I take my son to Karate every week and he asked about why the highest attainment was a ‘black belt’ rather than a red, yellow, green or purple one.
I explained that in times gone by everyone had a white belt and as you trained longer and harder your black belt eventually became stained with dirt, dust, blood, sweat and tears. So the black belt was simply a reflection of how well and how hard you’d trained over a very long period of time.
Sensei interrupted and said that all originally all karate belts were white and then as time went on and martial arts developed more structure, they were stained according to the level that you had attained.
And here’s the great bit.
Black belts were originally white belts covered in black silk. Then as you trained harder and longer the black silk wore off revealing the white beneath.
This symbolised that no matter how much of a master and expert you were, you were still a beginner. It sent shivers down by spine. Love it!
For more information on Karate visit the Central Federation of Traditional Shotokan Karate Website. It’s a great information portal for everything Karate and has a brilliant section on translation and detailed pictures of the common punches, stances, kicks and kata.