U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization Ranking System
The ranking method of any martial arts system is typically the “Belt Ranking System” which has been widely used for many years by all martial arts systems of Great Repute as a way to gauge the progression of an individual student’s advancements and achievements throughout their life in the martial arts. As the colors of a Belt (Obi) may vary slightly from system to system, there are basic colors that remain to this day the symbol of a traditional martial arts Dojo.
In the beginning of the development of martial arts, the Obi was used to keep the Kimono (a Japanese robe) together and in place and was white at the beginning. Myth or not, as a practitioner trained, the belt became dirty, thus becoming “Black” symbolizing the many years of training “as there is a tradition that an Obi shall never be washed, lest the knowledge be lost”… and so it was that the “Black Belt” became the symbol of hard work, knowledge and experience and as the practitioner became older and wiser, the Obi became worn and tattered, signifying one’s respect in the community.
Years passed and the martial arts progressed with development and so did the need to display the level of a practitioner’s achievements with the purpose of recognition. Kano Jigoro (1860-1938) founder of Kodokan Judo created the custom of indicating rank with colored belts and from there the belt system was formulated and is utilized in Modern Budo worldwide today. Throughout the years the belt system has transformed, and to some degree in a confusing way. Too many colors were created by some to exploit the viable ranking system set in place, and were done in such a way only for the purpose of financial gain. This has proven to be a detriment to the modern martial arts as the use of a particular color belt in one martial arts system would indicate a level contrary in another martial arts system, i.e., for example the color “Red”, where a “Red Belt” in the Modern Budo system indicates a “Master” grade or “Grand Master Seiko-Shihan”, whereas in another martial arts system a “Red Belt” may be used for an under Black Belt rank - confusing the outsider.
On July1, 1980, the USA Goju Karate Organization officially adopted the Modern Budo ranking system and its adherence is strictly enforced. The following Belt ranking system provides only a brief description for guidelines of each grade and the time table for which one could reasonably expect to achieve that level. It must always be prudent of the martial arts student to remember that one’s advancement from one level to the next is subject to one’s character development as well as the development of their skills.