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How a belt can show your true colors: The origins of Martial arts belts

Posted on: August 4, 2015

Martial arts belt

Whether it be Taekwondo, Jujitsu, or Karate, the one thing many martial art forms have clearly adopted is the belt system. The coveted black belt is pursued by many within various martial art fields and wear it as a badge of honor, as they should. For those practicing Songahm Taekwondo, they know how important each philosophy behind every belt is. Few however know where the colored belt systems truly come from.  Even more so, those outside of martial arts rarely know the symbolism behind each color belt.

What do legends say about belts?

There are many within the martial arts community who believe that the black belt originated from the maturity one gained with experience. They believe that early martial artists started off with white belts and that over time the belt would blacken. Tradition called that the only part of the uniform that they wouldn’t clean would be the belt. It is believed the belt would soon turn yellow, then green, then brown and slowly make its way to being a darkened shade of black. Although this theory can’t be proven or disproven, we do know that a gift of a master’s frayed belt was one of great honor. Often times these belts would be bestowed upon a favored student. Till today, there are many who practice Karate who do not wash their belts in an effort to attain the darkened color through time.

What we know for sure

Although we may not be able to confirm the tradition of not cleaning one’s belt, we do know that the modern ranking system used in many forms of martial arts today originated sometime between the late 1800’s and 1920’s by Japanese martial artist Jigoro Kano. Kano was the father of Judo and had modified his knowledge of military Jujitsu to create Judo, a sport that could be practiced by martial artists without fear of too much injury. Because the introduction of Judo was given to students ranging from elementary levels to college, he adapted the learning techniques of rankings to identify their progress in the sport.

It wasn’t long before Karate followed suite as well as many other martial arts forms. The structured education in martial arts helped teach many students at once, helping further the knowledge as well as pass on the traditions to an even greater audience. For the first time, martial arts was not for the few and elite, but for all people that had the willingness to learn. In truth, the creation of the belt ranking system was one of the most revolutionary in martial arts history.

Belts in Songahm Taekwondo
Songahm Taekwondo, as with many other martial arts take their belt rankings seriously. Due to the school of Songahm Taekwondo being created after the introduction of belt ranking systems, the belts in Songahm are a lot more important and hold far more significance than some other types of martial art forms. The philosophy of each belt ranking is meant to be a step towards enlightenment and a more complete body and mind. From the white belt to the black belt and beyond, Songahm Taekwondo takes its practitioners on a journey both physically and spiritually. The beautiful part of Songahm Taekwondo is that when one attains the black belt, the true journey has just begun.


Martial arts belts and meanings- Songahm Taekwondo


Hockman’s ATA is a dedicated Martial Arts school within Columbia, Missouri that focuses on Songahm Taekwondo and Krav Maga, the official self-defense system of many law enforcement agencies. Whether it be Karate for Kids, or our adult classes, we are dedicated to self-defense, fitness and mental as well as physical discipline, click here to find out more.

Hockmans ATA Martial Arts