In judo, there is a system of ranks and belt colors. The ranking system is used to determine the overall skill level of an individual. The belts are ranked from beginner to advanced and all of them have specific requirements.

In this article, we’ll be going over the belt system, how they were created and how they are used.

Introduction of the Belt System

The judo belt system was first introduced during the 1900s by Jigoro Kano, who at the time was the chief instructor of the Kodokan Judo Institute and the inventor of judo. It was created with the purpose of measuring the progress of an individual within martial art.

Jigoro Kano Founder of Judo

Jigoro Kano

Initially, Jigoro Kano used only black and white colors for belts; the teachers wore black belts while the students wore white colored belts. As judo grew around the world, so did the belt system. Judo master Mikinosuke Kawaishi introduced more colors to the belt system in the 1930s, and soon more martial arts began to implement the system with more colors.

Different Groups of Belt Holders

Unlike the beginning days of judo when the master and the student wore only black and white belts, nowadays judo has two different groups of belt holders. Those two groups are called Kyu and Dan grades.

The difference between these two is that the Kyu grades are used by judo beginners while the Dan grades are used by advanced judo practitioners. “Kyu”, meaning grade in Japanese, uses brown, blue, green, orange, yellow, and white belts, in order from the lowest to the highest.

Dan grades use only the black colored belt, but there are different levels to the black belt, from the first degree to usually the tenth degree, although there is no limit to the degrees.

Special Color Belts

Judo masters that get to 6th, 7th, or 8th dan black belt are eligible to wear red and white belts, and those who possess the 9th or 10th dan can wear a red belt. These belts are very hard to achieve, and a little number of judo practitioners get to the red belt.

BJJ and Karate also feature red color belts for those who have achieved the highest echelons in their martial arts.