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Karate Orange Belt – Rank, Meaning, Requirements, Kumite

An orange belt is one of the earliest belts in karate, but to be awarded it a person does need to know a fair amount of techniques. 

Having done karate on and off for about 4 years, in this article I will cover what an orange belt in karate is, what they need to know, and how long it takes to get an orange belt in karate.

An orange belt in karate is the third belt. On average it takes 1 year to achieve. For a person to get awarded an orange belt they need to know a total of 6 hand strikes, 13 kicking techniques, 7 blocking techniques, 6 kata, 8 self-defense moves, and 6 kumite techniques.

Of all the Japanese martial arts, karate takes the shortest amount of time to go from white belt to black belt, and the time in between each belt is shorter than other Japanese martial arts such as judo and jiu-jitsu

Below, I will provide:

  • The belt order in karate and how long between each belt
  • How long will an orange belt take to become a black belt in karate
  • After orange belt, a student begins to learn to spar
  • Is an orange belt in karate a good standard?
Karate orange belt

The Belt Order in Karate [& How Long In Between Each Belt]

The colored belt ranking system used in martial arts originated from Japan, but many martial arts have slightly different belt orders.

Also the time it takes to go from one belt to the next varies quite a lot from martial art to martial art. 

Below, is a summary and full breakdown of the belt order in karate, and how long it takes a person to be experienced enough to get awarded each belt.

The belt order in karate is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and then black. On average, it takes 3 to 6 months to go from one belt to the next. A person is awarded the next belt when they demonstrate all of the techniques required for the next belt level.

There are 22 total new techniques a person needs to know to grade for an orange belt (source). These are:

  • 3 hand strikes 
  • 6 kicking techniques
  • 3 blocking techniques
  • 3 kata
  • 5 self-defense moves
  • 2 kumite techniques

The following short video of an orange belt kata demonstrates the kind of moves that are generally required at orange belt level:

Below, is a table that shows the belt order in karate:

BeltJapanese nameBelt order
White beltShichi-kyu (7th Kyu)1
Yellow beltRok-kyu (6th Kyu)2
Orange beltGo-kyu (5th Kyu)3
Green beltYon-kyu (4th Kyu)4
Blue beltSan-kyu (3rd Kyu)5
Purple beltNi-kyu (2nd Kyu)6
Brown beltIk-kyu (1st Kyu)7
Black beltShodan8

Below is the same table showing the belt order, but with how long it takes on average for a person to learn all of the techniques required to be graded, and so get awarded each belt in karate.

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

Stripes are also somewhat common in karate. These are used in between belts.

For example, if a person is a yellow belt, before getting awarded an orange belt they can get awarded an orange stripe. I explained how stripes work in karate in detail in this article about what stripes mean in karate.

How Long Before An Orange Belt Will Become A Black Belt In Karate?

On average it will take an additional 2 years for an orange belt to get their black belt in karate. This is based on a person who trains on average 3 times per week. 

Provided a person trains this often they can expect to be eligible to grade at each grading session/ceremony.

Exactly how long the process takes depends on a little bit of luck. The reason for this is that at many karate academies, a person needs to have a minimum time at each belt.

Karate grading tests are held every 3 months or so. Therefore, if a person just misses one grading ceremony, they will have to wait the full 3 months to grade again.

Based on this fact, let’s say you miss the grading sessions, that means you need to add 3 additional months to the belt.

But, interestingly, this will reduce the time it takes before you can grade for the next belt.

Therefore, the total time doesn’t change very much, and you can expect to get a black belt in karate in about 2.5 years.

After Orange Belt A Student Begins Learning To Spar (Kumite)

A student needs to be an orange belt before they are eligible to grade for the next belt which is a green belt.

At green belt, most karate academies put more of an emphasis on kumite sparring. 

There are around 22 total techniques a person needs to learn for each belt. This includes strikes with the hands, kicks, blocks, kata, trips, and kumite sparring techniques.

The emphasis on real sparring a person learns after the orange belt increases their ability to fight in a real fight scenario. It also means they can compete in tournaments.

How The Karate Colored Belt System Started

It’s safe to say that there is no universal standard for the belt order in karate.

However, it generally follows the order from lighter shades such as yellow, orange, and green to darker colors such as blue, purple, brown, and black.

The colored belt ranking system is widely regarded to have been started by Jigoro Kano who invented judo. It was adopted into other martial arts such as jiu-jitsu and karate. 

The benefits of the belt ranking system according to martial arts instructors are:

  • Higher-ranked people help lower-ranked people
  • It’s good for matching up training partners

However, the downsides are that some people who do karate get complacent once they reach a certain belt, or the focus of the training is on getting the next belt rather than developing skills.

Is an Orange Belt in Karate Good?

Each belt in karate signifies a person has a certain level of skill. An orange belt is the third belt awarded in karate, and means a person has been training for about 6 months to a year. But is an orange belt any good?

An orange belt in karate is not good. An orange belt in karate knows a significant number of techniques in karate. But, they have only been training in karate for about 6 months. Therefore, they haven’t developed a high level of skill. They have also not started doing sparring (kumite) yet.

Most of the skills a person will learn that are applicable to real fighting are learned from kumite training (sparring).

When practicing sparring one person is trying to score points against the other student while avoiding the attacks of them also.

Practicing sparring is a key feature of virtually all martial arts, especially martial arts that are used for self-defense purposes.

Through training safely and slowly at first, the intensity of the sparring can be adjusted based on a person’s skill level.

As they get more and more comfortable the situations get closer and closer to a real-life fight.

You can get an idea of the level of skills required at orange belt level from the following video showing the orange belt curriculum at a dojo:

Key Things To Keep In Mind When Learning Karate

There is no one best martial art, and the skill a person develops is also related to their age, existing experience in sports, and overall coordination.

Some people are not very coordinated, just as much as some people are naturally very tall.

It’s also good to keep in mind that there are many successful MMA fighters who had a background in karate such as Georges St Pierre. He is arguably one of the best MMA fighters ever. 

But, it’s good to keep in mind that training in other martial arts will also improve your skill level much faster, and your overall understanding of martial arts.

Some martial arts that are prominent in MMA are Muay Thai, Wrestling, Judo, and BJJ.

Is An Orange Belt The Same In All Martial Arts?

An orange belt is somewhat common in martial arts that have a colored belt ranking system. Most of these martial arts come from Japan, with the exception of Taekwondo. While a small handful of martial arts have an orange belt, here is if all orange belts are the same.

An orange belt is not the same in all martial arts. Many martial arts that have a colored belt system don’t have an orange belt. For example, there is no orange belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and Taekwondo. There is no universal standard for an orange belt in martial arts.

Two different academies that do the same martial art can have an orange belt in their belt order. But, it’s also more than likely they won’t have an orange belt. 

Whether they do have an orange belt or not is determined by what affiliation they are under, and the personal preferences of the martial professor/instructor/sensei.

Some affiliations such as the International Judo Federation have strict requirements for the belt order, and what a person needs to know at each belt. These are outlined in the rules, regulations, and belt ranking system documents.

In Karate there is the International Karate Federation, as well as the USA Karate Association. They differ slightly in their belt system. There are also about 6 to 12 more well-known styles of karate. 

These also differ in their:

  • Belt order
  • Time it takes in between each belt
  • Techniques and skill level a person needs to have. 

However, the tables at the top of this article provide a general ballpark figure.

Can You Be Too Old To Start Karate?

As people age, their physical ability, strength, and stamina decrease. Experienced martial artists typically report that younger people outperform older people, and in a competitive match, age is a big advantage after about age 30. 

Older people can still learn and do martial arts, but here is whether there is such a thing as being too old to learn karate.

In general, you can never be too old to start karate. However, the older a person is, the slower they should go in the beginning to avoid injury. To progress through all the belts in karate does not take very long. So even if you begin slowly, you can still get a black belt in a few years.

The main considerations with learning karate when you’re older are that:

  • It takes longer to heal from injury
  • Your overall energy levels will be lower than younger people (those under 30)

The reason is the number of hormones the body produces declines with age. In particular testosterone in men. It has been shown in numerous studies that testosterone production in males declines from about age 35. Which has been shown to decrease energy levels.

The same hormone decline is true of females, and therefore, you will not be able to train as hard or as fast as a person in their physical peak years, from about 17 to 35.

Having said that, there are rare examples of athletes that have competed at the highest levels after age 35, such as Yoel Romero, a Cuban MMA fighter.

However, these athletes are the exception not the rule.

In karate competitions, brackets are normally divided by age and weight. Doing so ensures that a match will be ‘fair’. 

Weight is considered a considerable advantage in martial arts.

A person who weighs more can land more powerful strikes, and if they get into a dominant position on the ground, they are very difficult to escape from, because they are so heavy.

For example, in the World Shotokan Championships, the age brackets in Kumite competitions are:

  • Children – 10 to 11 years old
  • Mini cadets – 12 to 13 years old
  • Cadets – 14 to 15 years old
  • Juniors – 16 to 17 years old
  • Youths – 18 to 20 years old
  • Seniors – Over 21 years old
  • Open – Any age over 18 years
  • Veterans 1 – 40 to 49 years old
  • Veterans 2 – 50 to 59 years old
  • Veterans 3 – 60 years old and over

However, in some competitions, the age brackets for older competitors only have a 35+ (source). The age brackets are not further divided into more specific brackets such as 40 years of age to 45 years of age.

Therefore, even if you start karate later in life you can still compete against people who are the same age. Also typically, karate academies will have kids, youths, and adult classes.