The unique system of assigning specific shades of karate belts, or obis, to practitioners of the sport is one of the most interesting and recognized part of the sport today. Though the belt may not seem like much, just a simple swath of cloth, it is the one portion of the outfit that differentiates a fresh young trainee from an experience master of the art.
Every color of the obi represents hours of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, it is not an easy feat to move up the ranks in martial arts and doing so is something of great honor and pride, a triumph that demands respect. Those who aspire to achieve higher ranking in the world of martial arts will have to participate in rigorous training and complete often difficult and complicated tasks in order to move up in rank, getting to a new rank and being awarded a new belt is a huge honor.
The obis are a symbol that call for honor and respect, when you see someone who has acquired a colored belt you know that they have worked hard to do so, typically the darker the belt is, the higher ranking they are. A long time ago, the primary reason martial artists ever wore a belt was simply to hold up their own pants, but eventually an instructor known as Jigoro Kano decided that he wanted a system for showing the skill level of each of his students and established the colored obi system as a way of doing so.
There is actually no hard and fast rule as to which colors will be used for what level of skill, because instead of honoring a universal system, the master of each dojo is responsible for deciding which colors he will used for his students as well as what they must do to earn them. The popular trend in this system is that the belts will go from the lightest colors to the darkest colors as the student ranks up, typically from white to yellow and eventually to black, with various colored or numbers of stripes in between belt colors.
There are many myths out there that claim in years past, practitioners would only be provided one belt and as training went on the karate belts of these artists would get dirtier and dirtier, therefore a black belt was one that had been trained in for years. The truth is that they are simply pieces of colored strips of cloth that are worn like badges of honor to represent how far you’ve progressed in your martial arts training, but they are still very fascinating, none the less.