Skip to Content

Karate Brown Belt – Rank, Meaning, Requirements, Kata

As you probably know, most karate dojos follow a formalized curriculum, and a test is done before a person is promoted from one belt to the next. 

In this article, I will explain what is required for a person to be awarded a brown belt, and how good they are compared to new people in karate, and compared to other popular martial arts.

A brown belt in karate is the 5th or 7th belt. Some karate associations have 3 ranks of brown belts instead of blue and purple belts. Others only have 1 brown belt rank and have a blue and purple belt. A brown belt is required to know 60 new techniques and 7 new kata. 

There are a large number of techniques that a brown belt will need to know. This includes the kata, strikes, blocks, self defense moves, and ability to spar – called kumite. 

Below, I will cover:

  • The order of the belts in karate
  • Is a brown belt good in karate
  • How long it takes for a person to get to a brown belt in karate
  • How many belt levels there are in karate
  • How high is a brown belt in karate
  • An overview of the number of techniques required for a brown belt
Karate brown belt

What Is the Order of Belts in Karate

The belt order in each martial art is slightly different.

Here are the colors of each of the belts in karate, and what belts are before getting a brown belt:

Karate belts go white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, then black. But, some karate associations and academies go white, yellow, orange, green, brown 1, brown 2, brown 3, then black. After the black belt comes ‘dan’ ranks, but these don’t change the color or look of the black belt.

In karate, the belts have a Japanese name. The belts before the black belt are called kyu. 

To understand this better here is a table that shows the belt order in karate.

While learning the Japanese names for this is not required, it is fun and helpful because karate instructors will often use Japanese words for the moves, and count in Japanese:

BeltJapanese nameMinimum time at this belt
White beltShichi-kyu (7th Kyu)1
Yellow beltRok-kyu (6th Kyu)2
Orange beltGo-kyu (5th Kyu)3
Green beltYon-kyu (4th Kyu)4
BlueSan-kyu (3rd Kyu)5
PurpleNi-kyu (2nd Kyu)6
Brown beltIk-kyu (1st Kyu)7
Black beltShodan8

Some belts take longer to achieve than others. Most are in the range of 3 to 6 months.

Here’s a table with the order of belts, as well as how long it takes to get each belt based on a person training around 3 times per week on average:

BeltJapanese nameMinimum time at this belt
White beltShichi-kyu (7th Kyu)3 months
Yellow beltRok-kyu (6th Kyu)3 months
Orange beltGo-kyu (5th Kyu)5 months
Green beltYon-kyu (4th Kyu)5 months
BlueSan-kyu (3rd Kyu)4 months
PurpleNi-kyu (2nd Kyu)5 months
Brown beltIk-kyu (1st Kyu)6 months
Black beltShodann/a

There is an alternative belt ranking in karate which is a bit different but used in some karate academies. Instead of a blue and purple belt, a brown belt has 3 individual ranks. 

In these academies, the three separate brown ranks are essentially belts. This belt system is used by the American Shotokan Karate Association.

Here’s a table that shows the belt order of this ranking system:

BeltJapanese nameBelt number
White beltShichi-kyu (7th Kyu)1
Yellow beltRok-kyu (6th Kyu)2
Orange beltGo-kyu (5th Kyu)3
Green beltYon-kyu (4th Kyu)4
Brown belt 1San-kyu (3rd Kyu)5
Brown belt 2Ni-kyu (2nd Kyu)6
Brown belt 3Ik-kyu (1st Kyu)7
Black beltShodan8

(source: US Martial Arts Federation)

The time frames to get each belt is essentially the same as the other belt ranking system.

It’s worth mentioning that there are quite a few different styles of karate.

And there can be some variation depending on the particular style of karate you are doing, and the individual school that you train at.

Based on this system a brown belt is the 5th, 6th, and 7th belt in karate.

If you add up the total time minimum before a person can be awarded a brown belt it comes out at about 1.5 years. The student will then spend an additional 1.5 years at brown belt level before they will be awarded the next belt which is a black belt.

Interestingly, the number of techniques that a person will need to know to go from one brown belt rank to the next brown belt rank is also about as many as are required to go from one color belt to the next. 

The number of techniques a person needs to know also applies to the other belt system which has a blue belt and a purple belt.

Here’s a summary of the ADDITIONAL kata, and techniques a person needs to know to go from a green belt to the first brown belt rank:

  • 3 standing postures
  • 2 hand striking techniques
  • 7 kicking techniques
  • 2 blocking techniques
  • Able to breakfall very well
  • 9 submissions
  • 3 kata
  • ‘Intermediate’ level kumite sparring skill

Here’s a table that lists the number of techniques required to get the second rank of brown belt, and the third rank of brown belt:

Brown belt 2nd rankBrown belt 3rd rank (final brown belt rank)
8 new self-defense techniques3 new blocking techniques
2 new kataAdvanced Kumite (sparring) ability
Improved ability to apply submission holds2 new kata
Improved ability to execute throws7 new self-defense techniques

The requirements to go from the first rank of brown belt to the 2nd rank of brown belt does not put a lot of emphasis on new techniques. But, instead mostly focuses on getting better at the existing techniques a person knows.

The same is true when going from brown belt 2nd rank to brown belt 3rd rank. Both only introduce about 10 or so new techniques. 

In contrast, in previous belts, about 20 to 30 new techniques were learned. For example, to be awarded a yellow belt a person needs to learn and be able to demonstrate:

  • 3 punches
  • 7 kicks
  • 4 blocks
  • 3 katas
  • 3 self-defense moves
  • 4 Kumite defenses

Is a Brown Belt Good in Karate?

A brown belt is one of the later belts in most martial arts. But, it’s often difficult to tell how well each martial art does against the other, and how good a brown belt is compared to say a yellow belt.

So, here is my take on whether a brown belt in karate is any good:

Overall, a brown belt in karate is good. The brown belt is the last belt before a black belt is awarded. A black belt is very knowledgeable in karate and is qualified to teach it. A brown belt has spent at least 1.5 years training in karate, and considerable time sparring and drilling.

In martial arts, it is widely regarded that there are some martial arts that are ‘fake’. These martial arts have techniques that look like they would work on the surface. But, in reality, do not prepare a student well for a situation when they need to defend themselves.

Karate is different because there is sparring. Where one person is legitimately trying to land strikes, and the other person is trying to avoid getting hit.

It is known as ‘kumite’. However, a normal ‘kumite’ tournament is typically not full contact.

Here’s a video that shows what a kumite tournament looks like:

It’s rare for a fighter in a kumite tournament to get knocked out. And the objective is for a strike to just touch rather than land full contact. 

Nonetheless, it does give a karate fighter skill in being able to land and avoid strikes. There are also a few karate fighters who have transitioned to MMA. An example of one such fighter is Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida.

At each belt level in karate, students gain skills in kumite. Here’s how good a person should be at kumite at each belt level in karate.

  • White belt – none
  • Yellow belt – 4 kumite techniques
  • Orange belt – 2 kumite techniques
  • Green belt – Basic kumite skills
  • Brown belt – Intermediate kumite skills, ability to spar against multiple opponents
  • Black belt – advanced kumite

Therefore, at a brown belt level, it’s reasonable to assume a karate fighter would have fairly decent stand-up skills. In my opinion, they would be easily able to avoid strikes. But, it’s debated how good they would be at landing strikes in a self-defense situation. 

There’s no doubt that a Muay Thai fighter would do very well in a self-defense situation. Here’s a video of an experienced Muay Thai fighter against a karate black belt:

However, in this bout, no fighting on the ground was allowed. In my opinion, someone with very good grappling skills such as wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu would easily be able to out-grapple a karate fighter. And keep them on the ground. 

The reason is karate does teach some grappling and throws but other martial arts like wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu specialize in takedowns and fighting on the ground. 

Most of the training time they spend is in grappling. But, if a karate fighter could land some significant strikes before a grappler gets a hold of them, they could win.

It’s the classic match-up of a grappler versus a striker.

How High Is a Brown Belt in Karate?

Some martial arts have different rankings than others, and the order that the belts go varies from martial art to martial art. So, this is where a brown belt fits in the sequence of belts in karate.

A brown belt in karate is the last belt before a black belt. A black belt is someone who is very skilled in karate and can teach karate. The belts before brown belt are white, then yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple. But, there are 9 ranks after black belt, explained below.

The 9 ranks after black belt take an incredibly long time to get. In karate terminology, they are called ‘dan’ ranks. Such as first dan, and second dan. 

The first dan rank takes about 3 years to get after a person is awarded their black belt. And some of the later dan ranks take as long as 12 years to go from one to the next. 

Interestingly, even though a person has a brown belt and they’re not too far away from getting the final belt – a black belt – they still can keep moving up in karate rank pretty much for the rest of their life.

Here’s a table that shows the minimum age requirement to get each dan rank once a person has a black belt in karate:

Dan rank numberThe minimum age before a person can be eligible to receive it
116 years old
218 years old
321 years old
425 years old
530 years old
636 years old
743 years old
855 years old
967 years old

(source: US Olympic Team)

To get the final rank in karate, a 9th degree black belt, a person needs to be a minimum of 67 years of age. 

How Many Belt Levels Are There in Karate?

Martial arts often have over 5 belts. Including stripes and the belts/ranks a person can get after a black belt, martial arts often have 20 different ranks. But, here’s how many belt levels there are in karate.

There are 8 belts in karate before a black belt. After a black belt, there are 8 additional belt ranks, known as dan ranks. But, the belt remains a black belt. It takes on average a minimum of 2 to 3 years to go from being a white belt to having a black belt.

Many karate academies do not use stripes. However, when I did karate when I was younger my instructor awarded stripes. 

For example, if a person was a yellow belt they would first get awarded a green stripe, and then at their next grading, they would get awarded a green belt. But, this is not the same across the board and varies based on each instructor and the style of karate.