Obi (martial arts)

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Obis for budo. The colours range from yellow to brown corresponding to judo kyu levels from 9th to 1st. Obi-gokyu.jpg
Obis for budō. The colours range from yellow to brown corresponding to judo kyū levels from 9th to 1st.
One way of tying the obi used in judo, aikido and karate. Obi-knot.png
One way of tying the obi used in judo, aikido and karate.
In some Japanese martial arts the obi is hidden underneath the hakama. Pictured is a kyudoka. Kyudo Kai 01.jpg
In some Japanese martial arts the obi is hidden underneath the hakama. Pictured is a kyūdōka.

Many Japanese martial arts feature an obi (Japanese: ) as part of their exercise outfit. Such an obi is often made of thick cotton and is about 5 cm wide. The martial arts obi are most often worn in the koma-musubi knot (square knot); in practice where a hakama is worn, the obi is tied in other ways.


In many martial arts, the colour of the obi signifies the wearer's skill level. Usually the colours start from white for beginners and end in black or red-and-white for masters.


Unlike in many other martial arts, adult practitioners of aikido do not traditionally wear coloured obis, [1] though in some schools different colour codes have been formed, [1] especially for children. The children's obis range from white for beginner level to 7th kyū, other colours for the rest of the kyū levels, and black for levels 1st dan and up. [2]

In some aikido schools, wearing a hakama is a privilege earned by reaching the first dan level. In other schools, all practitioners may wear a hakama. After taking up using a hakama, the colour of obi does not matter since it will be covered by the hakama. [2]

Example of colour range in aikido

Below is a typical example of obi colours per level in aikido: [1]

LevelObi colour
6th kyūyellow
5th kyūorange
4th kyūgreen
3rd kyūblue
2nd and 1st kyūbrown
1st-3rd danblack
4th-9th danblack and red, or
white and red
10th dandark blue

However, aikido schools worldwide may use their own systems with little reference to other schools save the use of a black belt for at least some dan grades.

Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu

The Bujinkan (武神館) makes use of only a limited set of belt colours, however there are also different associated uniform emblems or wappen (ワッペン), the style of which varies dependent on the grade of the Budoka. Unlike many other martial arts, the number of Dan grades extends to Jūgodan (15th Dan), and practitioners at this grade of may also be gifted the status of Dai Shihan (大師範, roughly translated as "senior instructor") by the Sōke [3] [ better source needed ] This title also comes with its own wappen style featuring a purple background.

LevelObi colour
Without Grade (Mukyū)White
Kyū GradesGreen
Dan GradesBlack


Ninja obi are required within JNF and WNF.

Obi colourNinjutsu Level
Yellow2nd dan
Orange2nd dan
Gold8 kyu
Pale Orange2nd dan and 8-5 kyu
Brown5th dan and 5 kyu
Green2nd dan
Blue, Purple2nd dan and 5 kyu
Black4th dan and 10 kyu
Dark Blue3rd dan and 10- 15-15 kyu

Atarashii naginata

The outfit used for Atarashii naginata practice includes a hakama that covers the obi.[ citation needed ] The obi is always white; its colour has no significance beyond simply blending in with the white keikogi worn when practicing the art.[ citation needed ]


The outfit worn to iaido practise includes a hakama, which is worn over the top of the obi, which fastens the keikogi. The obi colour has no meaning in iaido, [4] and is usually chosen to blend in with the kimono or hakama worn by the practitioner.


The outfit used for jōdō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[ citation needed ]


Below are the colours of obis worn for judo practise. Junior practitioners have a different colour range. [5] There are also other colour ranges used worldwide.

LevelObi colour
5th kyūYellow
4th kyūOrange
3rd kyūGreen
2nd kyūBlue
1st kyūBrown
1st - 5th danBlack
6th - 8th danRed and White
9th and 10th danRed


The colours for obis used for Ju-Jitsu practise range as follows: [6]

LevelObi colour
10th – 8th kyūred
7th kyūwhite with
a red stripe
6th kyūyellow
5th kyūorange
4th kyūgreen
3rd kyūblue
2nd kyūviolet
1st kyūbrown
Shōdan-hobrown and black
("temporary black")
1st - 5th danblack
6th dan and higherred and white

Different Ju-Jitsu federations use different colours. An alternative is shown below.[ citation needed ]

LevelObi Colour
8th kyūwhite
7th kyūyellow
6th kyūorange
5th kyūgreen
4th kyūblue
3rd kyūpurple
2nd kyūbrown and white
1st kyūbrown
1st - 5th danblack


The outfit used for Jūkendō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[ citation needed ]



For adults, an obi worn in Kyokushin karate signifies rank as follows: [7]

LevelObi Colour
10th kyūorange
9th kyūorange with stripe
8th kyūblue
7th kyūblue with stripe
6th kyūyellow
5th kyūyellow with stripe
4th kyūgreen
3rd kyūgreen with stripe
2nd kyūbrown
1st kyūbrown with stripe
1st - 10th danblack with one stripe per dan

Stripes on non-black obis can be either black or the next obi's color. Some brown obis sport white stripes. On a black obi, gold is the most seen stripe color. Note that some dojo's in Kyokushin use a more elaborate striping system for children, allowing for a higher frequency of exams. Some higher degree blackbelts prefer to wear a plain black obi, with no markings.


The obis used in the wadō-ryū style range in colour as follows: [8]

LevelObi colour
10th kyūturkos
9th kyūred
8th kyūyellow
7th kyūorange
6th kyūgreen
5th kyūblue
4th kyūviolet
3rd - 1st kyūbrown
1st dan and higherblack


The obis used in the shotokan KUGB style range in colour as follows: [9]

LevelObi colour
10th kyūwhite
9th kyūorange
8th kyūred
7th kyūyellow
6th kyūgreen
5th kyūpurple (violet)
4th kyūpurple (violet) and one white stripe
3rd kyūbrown
2nd kyūbrown and one white stripe
1st kyūbrown and two white stripes
1st - 10th danblack


The obis used in the Shitō-ryū style range in colour as follows: [10] [ better source needed ]

LevelObi colour
10th kyūWhite
9th kyūYellow/White
8th kyūYellow
7th kyūOrange
6th kyūGreen
5th kyūBlue
4th kyūPurple
3rd kyūBrown
2nd kyūBrown (1 white stripe)
1st kyūBrown (2 white stripes)
1st-10th danblack
10th-15th danblue


The outfit used for kendo practise includes a hakama that covers the kendogi. An obi is optional; if worn, its colour has no significance. [11]


The outfit used for kyūdō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[ citation needed ]

T'ai Chi Ch'uan

The outfit used for T'ai Chi is either loose-fitting, comfortable clothing or the same kind of uniform as other Chinese martial arts. Some schools also include a coloured sash, but no standard for their order has been established.

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Aikido modern Japanese martial art

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Kimono Traditional Japanese garment

The kimono (きもの/着物) is a traditional Japanese garment and the national dress of Japan. The kimono is a T-shaped, wrapped-front garment with square sleeves and a rectangular body, and is worn with the left side wrapped over the right side, unless the wearer is deceased. The kimono is traditionally worn with an obi, and is commonly worn with accessories such as zōri sandals and tabi socks.

<i>Hakama</i> Type of traditional Japanese trousers/skirt

Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Trousers were used by the Chinese imperial court in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and this style was adopted by the Japanese in the form of hakama beginning in the sixth century. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles. They are worn over a kimono (hakamashita).

Black belt (martial arts)

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Kyū is a Japanese term used in modern martial arts as well as in tea ceremony, flower arranging, Go, shogi, academic tests and other similar activities to designate various grades, levels or degrees of proficiency or experience. In Mandarin Chinese, the same character 級 is pronounced , and the term is used for academic tests. In Korea, the term geup is used. In Vietnamese martial arts, it is known as cấp (khớp).


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Dan (rank)

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Jan Hermansson

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Rank in Judo

In Judo, improvement and understanding of the art is denoted by a system of rankings split into kyū and dan grades. These are indicated with various systems of coloured belts, with the black belt indicating a practitioner who has attained a certain level of competence.

Kenichi Sawai was a Japanese martial artist and a colonel in the Japanese army. Sawai is known for his background in the martial art style Yiquan, his association with founder of Kyokushin Karate, Mas Oyama and influence on various notable early Kyokushin practitioners. Sawai also found his own martial art named Taiki Seisei Kenpo, called Taikiken for short.


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  1. 1 2 3 Bennett p. 8-11
  2. 1 2 Goodman s. 70
  3. Cousergue, Arnaud (2015-05-25). "What Type Of Shihan Are You?". THOUGHTS ON BUDO.
  4. Goodman p. 230-231
  5. Goodman s. 134
  6. Goodman s. 101
  7. "Kyokushin Grading and Belts". Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  8. Goodman s. 32
  9. Goodman s. 52
  11. Goodman s. 214. This was mentioned in Sword Art Online when Kirito and his sister fought using Kendo.