All of the information on this page has been either paraphrased from Shihan Cameron Quinn's book, or derived from what little personal experience I can contribute.
White is the symbol of purity, at least in the English and Japanese
based cultures. The new white belt student might be described
as pure, being completely ignorant of the requirements of the
art. The purity is lost as soon as the first exercise is performed
in the dojo. The pristine colour is gone forever through sweat
and dust, and the journey through the colour spectrum begins.
There is no shame in being a white belt and the instructor, more
than the others, is aware of this because he or she too was one
In the Honbu dojo in Japan, while under Mas Oyama, the tradition
was that uchi-deshi (live-in or full-time students) white
belts would shave their heads as a sign of their dedication. The
third year uchi-deshi, newly graduated blackbelts, also
did this to indicate humility, symbolising the return to the spirit
of a beginner.
In some countries or dojos, the red belt is not used. For a while,
in Japan the white belt gains first one black stripe, then a second
one. Currently (1997) the system for the IKO(1) is
an orange belt. The reason for the change is that in some
karate systems, the red belt actually denotes a very high rank
e.g. 5th dan or higher, and to have junior kohai
wearing such a belt would belittle those red-belted yudansha.
In the run-up to and throughout the red belt training, you develop
the very basics of karate. You unlearn any ideas you had about
how to fight, and you learn about your body. (Anyone who has been
through this stage will tell you that this is where they learnt
their body had muscles where they didn't even know they had places!)
It is here too that you begin to develop a sense of balance and
coordination between the various body parts, with an emphasis
You should also be familiar with dojo etiquette at this stage.
Fluidity and Adaptability
While the red belt aspects of training must be continued, now
the karetaka begins to work on the upper body, strength, flexibility,
and coordination. It is here that you learn to overcome the urge
to "Take it easy", and if successful, training becomes
a pleasure. The student begins to feel the benefits of training
with an increased sense of well-being, a bigger bounce in ones
step, and overall better fitness.
Here the karateka must start taking control of mind and body.
This might take the form of not showing the pain of being hit
during sparring, not showing exhaustion during training, not wiping
the drop of sweat of ones nose because one hasn't yet been told
to, not yawning despite extreme tiredness etc...
Here you learn to focus your power, by concentrating it on the
hara (the general area of the lower abdomen) or even the
tanden (the single point in the lower abdomen that more
or less is located at the centre of gravity of the body). Fortunately
for most of us, this point is just behind where we tie the knot
of our belts.
This is the first level where training begins to concentrate
the psychological aspects of training, with an emphasis on mind-body
coordination. It is here that the karateka must begin to develop
both power and speed when performing techniques. The yellow belt
is the last of the "raw beginner's" belts and the karateka
begins to take control of his or her life. body, and environment.
Emotion and Sensitivity
Practical and Creative