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How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In Karate?

I noticed that each martial art has its own belt system, and was wondering how long it takes to get a black belt in karate. I did some research and here’s what I found.

So, how long does it take to get a blackbelt in karate? The minimum time it could take is 3 and a half years. However, this would mean you train all day every day. Most people who train 1 to 3 times a week could expect to get a black belt in about 5 to 10 years. 

Each karate school has a unique grading system, but the Japan Karate Association provides a comperehensive list of the techniques that you need to know to advance from white belt to black belt. 

So, below I’ll give a breakdown of how long it takes to go from one belt to the next, how it compares to other martial arts, and more about how the grading system works.

Karate black belt

Is a black belt the highest in karate?

You may have noticed that some martial arts use a red belt as the highest belt, and there are some belts that have red and black, or red and white. Therefore, you’re probably curious whether a black belt is the highest belt in karate. Here’s the lowdown…

A black belt is the highest rank in karate. However, there is what’s called a dan ranking system. Dan is a Japanese word that means ‘step’ or ‘stage’. Beyond the black belt there are 10 dans in karate. To get to the highest blackbelt level requires atleast another 55 years on top of your black belt.

Here’s a table that shows how it works:

Black belt dan (degree)Number of yearsTotal time (years)
1st dan11
2nd dan 23
3rd dan36
4th dan410
5th dan515
6th dan621
7th dan728
8th dan836
9th dan945
10th dan1055

According to the Japanese Karate Association.

How long it takes to get each belt

Martin Jutras at The Karate Lifestyle says that it takes the following amount of time to get each of the colored belts before getting your black belt:

Belt numberBeltHow long it takesTotal time
1WhiteFirst belt no time requirement0
2Yellow3 months3 months
3Orange6 months9 months
4Green6 months1 year 3 months
5Blue9 months2 years
6Brown1 year3 years
7Black1.5 years4.5 years

As you can see, as you go up the belt ranks it takes slightly longer to get the next belt. However, the total time is only 4.5 years. From white to black.

However, the time it takes to feel comfortable and confident with each of the techniques is dependent on how often you train.

For example, if you spend time outside of class practicing the techniques you’ll get better much faster. And you could get your black belt faster.

But, gradings are held periodically during the year. So, if you had the required skill level you might need to wait a few months until the next grading. And this puts a hard limit on the total time it takes to go from white belt to black belt in karate.

The degrees (dans) after black belt are typically determined by a council. A group of higher ranked black belts will evaluate your skill level, to make sure that each degree is awarded in a fair way.

Is a black belt in karate hard to get?

Certain martial arts are very physically demanding such as wrestling. And you need to be really tough to reach a high level of skill. But, you may be wondering if you need to be a really tough person to get a black belt in karate. Here’s what’s it like at most karate schools:

Getting a black belt in karate isn’t necessarily hard but it takes quite a bit of time, and consistency. A black belt in karate is based on your ability to perform the techniques, rather than your ability to beat other people. So, you don’t have to be tough or physically gifted.

You do, however, need a good level of physical fitness to do the moves. And to perform the ‘kata’ which are a sequence of moves in order. The good news is that any given karate class you go to will involve running, press ups, sit ups, and performing the various moves. So, just by going to class you’ll get in good shape.

Other than that, it’s a matter of putting the time in to make sure you can execute the techniques correctly, and knowing all of the techniques. 

The Japanese Karate Association provides a list of all the techniques you should know for each belt here. For example, at the first belt – white belt – you’ll need to be able to perform 11 different techniques, and choose 1 out of 4 different kata to be graded on. 

As an example, one technique that you need to go from white belt to yellow belt is ‘mawashi geri’ which is a high roundhouse kick. Here’s a video of a person performing it:

Can you skip belts in karate?

You might have been training karate for a while, or taken some time off from karate and want to know whether you can skip a belt. Here’s what would normally happen:

It is possible to skip belts in karate, however, it’s not very common. And would typically only happen if miss multiple grading ceremonies. In order to get awarded your next belt in karate you need to show proficiency in certain techniques and kata.

You’ll usually have talked with your instructor about it, and they will be aware of your situation. For example, let’s say you’re a yellow belt and you’ve been practicing for a while. And you know all the techniques for the next belt – orange.  

This will take about 3 months of consistent training. But, let’s say after 3 months, you had an exam, or went away on holiday so you missed it. To get to the next belt – green, you need to have spent around 6 months training. But, during this time your school will normally have had another grading. And you would have been awarded it then.

However, if you missed this one as well, enough time might have passed to where you know enough of the techniques to test for both belts. 

Typically, though the time in between each grading session means that BEFORE you’re good enough to skip belts another grading session will be held.

If you have a group of friends around you who love karate, gather them for a spirited contest! Everyone can show off their skills.

In addition, you can create your own tournament medals. This really helps with motivation.

You can customize your own Award Medals with some unique elements like the ones from GSJJ in this picture:

Related questions:

What is the best age to start karate? The best age to start karate is any age after around 3 years of age. When a child is over 3 years of age, they have developed enough coordination that they can execute all of the moves. I wrote a complete article about this topic which you can read here.

What is the hardest black belt to get? Most people consider a Brazilian jiu jitsu to be the hardest because it takes the most time. The average amount of time it takes to get a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu is 10 years. All of the other well known martial arts such as karate, judo, and taekwon-do take about 5 years to get a black belt. And therefore are about the same difficulty.