How to Tie Your Obi


The old Okinawan Karateka, it is told, all wore white belts. Their peasant clothing was simply cotton pants and jacket, tied with a white cloth obi (belt). As they progressed in their instruction they would continue to wear this simple uniform. It became the custom for them to wash their Gi's, but never the obi. So, in the beginning, the belts were white

After the students had rolled and wrestled on the grass (being poor men, they practiced outside in the fields) for a while the belts would become stained with chlorophyll, turning them green.

And yet after a while more, with the grass now worn away beneath them, the Karateka would practice on bare earth, often plain mud. Belts became brown.

It was not until the student had reached a high degree of proficiency in the art of Karate, when serious training was done with nothing held back, that the grass and mud-stained brown belts would be darkened with blood, turning them black.

Source: Northern Goju Triad

Notes about ranks

  • Kyu is a Japanese word that means boy. In the dojo, the term is used to signify any rank below black belt.
  • Dan is a Japanese word that means man. In the dojo, the term is used to signify any rank of black belt.
  • The ranks below are used in my instructor's dojo. These belts are not standard across all styles of karate or even standard among different schools within a style. However, most of the variance lies within the kyu belts. Generally, all USA Goju schools use the same obis for the dan levels.
  • Once a karateka reaches a black belt level or above, many chose to wear a simple black belt with no stripes regardless of what degree they have earned.
  • Kyu belt stripes go on the left, dan belt stripes go on the right
  • When holding the obi up by the middle, in front of you in preparation of putting it on, place the stripes on the opposite side for which they will go. For example, if you are a brown belt, hold the obi up in front of you with your stripes on the right side. After you tie the knot, they will be on the left.

USA Goju Ranks (differs from school to school)

Belt Kyu/Dan Description Japanese Title
9th kyu White Kukyu  
8th kyu Orange Hachikyu  
7th kyu Yellow Shichikyu  
6th kyu Blue Rokkyu  

5th kyu Green Gokyu  
4th kyu Purple Yonkyu  
3rd kyu Brown 3 stripes Sankyu  
2nd kyu Brown 2 stripes Nikyu  

1st kyu Brown 1 stripe or brown with no stripes. The brown obi with no stripes signifies that the karateka is testing for shodan. Ikkyu  

1st dan (provisional)
more info
Black with brown or white stripe running lengthwise through center. This rank is often skipped. Shodan-ho  

1st dan Solid black or black with 1 red stripe Shodan  
2nd dan Black 2 red stripes Nidan  
3rd dan Black 3 red stripes Sandan  
4th dan Half white, half red lengthwise, white side up Yondan Renshi
5th dan Half white, half red lengthwise, red side up Godan Renshi
6th dan Black with red stripe lengthwise through center Rokudan Kyoshi
7th dan Black with red stripe lengthwise through center Shichidan Kyoshi
8th dan Black with red stripe lengthwise through center Hachidan Kyoshi
9th dan Red Kudan Hanshi
10th dan Red Judan Hanshi