan, does this as a way of tradition. JKA is the most strict in this practice. Everything is worn a specific way, color, etc. I prefer to be a little eccentric however. We do not wear dan stripes on our belts, I am uncertain as to why, but we have a rule against showing anything other than they style and our name. Osu!

      • The enso with a broken section signifies that from the start to finish of coming full circle in an art of practice, one may wish and strive to attain perfection in what they do, but may never fully become perfect. It signifies coming close, but human nature prohibits the full attainment of becoming perfect.  I want to first point out that I am not a Buddhist nor do I practice Zen. However, the enso is synonymous with Zen and has one or two philosophical concepts behind it, one being the practice of drawing it as a form of meditation. – As a disclaimer this is my interpretation based on my readings.

        • I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, but knowing how heavily its teachings influenced Bushido, then Matsumura, and in effect all of Karate-do – I do take to many of its teachings such as this. The circle concept was first introduced to me when learning about Sihkism, another religion originating in India. The broken circle concept is new to me, but is both extremely interesting and a great topic my next philosophy article. Oss!

  2. Hello I Am Anindya From India…I Am 70 Kilos And My Height Is 5’5″…Tell Me That If I Practice Karate-Do Sincerely Then How Much Time Will It Take Me To Get Hold Of The Great Black Belt…??Besides Is Weight A Big Matter For A Person In Karate??….Thanks…

  3. Hello I Am Anindya From India…I Am 70 Kilos And My Height Is 5’5″…Tell Me That If I Practice Karate-Do Sincerely Then How Much Time Will It Take Me To Get Hold Of The Great Black Belt…??Besides Is Weight A Big Matter For A Person In Karate??….Thanks…

    • Avatar image

      Hi Anindya,

      Your height and weight do not matter too much when it comes to karate. I will point out that a black belt is not “great,” and having one does not mean you have mastered the art. It is simply recognition that you understand the basics of your style. This typically takes 3-8 years of dedicated training, depending on the instructor.

Pingbacks list

Join the discussion, leave a reply!