Belt Ranks & Themes

The color belt ranking system used at Old School Kenpo Karate is in accordance with most Kenpo systems and many other karate styles.

Within the curriculum, each colored belt level has a certain focus, or theme, described below.

To learn how about our process for advancement, please visit our Belt Testing section.

Yellow Belt

Laying the Foundation

This first belt is vitally important, as the basic stances and movements learned provide the foundation for the entire system. And the five yellow-belt techniques are as street-practical and effective as those at any level.The journey has begun!

Orange Belt

Expanding the Arsenal

The “arsenal” of strikes, checks, and blocks expands as attack scenarios are broadened. Students begin to move like martial artists.

Purple Belt

Seizing Control

Control is gained by stepping into attacks, grabbing, trapping, and taking an opponent to the ground. It is also achieved through managing distance and employing lateral movement.

Blue Belt

Mastering Movement

Intensified focus on making everything work together. Arms, legs, head, and body all perform in concert, providing the ability to counteract any attack, from either side. Sparring—the epitome of martial arts in motion—is introduced.

Green Belt

Finding the Flow

This upper-echelon rank is a landmark achievement. Training emphasizes the smooth flow of parries, circular movements, and continual motion that is the essence of Chinese martial arts.

Brown Belt

Powering Up

Power, speed, and precision are confidently applied with zero hesitation. More complex scenarios are confronted, including defense against weapons and multiple attackers.

Black Belt

The End Is the Beginning

Earning a black belt is naturally seen as the fulfillment of a goal, and therefore the culmination of a journey. But in reality it is a new beginning.Embracing the martial arts as a way of life is the main theme of this level.

“The intelligent man is one who has successfully fulfilled many accomplishments
and is yet willing to learn more.”

—Ed Parker

Diligence in continued training leads to ever-expanding mastery.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once,
but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times

—Bruce Lee

Passing one’s knowledge on to new students is another part of the martial arts mentality and a vital component of preserving its legacy.
For the true martial artist, the journey never ends.


Rank designation in BLACK BELT is denoted by red stripes and/or bars at each end of the belt. Each stripe indicates a single degree. Each bar represents five degrees.

Black Belts become eligible for advancement every three years, as long as they have remained active in the system or have returned for a minimum of six months. The promotion is obtained by passing a prescribed Black Belt Degree Test.

In addition to an official certificate and a recording of their test and ceremony, all Black Belt ranks receive a laminated card showing their credentials.

The highest attainable rank is 10th Degree Black Belt.

NOTE: No separate degrees are designated within brown belt rank as seen in some traditional Kenpo systems.


Any rank up to and including Black Belt may be attained by students under age 16; however, such belt levels are considered Junior Belt Rank.

Students under age 16 may be rewarded with half-belts at the instructors’ discretion when their progress indicates they are on track for their next belt level, with the understanding that the lower belt color still represents their official rank.

At age 16, a student’s junior rank is automatically considered his or her adult rank, with the exception of a Junior Black Belt awarded before age 14; in such case, the student must take a specialized test to receive a First-Degree Black Belt.