Karate is a combat system that originated in Okinawa in the 17th century, and it was later imported to Japan around the 1920s.
Multiple schools and systems grew worldwide, and each favors different techniques and training methods. And A black belt in one karate style doesn’t transfer to a black belt in another.
Generally speaking, getting a black belt in Karate could take as little as three years. Still, the average is usually between 5 and 6 years of consistent training.
There are, of course, more details you need to fully understand how long does it take to get a black belt in Karate. But also, what’s not so great about the belt system in modern Karate and why you shouldn’t obsess with it.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
The Different Karate Systems And How Do They Differ?
There are seven different karate systems. Here’s a quick overview to get an idea of how they differ from each other.
1 ) Shotokan
Shotokan Karate is a popular and well-known style.
We can track its origins in Tokyo, and it was created by Gichin Funakoshi back in 1938.
This style utilizes both the upper and lower body to produce kicks and punches that are linear and forceful.
It focuses primarily on high-speed straight punches to neutralize attackers.
The Goju-Ryu system is based on complementary principles of hard and soft, using hard, closed-fist punches and soft, open hand strikes.
If you loved the Karate Kid movies, the iconic Crane Kick and the movements taught by Mister Miyagi placed Goju-Ryu right in the spotlight.
As seen in the movie itself, practitioners deflect strikes with angular movements and follow up with sharp and hard strikes.
There is also a strong enphasis on breathing to produce harmony between body and brain.
Kanbun Uechi founded this particular style in Okinawa, but ancient Chinese fighting systems highly influenced it.
It employs upright stances, circular blocking techniques, open-handed strikes, and low kicks.
Wado translates into “harmonious path” in Japanese, and this form of Karate includes some elements of Japanese Ju-Jutsu.
It was founded by Hironori Otsuka back in 1939, and it focuses on evading the opponent’s strikes, only using punches and kicks as counterattacks.
It teaches the practitioners to shift their bodies and reduce the full force of an opponent’s blow during sparring.
This karate system puts a strong emphasis on keeping mental and physical balance.
Their katas are performed with a strong, upright posture, sharp kicks, and close-handed punches.
They use counterattacks to reduce the opponent’s ability to remain upright.
Kyokushin translates into “ultimate truth” in Japanese, and the style is aggressive.
It includes full-body contact sparring, high kicks, and aggressive strikes to the legs and heads of the opponent.
Knee strikes are also allowed in this style.
Shito-Ryu was founded back in the 1920s by Kenwa Mabuni, and to this day, it is still one of the most popular Karate styles in Japan.
Shito-Ryu focuses on fluidity and speed during katas and sparring. And is known for many katas and the employment of closed-handed punches, kicks, and elbow strikes.
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The Karate Belt System In General
The belt system in Karate also varies from style to style. However, some variants add belt levels between the available colors. Here we are going to show what seems to be the common ground.
- White Belt
- Yellow Belt
- Orange Belt
- Blue Belt
- Purple Belt
- Green Belt
- Brown Belt
- Black Belt 1st Dan
This system gets altered with some extra belts, like a white or black stripe that runs along the middle of a colored belt as an “advanced” rank in the same belt color.
Some styles add a red belt between the brown and black belt, but it is more commonly used as a high rank for a black belt practitioner, going from the 6th dan and up, as a grand-master rank.
What’s not so great about the karate belt system
Don’t forget that the belt system across martial arts isn’t perfect, and Karate is not the exception.
Unfortunately, Karate is polluted with McDojos and watered down over time from its original intent and quality principles.
Be careful out there. In many cases, the belt system will be used as a shady cash grab by fake masters. It would be best if you don’t get obsessed with the belt system.
The Karate belt system is just a tool to guide you along the way but is not as important as your well-being, technical proficiency, and overall happiness while training Karate.
If you land in a dojo where they’re obsessed with testing and belts, run. They’re most likely only interested in your money.
How To Get Promoted In Karate?
To get promoted in Karate, the blueprint is pretty straightforward. You only have to increase your knowledge and continue to practice to progress.
There is no need to become an excellent combatant or win in tournaments to achieve a higher rank or to get a black belt in Karate.
All you need to worry about is being consistent with your practice and showing proficiency while doing your kata and techniques.
However, like any martial art, promotions could be somewhat subjective. Different dojos might prioritize other criteria.
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How Much Time Does It Take To Get From Belt To Belt?
This is where the different karate systems change things up a little.
Some schools take the time to grade each student as soon as they believe he is ready for the test. But the amount of schools that do this is minimal.
It is more likely that belt rank tests are scheduled consistently every two or three months for all colored belts. This approach gives plenty of time to practice and get acquainted with the new Katas and techniques taught.
Those doing daily sessions may open up the possibility of taking tests for both the next rank and one rank over to accelerate promotions.
In some schools, the black belt rank tests are a whole event that takes place once a year.
Karate practitioners must hold the previous rank for over six months before the black belt exams to be eligible for a black belt promotion.
How Much Would It Take To Go From White Belt to Black Belt In Karate?
The most common case is a practitioner that trains 2 or 3 times per week and has belt promotion tests every three months. That average student could potentially reach the Karate black belt level in around 5 or 6 years if they do not stop training.
This assumption of 5 to 6 years doesn’t change if we include some of the in-between belts.
Most schools also allow practitioners to skip some in-between belts according to their proficiency level, which means they do not have to hold every belt on their path to the black belt.
What about people that train Karate every day?
Practitioners who train daily can take tests as soon as their instructor finds them ready. They could earn the rank as quickly as two years of consistent and focused practice.
However, in reality, you might still need to wait and take your tests on a regular schedule. Karate instructors need as many people as possible to get the test to simplify the process and the organizational aspects of it.
Final Thoughts On Getting A Black Belt In Karate
The path to reaching a black belt in Karate isn’t as complicated as it seems to be from the outside. And that should be encouraging enough for anybody who wants to practice any form of combat discipline.
If you have the time to spend and want to speed-run your way to a black belt, you need to look for a reliable school that will allow you to take tests at any time.
For most practitioners, in general, it will take a few years. But you will be able to get there while also balancing your other daily responsibilities.
If you want to practice Karate, just find an academy close to you and take the time to do so. We believe that being near your dojo will reduce the early fiction beginners might experience, increasing your chance of making it a long-term habit.
This doesn’t mean you should blindly go to a nearby dojo, even if they’re trash. You should research and test several before deciding. But, if you find a reliable one nearby, you’re set for a good start.
You will learn new, valuable skills, and you may just enjoy it enough to stick at it and reach a black belt.
If you enjoyed the article and its information, take the time to share it with any other potential practitioners you know.
We hope to see you making your way to the dojo now and then, so keep yourself active and healthy.