Kickboxing Belts & Gradings

Sports & Leisure

Kickboxing is a great activity for burning calories, building muscle tone and learning self-defense. Mastery of kickboxing technique requires years of dedication and disciplined practice to achieve. Kickboxers receive different-colored belts as symbols of rank until they receive a black belt, which is the symbol of basic mastery. Black belt kickboxers who continue to hone their mastery in a formal dojo setting may continue to progress through the ranks of the dan system of expert martial arts ranking.

Colored Belt System

New kickboxing students begin by wearing a white belt that signifies the inexperienced student's blank slate of knowledge. As a student demonstrates mastery of more challenging kickboxing techniques, he will earn colored belts that mark his progress; although the specific colors may vary by dojo or training system, the color system usually proceeds from white to yellow, orange, purple, blue, green and brown belts. When a kickboxer demonstrates sufficient mastery of all basic elements of the art to his instructor, he receives a black belt, the final step on his progression through the various belt colors. For most people, it takes at least six years of strenuous training to attain a kickboxing black belt from a reputable school.

Colored-Belt Progression

Because there is no regulatory organization for kickboxing instruction, every school or teacher sets his own subjective standards for attaining the belts of various colors. For this reason, it is impossible to define specific requirements for colored-belt progression. When a relatively inexperienced local kickboxing instructor awards a black belt to a student, it doesn't carry nearly the same gravitas as a black belt earned at a top gym or instructional academy. Some schools offer periodic exams that students can take to receive their next-level belt. A school that charges a fee for taking the belt exam is sometimes called a "belt factory," since the school makes money off awarding belts and thus has economic incentive to award belt advancement regardless of student ability; any ranking that a kickboxer earns from a known belt factory is likely to be taken with a grain of salt among members of her local martial arts community.

Dan System

Although a black belt kickboxer will never receive a new color belt, he can continue training to attain a higher rank called a "dan." The dan ranking system originated in Japan to recognize the accomplishment of black belt-level practitioners who have attained greater mastery of their art. Dan rankings are not specific to kickboxing, as they are also denote advanced mastery in karate, jiujitsu and many other martial arts. Progression through dan rankings is very similar to progression through the colored-belt system. It also involves a series of ordered rankings that the student strives to achieve.

Dan Rankings

Students who receive a black belt in kickboxing immediately attain a ranking of 1st dan, or Sho Dan. With further training and mastery of technique 2nd dan and 3rd dan may be attained; these rankings are respectively known as Ni Dan and San Dan. Further progression through the dan system requires the kickboxer to demonstrate expertise in instructing the next generation of students. The 4th, 5th and 6th dans are called Yon Dan, Go Dan and Roku Dan; these designations of mastery are usually awarded to experienced instructors 50 years of age or older. The 7th through 10th dans are reserved for experienced master instructors. Only individuals who master and pass on the arts of kickboxing and instruction throughout their lifetime can attain the ultimate ranks of Schichi Dan, Hachi Dan, Ku Dan and Ju Dan.