View Full Version : Where did the belt system come from anyway?

08-01-2000, 10:34 PM
I heard that there never used to be belts in Kung Fu, but that each initiate would receive a white belt upon starting (Presumably to hold his/her pants up). After a period of years, this belt would get "brown" and then "black" with sweat and dirt accumulation.
This story seems to make a lot of sense, but I have yet to confirm it as more than an urban myth. Has anybody else heard similar stories?

08-01-2000, 11:58 PM
I've heard this one allot too. In allot of old photos I've seen of Japanese karate instructors and their students, I can always pick out three belts. White, brown and black. Sometimes the browns have lots of black stripes on them. But I've never really seen any that appeared to be worn until they turned those colors.
Just as an aside, my instructor has a white belt again. His black belt has been worn for 30+ years now and is so threadbare that it's white.


MonkeySlap Too
08-02-2000, 04:52 AM
The belt system was adopted from the Japanese school system by Kano Jigaro for Judo. The colors of the belt reflected the 'sempai'/'Kohai' relationships. Over time these formal belt 'rank' approaches took the place of teaching certificates (menkyo?) in many schools.

This system was exported and refined into a big money maker by the Koreans who can't seem to stop adding tassels and stripes to things - for a price.

Chinese systems started adopting this system in the west, and to some degree in Taiwan. Whereever the Japanese influenced attitudes. Americans 'expect' ranks. So the CMA teachers are giving it to them.

Many CMA schools I know still just have teacher/student arrangements.

The popular myth has of course affected the behavior of American martial artists over the years.

08-02-2000, 06:04 AM
Yea, if you've ever looked at an old black belt, it turns white (well gray). I fear a white belt does not turn black with use.

08-02-2000, 08:26 AM
It does if you wear it long enough! By the way, over time what color does your frog belt turn?

08-02-2000, 07:49 PM
Blood red baby. /infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif


08-08-2000, 02:05 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JerryLove:
Yea, if you've ever looked at an old black belt, it turns white (well gray). I fear a white belt does not turn black with use.[/quote]
Kinda gives a new meaning to the phrase "coming full circle." From white through a rainbow to black...back to white.
Kinda cool when you think about it. /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

08-22-2000, 04:08 PM
There were no belts until about a hundred years ago. As for that dirt theory, if they washed their clothes wouldn't they have washed their belts too. Where did red belt come from? Blood? Sweet and Sour sauce maybe?

[This message has been edited by yungak (edited 08-23-2000).]

08-23-2000, 02:00 AM
The belts where a symboll of the knowledge you had aquired. Therfore, they were never washed, nor worn outside of training.