karate belts in order of color

8 Levels of Karate Belts in Order of Colour

When you step into a Karate dojo, you’ll notice a multitude of colours, each signifying a level in the ranking system. Each colour has a meaning, but not every dojo follows the same colour order.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of the traditional and modernized colour order of belt levels in Karate, why this order isn’t the same from one Dojo to the next, and what each level means for you.

Original Karate Belt Colour Ranks

traditional karate belt order 1

In 1924 Gichin Funakoshi (known as the father of Karate) inherited the ranking system used in Judo at the time. This system included only 3 belt colours with several ranks, Kyu and Dan, within each belt colour.

White Belt: 8th – 4th Kyu

Brown Belt: 3rd – 1st Kyu

Black Belt – 1st Dan and higher

Modern Karate Belt Colour Ranks

modern karate belt order 1

Some traditional Karate Dojos still use the traditional belt ranking system today, most do not. The globalization of Karate has evolved from the traditional 3 colours up to as many as 9 colours depending on the Dojo.

Why is this?

1) There’s no regulatory body to standardize the order of belt colours in Karate or how many belts you must go through before reaching the coveted black belt.

2) Karate has been divided into 4 main styles (Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shuto-Ryu) and as many as 26 sub-styles. Each style tends to adopt its own belt ranking system with +/- 1-2 belt colours or a slightly different order. All Karate schools start with White and end with Brown and Black.

Example of common Karate belts colours in order

White Belt – 9th

Yellow Belt: 8th Kyu

Orange Belt: 7th Kyu

Green Belt: 6th Kyu

Blue Belt: 5th Kyu

Purple Belt: 4th Kyu

Brown Belt: 3rd Kyu

Brown Belt: 2nd Kyu

Black Belt: 1st Kyu

Karate Belt Colour Meanings

Karate White Belt Meaning

The white belt is the first belt in the karate belt system ranking system and is one of the most important belts in the system. The white belt is the first step to earning the black belt. It is also one of the most difficult belts in the karate belt system ranking system.

Why is it so important and difficult? This is where your Karate foundation is built and a faulty foundation will lead to future failure. All the movements are new and your brain has to analyze, recorrect and repeat.

I remember when I first started learning Karate, the movements felt foreign and challenging to learn. Once my brain learned how to use my hips, footwork, hikite, breathing, strikes, and blocks all as one fluent motion it started to get easier.

Karate Black Belt Meaning

A black belt in karate is a symbol of mastery, progress, and achievement. It is earned through years of dedicated training, skill, and perseverance. It is the highest level of skill and is achieved once a student has reached mastery of all of the skills and techniques that the instructor has taught them.

Black belts are often called “masters” or “shihans” which means “senior”.

karate vs kung fu

10 Key Differences – Karate vs Kung Fu

Karate vs Kung Fu – What are the differences?

Although there are some similarities between Karate and Kung Fu, there are many key differences. As a Karateka, I’ve immersed myself into Karate as a way of life, and here are some key differences I’ve observed when it comes to Karate vs Kung Fu.

10. Traditional Karate Doesn’t Train with Weapons

kung fu vs karate

Karate-Do translates to ‘Empty Hand’. The only weapons traditional Karate teaches the student to use belong to their own body. Karatekas are taught how to become a walking weapon simply by using parts of their own body such as fists, feet, fingers, knees, elbows, forearms, and shins.

There are an astonishing 18 weapons taught in the various styles of Kung Fu. They are the sabre, spear, sword, halberd, axe, battle axe, hook, fork, whip, mace, hammer, talon, trident-halberd, cudgel, long-handled spear, short cudgel, stick, and meteor hammer.

9. Certain Kung Fu Styles are Influenced by Animals

karate vs kung fu

Shaolin Kung Fu has 5 styles, each influenced by an animal. These 5 animals are the Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, and Dragon. Karate has no such influence.

8. Uniforms

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Karate is home to arguably the most recognized martial arts uniform — the Karate Gi. Traditionally, Karate Gis are white and many schools won’t accept any other colour so to adhere to the tradition. Black Gis are becoming more popular and seem to be more accepted, particularly in Western society.

Kung Fu uniforms come in a range of colours depending on the style. You may see Kung Fu uniforms in white, orange, black, and red.

Karate Gis are easily distinguished by their angled overlap at the top half front of the Gi that doesn’t connect at any point like Taekwondo uniforms do. The ties are hidden underneath the jacket, not to be seen.

Kung Fu uniforms come together at the top straight up and down, some with many noticeable ties to keep each side of the jacket together.

7. Karate Trains Bare Foot

karate vs kung fukarate vs kung fu

Karate uses barefoot training except in tournaments. Even Makiwara and bag training are traditionally trained barefoot.

Kung Fu used a unique lightweight shoe that has a flat and flexible sole, allowing for lots of foot mobility.

6. Kung Fu Uses More Acrobatics

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Kung Fu tends to be more flashy than Karate, resembling other sports such as Parkour, gymnastics, and even break dancing. Arguably, this doesn’t make Kung Fu more or less effective than Karate.

Karate teaching fighting techniques only. The only objectives of Karate are to defend oneself if needed and to end the fight as soon as possible.

5. Kung Fu is Older Than Karate

kungfu vs karate

As you may or may not know, Karate is derived from Kung Fu. Kung Fu is said to have originated as early as 1911 BC, although nobody can be sure.

Karate didn’t become its’ own martial art until the 17th century. After evolving in East Asia for centuries, Karate became its own define system by practitioners residing in Okinawa. This system is not the system you know today though.

There were no uniforms, ranking systems, belts, commercialized dojos, rigid styles or curriculums. Just pure Karate-Do as a fighting discipline and way of life.

4. Karate has Less Variety of Forms and Techniques

kung fu vs karate vs taekwondo

Karate teaches practical self-defense — using hand and foot strikes as its main offense with the philosophy to end the fight with 1 single powerful blow. Having less variety than Kung Fu means more practice with the same techniques. This repetition may lead to a higher effectiveness per technique.

Kung Fu tends to be more elusive and defensive. The added variety of stances and forms in Kung Fu are more obscure and non-traditional compared to the straight-line style of Karate.

3. Karate is More Linear

kung fu vs karate

Nearly all of Karat’s stances, strikes and blocks are front/back or side. Kung Fu tends to have a more circular motion when it comes to many of its forms. This is partly why it appears to be more elegant in nature while Karate appears more robust.

2. Kung Fu is Trained to Defend Multiple Opponents

kung fu vs karate 1

This is one of the larger differences between Karate and Kung Fu. Although Karate Katas are performed as if defending against multiple opponents, these don’t prepare you for a real battle. Karate Kumite (sparring) is primarily one vs one and therefore prepares one for such a battle.

Kung Fu on the other hand emphasizes defending against multiple opponents at once. Their training includes attacks coming from multiple angles.

1. Karate is More Offensive

kung fu vs karate

In Karate, you are taught to diffuse and avoid a potentially volatile situation at all costs, fighting is the last resort. If a fight does ensue, Karatekas are taught to end the fight as soon as possible with one deadly strike.

Although Kung Fu students are also taught to be able to end the fight with one strike, they’re also taught to ‘dance around’ with sleek and obscure movements to avoid confrontation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Karate stronger than Kung Fu?

No martial is stronger than another. It’s the martial artist that determines the strength of the martial art.

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No Karate Near Me, So I Signed Up Online – My Experience

In the midst of Covid, I spontaneously decided to immerse myself in Karate but finding a Dojo to practice Karate near me was not an option. With the lockdowns and mass restrictions, all the Karate Dojos near me were shut down or highly restricted and prioritizing current members.

I didn’t want to wait for who knows how long before in-person learning became an option again, I was determined to start learning ASAP.

No Karate Near Me…Now What?

This got me thinking, can I actually learn Karate online? Can I earn an accredited Karate belt Rank online?

After signing up to every karate school that offered a free trial to their online training it was a no-brainer as to which school I was going to train with.

That school ended up being Global Martial Arts University, or GMAU for short. You can read my full review here.

As of writing this, I’ve been a student with GMAU for about 2 months and can 100% advocate for them. I received my white belt within 4 weeks and am currently halfway to my Yellow belt.

Learning Karate online comes with perks but it also has its’ downfalls in comparison to training at a Karate Dojo near you. The chart below will go over what I consider to be the most important areas to compare and consider followed by an in-depth breakdown of some key benefits to learning Karate online vs a Karate Dojo near you.

*Note: Having experience with in-person training for Kickboxing and Kung Fu years ago I can confidently say that online martial arts training isn’t an equal experience. I 100% advocate for in-person martial arts training over online if possible and desired.

Global Martial Arts University vs Local Karate Dojo

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Visit Website
ProgramShotokan KarateShotokan Karate
Accredited Rank
Belts OfferedWhite - BlackWhite - Black
Wait Restriction Between BeltsLogged training hours:
White - 8hrs
Others - 36hrs
4-12 months wait (sometimes longer for brown and black belts)
Make Own Schedule
FeedbackPeriodic, Hands-offConstant, Hands-on
Community of Students to Interact with
Teach Partner Training
Teach Kumite (sparring)
Partners Readily Available
View Lessons Repeatedly
Instructor Support, Feedback, & Guidance
Active Student Forum
Belt Testing Fee$60$100-$300
Monthly Investment1) $39.95/mnth
2) $179.70 biannually
3) $195 x 3 (3 year access)
$95/mnth (avg.) (according to IKCA)
Read Review
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Key Benefits of Training Karate Online

1. Save $3400 to get your Black Belt by Training Online

According to the International Karate Connection Association, the average price to learn martial arts in-person is $95/month. Based on researching Reddit and learning what people are paying at their local Dojos, I’ve come to the conclusion that it will cost between $100-$300 per belt test and up to $1000 per black belt test. This amounts to a minimum savings of $3400 compared to learning Karate online with a school like GMAU.

2. Make Your Own Schedule

This is the sole reason I stopped my in-person kickboxing and KungFu membership in the past. My schedule started to get in the way and found myself being able to only make it to 0-1 class per week. I couldn’t justify the price I was paying at that rate.

Scheduling will never be an issue with online Karate training. All classes and lessons (30+ per belt) are pre-recorded and can be repeated as many times as you’d like, whenever you’d like, for as many days per week as you’d like.

3. No Minimum Wait Times For Belt Testing

Many local Karate Dojos near you will establish minimum wait times of 3-4 months with 1-3 year wait times for black belt testing. One can argue this teaches patience and one can argue it forces you to pay monthly dues for a longer period of time if you’re ready before the mandated wait time.

When it comes to learning Karate online, I can only speak from my experience at GMAU, they only require 36 hours of training time for each belt level. You have full control over how fast you move through those 36 hours. For example, if you want to train 30min/day every day, you can test for each belt every 2 months, providing you feel you’re ready.

Pros of Training at a Karate Dojo Near You

1. Hands-On Learning

As a personal trainer, I can confidently say that nothing compares to training in person. Your trainer, or Sensei for Karate, has an eye for proper technique and preventing bad habits before they set in.

Little things that can easily get overlooked in Karate when training on your own are: foot placement and angling, posture, the distance of stances, punch and kick direction, wrist and ankle angling, hip engagement and rotation, where power initiates, and much more.

Training with a mirror and videotaping yourself can negate some of these challenges if you know what to look for and have an eye for spotting it.

2. Partner Training and Kumite (sparring)

Although GMAU has a student locator built into their program allowing you to search for a fellow student near you, it’s not reliable. For example, I have found students near me but none of them are active, leaving me to train without a partner.

At a Karate Dojo near you, having a training partner s won’t be an issue. Partner training is a critical component for training Karate in-person to get the feel of having an opponent. This is one aspect of training that cannot be duplicated when training on your own no matter how often you hit the punching bag or Makiwara.

3. Provides Motivation

Training at a Karate Dojo near you will provide the additional motivation and challenge that you won’t get from training by yourself. Just when you’re ready to give up as your muscles are burning and your heart is pumping, you see the person next to you grinding away. What do you do? More times than not you’ll push through until the end.

What happens when you’re at home and you’re ready to give up? More times than not, unless you have crazy drive and self-discipline, you’ll stop.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does Karate cost per month?

This depends on where you live of course, but for Canada and the United States, it will cost in the range of $65-$150/month (excluding testing fees). According to the International Karate Connection Association, the average price to learn martial arts in-person is $95/mnth

At what age should you start Karate?

Most Dojos accept start accepting kids at the age of 5. If you’re older than 5, you should start whenever you’re ready!

Can I learn Karate after 30?

Absolutely! No matter what age you are, even if you’re more than 30 years old, you can learn Karate! I started learning Karate when I was 35! It’s never too late to start!

What is better, Karate or Taekwondo?

No martial art is superior to another martial art, the effectiveness of any martial art is dependant on the martial artist.

There are no Karate Dojos near me, can I learn Karate online?

You can definitely learn Karate online! Keep in mind that it will take more discipline and body awareness to learn Karate online versus in person. They each have their pros and cons, which I discussed above.

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Best Dojo to Learn Karate Online, From a Real Student (2022)

In This Post

  1. 1 unique program
  2. 17 different variables

Reviews Contain:

  1. Video
  2. Pros
  3. Cons
  4. Curriculum
  5. Testimonials
  6. Review
  7. Accreditations
  8. Requirements

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission, at no extra cost to you.

False Info Alert: If you’ve read the post from verywellfit.com on the best Karate classes online please disregard everything they say about Global Martial Arts University. As a student of GMAU myself, it’s clear they have no insight on Karate or the program itself as what they say about the program is inaccurate.

*Note: Having experience with in-person training for Kickboxing and Kung Fu years ago I can confidently say that online martial arts training isn’t an equal experience. I 100% advocate for in-person martial arts training over online if possible and desired.

If you’re like me…

and find yourself at a point where your schedule isn’t suitable for training at a local Dojo and/or the price is a little steep at the moment, learning Karate online is an excellent alternative—but this comes with a big IF…

That’s IF the online training is well structured, detailed, and offers instructor feedback so you can avoid developing bad habits before it’s too late.

I have a goal to achieve a black belt in at least 2 different martial arts over the next 5 years (by the time I’m 40) and I want to make sure the belt rank I achieve is legitimate and accredited. This way, if I make it possible to train at a local Dojo my rank can be transferred.

I combed through YouTube, Google and even purchased a couple of courses from Udemy in order to find a program that met my standards. I was losing hope and thought I may have to put my goal on hold.

Luckily, I stumbled upon the Global Martial Arts University’s Shotokan Karate program. They tick off all the boxes for what I (and likely you) need to learn Karate online while offering accredited rank. In fact, the certificate of rank that you receive is exactly the same as if you were to train with them in person at their Dojo.

Quick tip before we get into it

If you decide to try GMAU, find a way to mirror your phone or computer onto your TV. I use Chromecast to do this. This makes following the lessons and classes so much easier. I can’t even imagine trying to follow them from a Tablet or Laptop.

Let’s get into it, shall we!

Overview of the Online Shotokan Karate Program from Global Martial Arts University

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Visit Website
ProgramShotokan Karate
Accredited Rank
Belts OfferedWhite - Black
Karate Gi Mandatory for TestingNo but highly recommended
Hours of Training Required per BeltWhite - 8hrs
Others - 36hrs +
Total Technique Lessons100+
Total Follow Along Classes110+
Video Hours per Belt8+ hrs
Technique Specific Lessons
Follow Along Classes
Shows Techniques from all Angles
Teach Partner Training
Teach Kumite (sparring)
Instructor Support, Feedback, & Guidance
Active Student Forum
Belt Testing FeeWhite - $30
Others - $60
(compared to $100-$300 avg. at local Dojo)
Investment (3 options)1) $39.95/mnth
2) $179.70 biannually
3) $195 x 3 (3 year access)
(compared to the $95/mnth avg. according to IKCA)
Coupon Code50% OFF 1st 3 months: STAYSTRONG
Read Review
Visit Website

Global Martial Arts University Review

learn karate online

Program: Shotokan Karate

Pricing Options:
1) $39.95/month
2) $179.70 Biannually
3) $195 x 3 (3-year access)

50% OFF Global Martial Arts University Coupon Code

karate classes online

And You Can Add On A Family Member for 50% Off and Share an Account!

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  • All online
  • Fraction of the cost of a local Dojo
  • Earn accredited belt ranking
  • Same certificate and curriculum as in-person students
  • Real feedback from your Sensei
  • Detailed and well-structured course
  • 10+ Technique lessons per belt
  • 12+ classes per belt
  • Created for ages 6 – Adult
  • Offer 6 different martial arts
  • You may develop bad habits while practicing without the eyes of a Sensei that will only be pointed out to you once you submit your Belt exam. Given that these bad habits had some time to sink in, it will take more time to re-correct them. This is one of the main sacrifices you will make by training online.
  • No sparring. Although GMAU has a student locator that allows you to search for fellow students to practice and/or spar with. You can also find your own partner by your own means.
  • For an online learning platform, I can’t imagine something better. The only thing better is to train in person to get real-time feedback.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Global Martial Arts University legit?

Yes, GMAU is a legit and accredited business. Their Shotokan Karate program is internationally accredited and online students receive the same certificate of rank as their in-person students. This means your rank can be transferred to a Karate dojo near you so long as you pass their personal testing requirements.

What is Shotokan Karate?

A wonderful and mysterious martial art from the past happened to us from Okinawa. It is often said that someone who has mastered the techniques can easily defend himself without weapons and achieve remarkable feats of strength and dexterity.

The style taught by Master Hodge has defensive abilities and goes beyond mere physical defenses in the area of ​​control of mind, body, and soul. Practicing Shotokan Karate-Do with intensity and concentration over time creates a powerful warrior spirit. Using this spirit to serve others with, in, and through peace and cooperation will establish balance and harmony within the student.

Shotokan Karate-Do has its origins in Okinawa and reaches back to China, where many of the early masters studied. For the past thousand years, Okinawa has studied and practiced the masters and experts who cultivated and perfected Shotokan Karate-Do.

In the last century, Shotokan Karate-Do reaches western countries, where man and manmade various derivatives of the martial arts from the original martial art seen in Okinawa, Korea, and China. Every practitioner today must understand that every display of martial arts has been modified and altered to suit public consumption.

Master Hodge’s are geared towards Shotokan Karate-Do and Gichin Funakoshi’s original Okinawan Karate-Do. The basic study of GMAU Shotokan Karate-Do up to the first degree of the black belt is geared towards Master Funakoshi. The Shotokan Karate lineage taught by Master Hodge is also linked by various Korean masters, but the basic style is up to the first degree practiced by all. Masters is geared towards Master Funakoshi.

How does testing work?

Train with lessons and classes. As soon as you have recorded the required minimum hours for the training, you can submit your test. Then just follow the directions on the test page to film and submit your video exam. Your teacher will conduct a detailed exam. Score your exam, and you’ll also shoot a personalized feedback video with corrections and instructions. Once you pass, you will receive your official certificate of rank. If you don’t agree the first time, you will receive corrections and you can resubmit them without paying another fee.

Do I need a partner to participate in the GMAU Shotokan Karate program?

While not strictly necessary, having a training partner can be very beneficial, however, the techniques can be practiced alone (preferably with a mirror). a partner is not available for self-defense and one-step demonstrations, a hanging bag, or a realistic doll can help. You need a partner in the brown belt Kumite section – black belt rank tests, this can be a friend, sparring partner or a family member.

Is there a minimum wait between level certification exams?

There are no “enforced waiting times” in the GMAU program but they do require students to document their training/practice sessions in the Student Journal. They require that you train a minimum number of hours and that you document each practice unit in your student diary before taking an exam.

They do this for several reasons: It allows us to monitor your progress, your training plan, and your training time. The minimum training hours are designed so that you get enough repetitions; generate real muscle memory and knee-jerk reactions. It is not enough just to “master a technique”, but to be able to execute it immediately with an attack without having to think.

Sufficient and documented practice will get you there. You want to maintain high standards of excellence and expectations so that your training, progress, and placements match those of a Shotokan Karate student from a physical institution.

Will my certificate state that it was earned “online” or through “home study”?

No, the certificates issued are the same as those issued to physical education students. This is because we have the same curriculum, exam requirements, and standards for students in our online course. work and have a much higher level of self-discipline to move forward.

Is there a cost for Rank testing? What does the test fee include?

Yes, Rank tests cost $ 60 each for the yellow-brown belt. The fee covers the time and energy your teacher spends working with you and assessing your exam. Your teacher will take plenty of time to study your exam, grade it, take detailed notes, and work with you on communication. Your teacher will also record a personalized feedback video for you! Your instructor will walk you through some of your mistakes, suggestions, fixes, guides, and anything else that can help, and the fee also covers your official certificate of rank.

Can I transfer my current rank into the Global Martial Arts University?

They currently allow rank transfers in their Shotokan Karate course. If you have a rank in Shotokan Karate (not any other style of Karate) you are eligible.

How to Transfer Rank: You must first fully enroll for the course Student Choose a payment option and log in Scan a copy of your highest ranked certificate and email it from their support tab from your GMAU account, pay the transfer fee of USD $85 (use this payment link).

This fee covers GMAU instructors reviewing your video for rank transfer and for their administrative time to put you in the rank. this URL. Your instructor will review your video in detail at the transfer rate. If you meet their standards for parity, they will respect your current rank and you can keep training to your black belt and beyond.

Can I enroll my child in the course? What is the minimum age?

Yes, a child aged 6 and over can register for the course. We recommend all children under the age of 13 train with the GMAU under adult supervision. We will have a karate program for children in the future, but this course is not yet available.

Can you study Karate online?

Yes, you can definitely study Karate online by training with an accredited online Karate school like Global Martial Arts University. Studying Karate online does require more discipline and body awareness than training at a physical Dojo.

Can I learn Karate by myself?

Yes, you can learn Karate by yourself. It is more challenging to do so as you won’t have an instructor there to analyze and recorrect your movements. You’ll likely need a mirror and to video yourself performing the movements in order to do self-correction.

Can you really get a black belt online?

Yes, you can get your black belt online by training with an accredited online Karate school like Global Martial Arts University. This ensures your Black Belt is accredited and can be transferred to another Dojo should you ever decide to train Karate in person.

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