What does a White Belt in Karate Signify?
A White Belt in Kenpo Karate, and martial arts in general, is deeply symbolic. In Japanese culture, white symbolizes “the end”…a sacrifice of your previous life. This sacrifice is made as you devote yourself to the practice of martial arts, which is also the beginning of your new journey. Therefore, a white belt is symbolic of both life and death. According to karate folklore, the practitioner trains for many years and then the soil, dirt, and blood from their practice eventually turns the white belt into a black belt after many years. In modern day, we do not wait for the belt to turn dark and dirty. There are belts already colored appropriately. While there is no universally agreed upon ranking systems or color order, typically, the next rank after white belt is Yellow Belt. A common belt color order is white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, blue, brown, black and red. In some arts, there are also stripes that signify one of two things: 1) progress toward a belt; 2) degrees of belts. In American Kenpo Karate, we have 3 degrees of Brown Belt (signified by black stripes on a Brown Belt) and 3 Degrees of Black Belt (signified by red stripes on the Black Belt) linked to curricular knowledge. After 3rd degree mastery, the practitioner is called upon to teach and to give back to the art, while also deepening capacity and expertise in the art.
Schools have different rituals for advancing in rank. As students advance in rank, they replace their belt with a new higher-ranking color. The requirements for advancing in rank vary between schools. At American Kenpo Karate in Pasadena, most belt levels require master of the following: self-defense techniques, katas or forms, sets, and free-style techniques. Some schools have belt ceremonies. Some schools have tests. At our school, our curriculum follows a 15-week cycle in which we both review old techniques and learn new ones. In weeks 14 and 15 we pretest our students to ensure that they can pass the test at the end of 15 weeks.
Here’s your first lesson as a white belt. This lesson, by Master Rick Jeffcoat will teach you about Stances.