It is daily to see around us practitioners who after some years of training reach their desired and recognized black belt. A goal longed for by many that represents the triumph of that career in the Dojo.

How many times do we see these karate fighters abandon their teaching, understanding that they have finished with that color?. However, nothing is further from reality.

At the moment that your Sensei indicates that it is now when the road begins, and that all of the above was a set-up to start it, they change their faces with a state of disappointment that leads the vast majority to surrender. A few words that could be a motivation to overcome and unfortunately on many occasions, a barrier to the individual psychology of each.

Those who persevere in their practice and study, with the right time they get new degrees that will add up. Possibly goals to achieve that satisfy that insatiable self, but in its essence, a natural path to follow that bears fruit in the turns we walk.

Once the Godan is reached, the next step by its nature is a special grade; a degree that opens a new door to mastery and is thus recognized with a difference in the color of his belt.

We are going to deal with this new state, but first we must know a little about the origin to better understand its evolution.

We know that the label in karate is very marked by the experience of the master Gichin Funakosi when he performed in 1917 his frustrated first exhibition at the Butokuden in Kyoto, where he understood that an art should have order, methodology and label. It was the great teacher Jigoro Kano who showed him a system of degrees used in Judo and that later, in 1935 expanded with the colors we know today. This art is where Karate was influenced for its label and graduation system, and this is how over time the range scale has arrived from white to tenth dan.

Although it is true that in Judo they have assimilated the red-white ribbon from 6th to 8th dan, and the red one for 9th and 10th dan, in karate we see that many teachers can carry it or not, and such reason makes us think that showing the officiality of the belt is at the mercy of the individual in question.

But following the thread of the topic to be treated, once they reached the gates of the Rokudan, that color change reflects something else.

We go back to the flag known by the name of Nisshoki (disk shaped sun flag) o Hinomaru (solar disk), that the empire of Japan established in 1870 with white background and red circle in its center. These colors symbolize the sun and the moon. They both represent Yang and Yin, the full and the empty; very special colors in the Japanese mentality.

Before this and based on the same colors, there was one that symbolized the rising sun during the Edo period (1603-1868) and that today they continue to use in their navy as a military flag. There is no doubt the similarity with the Rokudan degree and that we will clarify later.

Nisshoki o Hinomaru

Rising Sun



After seeing these flags, we found that there is a parallelism between the respectful concept towards life (Sun and moon) as a whole within the circle, and the flag that the Ming dynasty used (1368-1644), where the kanjis of these elements coincidentally appeared. A curiosity that moved to Okinawa as a symbol of the Meibukan in Goju Ryu and that Shito Ryu also used in part in its emblem.

Ming dynasty (Sol Luna)

Menbu Kai

Shito Ryu


In the same way, are influenced by Japanese colors and circular shapes, the emblems that Shotokan will later take, the well-known JKA or our well-loved AEKA to name a few examples.






After seen, the change in color from Rokudan is probably also encouraged by the vast period that the black belt has been hanging around our waist since we were Shodan. A period where time has worn its threads and revealed a white background as if we were scratching the painting of a painting, revealing the whiteness of the canvas. It is time to give a relief to this colleague who has accompanied us in thousands of hours of training and on that outcropped white background, capture strokes of red; the color of love and passion for this art; the color of courage and fire; the color of mastery and knowledge.

Red is a highly prized color in Japan. Attract energy and health; that is why healing powers are attributed to it.

The white soothed with red represents honor and perseverance in a long and intense journey where human strength and will have been captured.. A lifetime of learning to form body and mind in a single ME full of values.

Once a karate fighter asked his sensei: "What is the difference between a man of the Do and an insignificant man?”.

Su Sensei replied: “When the insignificant man receives the first Dan, he runs quickly to his house yelling at everyone the fact. After receiving his second Dan, climbs the roof of his house and yells at everyone. By getting the third Dan, he will tour the city telling how many people he meets ”, and continuing his explanation he continued: "A man of the Do who receives his first Dan, he will bow his head in gratitude; after receiving his second Dan, will bow his head and shoulders; and upon reaching the third Dan, will bow to the waist, and in the street, will walk by the wall, to go unnoticed. The bigger the experience, skill and power, greater will also be his prudence and humility. ”

Now that we understand a little better the meaning of red on white, we can imagine the greatness of the AKA OBI, or red belt reserved for deities from the ninth dan.


Daniel Tchey

6º dan RFEK