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Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

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Did the Okinawans develop their own belt system?

Apparently, yes. It may have been somewhere around the 1960's or so. There is not much documentation other than the word of a few but as to the system Isshinryu there are a couple of black and white photo's of Tatsuo-san wearing what appears to be a red belt with a gold stripe through the center. The photo of Tatsuo-san is dtd around the mid-sixties, i.e. 1966 - 68.

It would be nice to see the entire belt system from the Okinawans but alas all my inquiries have been, to date, ignored. The belt system seems to have fallen out of favor since the sixties and except on rare occasions the Okinawan karate systems seem to have remained with the generally accepted belt system based on those passed to us from the Japanese Judo system by Kano Sensei. 

Okinawan Dan System

1st - 3rd: black belt with silver strip in middle lengthwise
3rd - 6th: black belt with gold strip in middle lengthwise
7th - 9th: red belt with gold strip in middle lengthwise
10th: solid gold obi

1961 era development; not fully validated from any official Okinawan source to date.

Click for a larger view of this photo.
RyuTe RenMeiThese type of belts were issued by the Zen Okinawa Karate Kobudo Rengo Kai. In this case "Zen" means all, as in all of Okinawa. Shortcut, All Okinawa. This organization existed between 1965 through the middle 70's. The belts were characterized by silver or gold stripes. The silver was for 1st and 2nd dan and gold for 3 through 6th dan, all on the black Obi. 7th and up was gold on red. The size of the stripe increased with the rank. ~ November 7, 2010 at 2:00pm FB Wall


  1. Hi Charles

    A point of clarification. Kano only developed the black and white belt system. He wanted to differentiate between experienced and lesser experienced practitioners because he had so many students he didn't know them individually.

    It was Kawashi, a jujutsu/judo instructor, who ended up teaching in France that introduce the coloured blet system for kyu grades in the late 1930s. He thought the French (Westerners) needed to see measures of their progress.