Judo Belts and The Judo Grading System
Judo students always start out as a Kyu grade. You can only obtain a Dan grade (see below) after progressing through that stages of Kyu grades. A Kyu grade is always a colored belt. Black and red are reserved for Dan grades (See below).
A white belt is always your first grade; even though it usually comes with your uniform (Judogi). It is there to hold your Judogi together but it is also considered a grade, even though most organisations do not make you do any kind of test to obtain it. It is an honored grade because you are in the honored position of being a beginner. You are starting out on a Journey. The meaning of the the word Judo is gentle way ("Ju", meaning gentle and "Do", meaning Way) and as a white belt you are starting out on a journey of learning the gentle way of life. It may seem a contradiction that learning a martial art can teach you a gentle way of life but that is the nature your new journey; discovering the gentle way that Judo can teach you.
There a several different color schemes that are used throughout the world but the Kyu grades themselves are always considered to be the same regardless of the color belt.
The Downloadable "Newport Judo Handbook" (Download Handbook Here!)contains a chart of the current Kyu grades and its accociated color belts used by the Judo Federation of Australia.
The Dan grades is universal in their color schemes. I guess it's hard to be too creative with black. Also the red and red and white combination tend not to vary. Probably because these higher grades are comparatively few in number and smaller numbers tends to lead to greater agreement.
It should be noted that higher Dan grades are always entitled wear just plain black if they should so desire or the red, red / white, if they wish.
There was an 11th and 12th Dan however, as I understand it they have all been retired now out of respect for the fame of the Judoka who were awarded them.
The 11th Dan was awarded to a number of highly respected Judoka, many if not all who came from various traditions of Jujitsu and all of whom contributed significantly to the establishment of Judo.It is worth remembering here that Judo was developed out of several schools of Jujitsu. Some would consider that it still is jujitsu. Judo simply being a reinvented Martial Art.
Tradition has it that the 12th Dan was awarded to Professor Kano himself by his students. It was a white belt that was slightly wider (or so I'm told) than the white belts of beginners. This white belt was immediately retired so as no one else could gain it and was to symbolize the completing of the circle of experience by the receiver. From student to master.
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