How Many Belts in Shotokan Karate

Shotokan karate is one of the most popular traditional martial arts in the world. Founded by Master Gichin Funakoshi in the early 20th century, this martial art has a complex and hierarchical grading system, which is represented by the colored belts system that many people are familiar with. In this blog post, we will explore the different ranks in Shotokan karate and the number of belts that exist within the system.


Shotokan karate is known for its focus on discipline and form, making it one of the most popular styles of karate in the world. The grading system within Shotokan karate is progressive, meaning that students work their way through a series of belts to signify their advancement in the art. The progression of belts is based on the student’s understanding of techniques, forms, and applications, as well as their overall mastery of the art.

Belts in Shotokan Karate

The traditional Shotokan karate grading system consists of ten colored belts, each with its own meaning and significance. The order of the belts is as follows:

White Belt (10th Kyu)

The white belt represents the starting point of a student’s journey in Shotokan karate. It signifies the birth of the child’s spirit, mind, and body. Students at this level learn the basic stances, punches, and blocks.

Yellow Belt (9th Kyu)

The yellow belt represents the first step in a student’s journey towards Black Belt. It signifies the sun’s first rays, which bring light and warmth to the world. Students at this level learn basic techniques, including kicks and strikes.

Orange Belt (8th Kyu)

The orange belt represents the beginning of a student’s development in Shotokan karate. It signifies the sun’s rays strengthening, the start of the day’s work. Students at this level learn more advanced techniques, including combinations and self-defense skills.

Green Belt (7th Kyu)

The green belt represents the growth and development of a student’s skills in Shotokan karate. It signifies the growth of a tree. Students at this level learn more complex techniques and katas, as well as sparring skills.

Blue Belt (6th Kyu)

The blue belt represents the beginning of a student’s mastery of Shotokan karate. It signifies the sky above, which is endless and infinite. Students at this level learn more advanced techniques and katas, as well as kata bunkai and Kumite skills.

Purple Belt (5th Kyu)

The purple belt represents the dark before the dawn, where the student is reaching their peak. Students at this level learn more advanced techniques and approaches, including focusing on power and accuracy.

Brown Belt (4th – 1st Kyu)

The brown belt represents the forest where the sun can shine directly onto the ground, symbolizing the area where growth has reached its maximum levels. Students at this level learn the most advanced katas and techniques, as well as advanced combinations, self-defense, and sparring.

Black Belt (Dan)

The black belt represents the mastery of Shotokan karate. It signifies the end of one journey and the start of another. The black belt is divided into ten degrees, with each degree representing further advancement within Shotokan karate.

How Many Belts are There in Shotokan Karate?

Shotokan Karate is a martial art with its origin in Japan. The system of teaching, ranking, and awarding belts in Shotokan Karate is a well-structured approach that has been internationally recognized. The grading system involves a series of colored belts, each marking the successive level of proficiency in the art of Shotokan Karate.

The Shotokan Karate grading system consists of nine graded levels of kyu ranks, followed by ten black belt ranks, known as ‚dan‘ ranks. The kyu ranks are assigned to students who are yet to attain a black belt, while the dan ranks are assigned to those who have achieved black belt status.

In this blog post, we will discuss the most frequently asked questions about the number of belts in Shotokan Karate.

What are Kyu Ranks?

Kyu ranks are the colored belts awarded to students who are yet to achieve their black belt in Shotokan Karate. Kyu ranks are sub-divided into nine levels:

1. 9th Kyu (Red Belt)
2. 8th Kyu (Yellow Belt)
3. 7th Kyu (Orange Belt)
4. 6th Kyu (Green Belt)
5. 5th Kyu (Blue Belt)
6. 4th Kyu (Purple Belt)
7. 3rd Kyu (Brown Belt)
8. 2nd Kyu (Brown Belt with 2 stripes)
9. 1st Kyu (Brown Belt with 1 stripe)

Each kyu rank indicates a higher level of proficiency in the Shotokan Karate system. The highest kyu level before achieving a black belt is the first kyu rank, which is often referred to as ‚brown belt with one stripe.‘

What are Dan Ranks?

Dan ranks are the black belts awarded to students who have achieved a level of proficiency in Shotokan Karate. Dan ranks are also sub-divided into ten levels:

1. 1st Dan (Shodan)
2. 2nd Dan (Nidan)
3. 3rd Dan (Sandan)
4. 4th Dan (Yondan)
5. 5th Dan (Godan)
6. 6th Dan (Rokudan)
7. 7th Dan (Shichidan)
8. 8th Dan (Hachidan)
9. 9th Dan (Kudan)
10. 10th Dan (Judan)

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Each Belt?

In Shotokan Karate, the time it takes to achieve each rank depends on several factors such as age, skill level, and how often you train. Typically, achieving each kyu rank can take six months to a year, while achieving a black belt usually requires several years of consistent training and dedication.

Is it Possible to Skip Kyu Rankings and go Straight to Black Belt?

It is not possible to skip kyu ranks and go straight to a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Each kyu ranking is designed to teach new skills and improve existing ones, allowing students to progress at a steady pace. Skipping kyu ranks would mean missing out on important skills that are essential for achieving black belt status.

How Do You Achieve a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate?

To achieve a black belt in Shotokan Karate, you must train consistently and be test-ready. The testing process for a black belt is rigorous and involves a comprehensive examination of your proficiency in various aspects of the Shotokan Karate system.

In addition to demonstrating your martial arts skills, you must also show that you understand the mental side of martial arts, such as discipline, respect, and integrity. Achieving a black belt in Shotokan Karate is a significant achievement and a testament to your dedication and hard work.

How Many Belts are Used in Shotokan Karate?

Shotokan Karate is a popular martial art across the world, encompassing various movements, katas, and techniques. The practice of Shotokan Karate involves a structured ranking system that involves a series of colored belts. As a student progresses through their training, they will be awarded different colored belts to signify their progress and accomplishments in the art.

If you’re considering starting Shotokan Karate or are simply interested in the ranking system and how it works, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how many belts are used in Shotokan Karate, what they represent, and how long it can take to progress through the ranks.

How many belts are there in Shotokan Karate?

The standard Shotokan Karate belt ranking system consists of ten different belts. They are, in order of progression:

1. White belt
2. Yellow belt
3. Orange belt
4. Green belt
5. Blue belt
6. Purple belt
7. Brown belt
8. Brown and black belt
9. Black belt
10. Dan (which means “step” or “level”)

Each belt represents a different level of expertise and mastery in the art. As a student progresses in their training, they will move up the ranking system, eventually culminating in achieving a black belt.

What do the different belt colors signify?

Each belt color represents a different level of accomplishment and mastery of the art, denoting the student’s progress and proficiency in Shotokan Karate. The following paragraphs give a brief overview of what each belt signifies:

White Belt

The white belt is the first rank in the Shotokan Karate ranking system. It represents the beginning of the journey into the art. As a student clears the first set of basic requirements, such as learning basic techniques and katas, they will be awarded the yellow belt.

Yellow Belt

The yellow belt represents the first significant step forward in Shotokan Karate. Students need to demonstrate their proficiency in basic techniques and movements to qualify for a yellow belt. From there, the student will move on to the next rank, the orange belt.

Orange Belt

The orange belt represents an increased level of proficiency in Shotokan Karate, with students needing to demonstrate their mastery of more complex kata and techniques to qualify. The next step is the green belt.

Green Belt

The green belt is awarded to students who have advanced beyond the basic level of Shotokan Karate. They have demonstrated a solid mastery of various techniques and katas and are considered intermediate level practitioners.

Blue Belt

The Blue belt indicates a higher level of expertise in Shotokan Karate; students who attain this rank have accomplished a range of skills, including potent kicks, strong blocks, and intricate moves.

Purple Belt

The Purple belt signifies that the student has entered the advanced phase of Shotokan Karate, having mastered a range of movements, strategies and techniques to qualify for the rank.

Brown Belt

The Brown belt represents the highest of the Kyu ranks and for this rank, students are required to have a high level of proficiency in multiple basic attacks, and can be considered highly skilled practitioners.

Brown and Black Belt

The Brown and Black belt signifies a transition from a Kyu level student to a Dan level practitioner, and is considered a first step in that process.

Black Belt

The Black belt is the ultimate goal for Shotokan Karate practitioners with the highest level of proficiency in various techniques and katas.


Dan level signifies the highest accolade a Shotokan Karate student can achieve. It marks the successful demonstration of mastery in the art of Shotokan Karate. Dan classification includes ten levels, with each level marking a higher degree of mastery.

What is the timeline for ranking up?

The timeline varies from one practitioner to another, based on factors such as the level of dedication, the intensity of practice, and natural talent. Generally speaking, students should spend between two to six months practicing a pattern that meets the requirements for advancement between ranks. Upon completing the necessary requirements for a specific rank, a student will then undergo an examination process to evaluate their mastery of the technique. Assuming the student is successful, they will be awarded the new belt and progress to the next rank.


Shotokan Karate is an excellent martial art that offers an individual the opportunity to learn self-discipline, defense and improve their fitness level. Achieving a higher belt ranking signifies not only mastery in karate but also the development of essential values such as respect, perseverance, and discipline. Understanding the different belt rankings and their significance provides students with a sense of accomplishment, direction, and motivation in their path to achieving the ultimate goal of Dan level mastery.

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