Rank Progression


Tangible signs of progress, responsibility, and accomplishment are important in life—serving to instill a healthy pride. And so, just as military personnel boast stripes and other indications of rank on their uniforms, martial artists wear belts of various colors, which increase in stature as the student advances in ability and skill.

The tradition of “colored” belts is linked to myths, legends, and 200-plus-year-old facts.

  • Myths and legends state that the belts or sashes worn by the ancient martial arts practitioners turned from white to brown to black with the wear-and-tear of training and experience—eventually turning white again as the belts wore even further into the fabric; symbolizing that the learning process always continues. That no one is ever really a master.
  • The now-accepted facts are that the first actual black belts signifying rank were given by Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, in the 1880s. It was not until the early 1900s, after the introduction of the gi (traditional uniform), that an expanded colored belt system of awarding rank was created.


Each promotion is exciting. Every time a student enters a studio wearing a higher-ranking belt or goes through a promotion ceremony in front of fellow students, it is a tremendous honor—for both the student and the school.

All promotions are awarded by Old School’s Head Instructors Jennifer Thomas and Bill Hayes, with the advisement of their Black Belt Board.

Each awarded Black Belt is added to the Old School Kenpo Legacy Roster, whose record is maintained in perpetuity.