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Belt Descriptions

White Belt

The white belt can be compared to a blank canvas that is ready to be painted. To have one shows that you are ready to learn and have made a very important step in your journey as a martial artist: the beginning.

Color Belt w/ White Stripe

A color belt with a white stripe is a part of the junior belt system, which is available to students under the age of 13 years old. A student that achieves a junior black belt will be able to progress further by testing forward into the standard system (i.e. testing for a green belt).

Gray Belt

The gray belt represents an intermediate status between white and black. There are three gray belts: one with a white stripe, one without, and one with a black stripe. They indicate the completion of the beginning, intermediate, and advanced portions of the standard curriculum respectively. These belts are not earned through testing, but instead by merit of time spent in class and clear progression of skill. They enable the holder to test forward into the standard system at any time.

Yellow Belt

The yellow belt is the first rank that you'll test for from the white belt, Kyūkyū (9th Kyū). It symbolizes the first rays of sunlight that serve to indicate a new day and all the opportunities that come with it. At this point, you have taken the first steps in your journey as a martial artist.

Orange Belt

The orange belt, Hachikyū (8th Kyū), represents the rising sun in the early morning. Like the sun, a student with an orange belt is a rising star.

Blue Belt

A blue belt, Nanakyū (7th Kyū), represents the sky. It is fitting for a student to wear this color at this point in their journey. This is because at this point they will have taken to the skies as they begin to explore the depths of what the martial arts have to offer them and what they have to offer the arts in return.

Purple Belt

A purple belt, Rokkyū (6th Kyū), represents a brewing storm in the sky, signifying growing power and foreshadowing the coming challenges. A student wearing this belt is at the point in their journey where they have collected quite a bit of knowledge and skill and are now entering the next step in their journey as a martial artist: the grounding.

Green Belt

The green belt, Gokyū (5th Kyū) and Yonkyū (4th Kyū), represents growth, much like that of plants. The brewing storm of the purple belt has now watered the ground below, giving way to seeds sprouting. At this point in their journey, the student steps into a new period of growth and grounding in the martial arts.

Brown Belt

A brown belt - Sankyū (3rd Kyū), Nikyū (2nd Kyū), and Ikkyū (1st Kyū) - represents the ground in which the seed of growth is rooting itself. At this point in the student's journey, there is a large focus on solidifying oneself and improving on the basics. This is the solid foundation upon which the student can build themselves up toward mastery. A brown belt is considered a teaching assistant and is learning what is required to become an instructor themselves.

Black Belt

To earn the black belt and enter the dan ranks as an instructor, one must have an extreme level of proficiency in all they have learned. A black belt has endured many challenges along the way. They have learned much and have grounded themselves in knowledge and skill. The black signifies the night and the completion of the day that began with the first yellow beams of sunlight. As a black belt, the starry sky is now visible to you and you are able to clearly see the vast, endless expanse that is the martial arts. The question is, what part of it will you explore next? There are a total of nine dan ranks: Shodan (1st Dan), Nidan (2nd Dan), Sandan (3rd Dan), Yondan (4th Dan), Godan (5th Dan), Rokudan (6th Dan), Shichidan (7th Dan), Hachidan (8th Dan), and Kudan (9th Dan). The founder of Zen Martial Arts is currently the only person to hold the Jūdan (10th Dan) rank. This status is only awarded to other grandmasters in the case they become world famous for their martial arts. It can also be presented as an honorary rank to a well respected grandmaster after they have passed from life on earth.

Master Title

The master title is generally provided to those who have achieved Yondan (4th Dan) in Zen Martial Arts, marking the completion of all technical requirements in the standard curriculum. A master is in a position of authority due to their skill, dedication, respectability, and achievements. A wise master recognizes that completion of the Zen Martial Arts curriculum is not the end, and that there is much to learn through teaching the next generation of martial artists and exploring other martial arts disciplines.

Renshi Title

The renshi title is provided to an instructor after they have taught a student from white belt all the way to Shodan (1st Dan). The character "Ren" means "polished, tempered" and "shi" means "person". Thus, Renshi indicates a "polished instructor" or expert. This title acknowledges the level of proficiency achieved when an instructor has guided a student through the entire Kyū curriculum. A renshi may choose to wear a ceremonial belt that is black on the back side and two-tone red and white on the front side during special occasions or exclusive black belt classes, but will generally wear their standard black belt at all other times.

Kyoshi Title

The kyoshi title is provided to an instructor after one of their students achieves Sandan (3rd Dan). The "Kyo" in Kyoshi means "professor" or "philosophy". Therefore, Kyoshi equals a "professor" capable of teaching the philosophy of the martial arts. This title acknowledges the depth of understanding achieved when an instructor has supported the growth of other instructors in their tutelage. A kyoshi may choose to wear a ceremonial belt that features alternating red and white panels during special occasions or exclusive black belt classes.

Grandmaster Title

The grandmaster title is provided to those who have achieved Hachidan (8th Dan) in Zen Martial Arts. Grandmasters are generally the most respected, esteemed, and/or achieved martial artists in the system. They are given the most authority over the system due to their extensive experience both inside and outside the Zen Martial Arts.

Hanshi Title

The hanshi title is provided to an instructor after one of their students achieves their own renshi title. The "Han" in Hanshi means "example, model" and indicates "a teacher that can serve as an ideal model for others", or a “senior master”. This title acknowledges that this instructor has played a critical role in the continuation of the Zen Martial Arts as it is passed from one generation to the next. A hanshi may choose to wear a ceremonial belt that is solid red during special occasions or exclusive black belt classes.

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