Black Belt Certification

The term black belt has become widely known as a way to describe an expert in martial arts. Where a participant’s level is often marked by the color of the belt. The black belt is commonly the highest belt color used and denotes a high degree of competence, and is often associated with a teaching grade though frequently not the highest grade. It is also a relatively recent invention, dating from the 19th century, rather than what is commonly thought of as an ancient asian custom.


The systematic use of belt color to denote rank was first used by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, who first devised the colored belt system using obi, and awarded the first black belts to denote a Dan rank in the 1880′s. Initially the wide obi was used; as participants trained in kimono, only white and black obi were used. It was not until the early 1900s, after the introduction of the judo-gi, that an expanded colored belt system of awarding rank was created. Other martial arts later adopted the very same custom or a variation of to denote rank including in arts that traditionally did not have a formalized rank structure. This kind of ranking is less common in arts that do not claim a far eastern origin.

Japanese Judo was the first martial art to introduce the colored belt ranking system as a visible indication of a students’ progress. The colored belt ranking system soon was adapted for Karate, As students pass through the ranks taking grading examinations they are awarded with different colored belts. The color order and which colors are used varies from school to school, as does the relationship between belt color and rank.