Requirements for Karate Belt Grading:
Students’ development is progressively assessed during training. As with most modern martial arts, our karate school has a grading system to symbolise stages of learning. Students are individually advised when they are ready for grading. There are a few interrelated aspects that are emphasised upon for understanding when an Okukan karate member is ready for grading. These include training rhythm, technical aspects, and spirit and behaviour.
Technical Aspects: During your training you will be learning practical aspects of Shitoryu Karatedo. Training will give you a level of expertise in stances, blocks, attacks, breathing, speed and power, body movement and shift, precision, readiness, rhythm, timing, concentration and sight, accuracy and balance. The learning of these aspects will be evidenced in your KATA (pattern) and BUNKAI (self-defence application), and in KIHON (form practice) and KUMITE (sparring) practice. You will also be required to learn terminology, theory and history. At advanced levels you will be required to learn philosophical principles of KARATE.
Spirit and Behaviour: Training at OKUKAN means becoming a ‘Karateka’ (karate practitioner). This implies an appreciation of the ethics and traditions inherited over years of development of Karatedo, in addition to the technical aspects. Dojo Kun and Shitoryu Five Way Spirit are pivotal to understanding the Karateka’s code of conduct.
Training Period: Although it is unlikely that all students will learn technical aspects at the same pace, students are expected to attend an average number of training sessions to be able to make progress.
9th Kyu (White) grading guide
A 9th Kyu is granted a white karate belt. This is the first of the karate belt series that students get at the very beginning of training, along with a karate uniform. The white belt represents nothingness. It is the place where karate-ka experience ‘the spirit of first beginning’ which, as stated in Shitoryu’s Five Way Spirit, should never be forgotten (Ishi. Shochin wasureru nakare). In terms of natural evolution, the white belt would be a metaphor for an empty universe.
8th Kyu (yellow belt) grading guide
An 8th Kyu is granted a yellow karate belt. It comes after white and before orange. Students begin to work on techniques with open hands (i.e. shuto) after having practiced to keep the fists closed (i.e. in tsuki OR hikite) and after white belt’s physical conditioning. It is also a special belt in that students begin to practice the sumo stance (shiko-dachi) and the cat stance (neko-ashi-dachi) which is one of the strengths of the Shitoryu style. The yellow belt represents the sun, and following psychology of colour, it represents hope. The universe is beginning to warm-up and it is not empty any longer.
7th Kyu (orange belt) grading guide
A 7th Kyu is granted an orange belt. Here students are introduced to elbow strikes and begin to show fluid footwork for sparring. Kata at this level emphasize Shiko-dachi (sumo stance). An orange belt is now quite familiar with Dojo ritual and tends to concern her/himself with technical ability and speed. Orange represents fertile soil. The sun is now dependable.
6th Kyu (blue belt) grading guide
Blue: A 6th Kyu is granted a blue KARATE belt. Here there is an emphasis on the practice of cat stance (NEKO-DACHI) and knife hand (SHUTO). For the first time, students are challenged to swiftly apply techniques in complete opposite directions (180° angle). In blue belt, students tend to demonstrate a wish to push further as KARATE-KA: to go beyond the elemental. At OKUKAN, blue is the last of the junior colour belts (KOHAI).
5th Kyu (green belt) grading guide
Green: A 5th Kyu is granted a green KARATE belt, which is the first of the senior colour belts (SENPAI). At this stage, students begin to learn about balance. In sparring, students should become familiar with the idea of timing and how to anticipate an attack. It is a difficult stage, where practitioners feel they have a long way to go, still. Hope! Green represents life in the DOJO’s ecosystem where the dedicated practitioner can hope to grow.
4th Kyu (purple belt) grading guide
Purple: A 4th Kyu is granted a purple KARATE belt. The student begins to become self-reliant, having a level of understanding of KARATE basic forms. At this stage, students finish learning the bases of HEIAN KATA. HEIAN KATA are the five forms, considered by most to provide the students with reasonable groundwork to begin to learn advanced KATA. Purple at OKUKAN represents the seed of a tree: an oak tree.
3rd Kyu (red belt) grading guide
Red: A 3rd Kyu is granted a red KARATE belt. As the students continue to refine HEIAN KATA, at this stage students begin to learn the prescribed SHITO-RYU KATA… the “SHITEI KATA”! Technically it is an exiting time to learn more advanced moves, of great challenge. Red stands for energy and positive self-motivation, as it takes much to grow roots and push through soil. The martial world begins to wonder if a black belt will come from it all.
2nd & 1st Kyu (brown belt) grading guide
Brown: 2nd Kyu and 1st Kyu students are allowed to wear a brown KARATE belt. The student has worn a KARATE uniform for what seems to be a long time. Here they begin to integrate deeper knowledge-based notions such as SHIME and KIME. Building knowledge takes time and patience (the trunk must grow long). Looking forward to the black belt, yet having to take time to build a foundation, can be a difficult test.
Shodan Ho (black belt) grading guide
Black Belt: A student who becomes SHODAN-HO is granted a black KARATE belt. This is the last colour and the stage where students prepare for a longer journey of self-development. Trunk and branches must grow strong. The fast-pace learning of a number of new techniques continues from red belt. Students should have now developed a sense of belonging and can become an example for colour-belt students. As with white belt, a whole universe opens again.