Judo belt ranks are way cooler than the black belts used in karate. With Judo, you have to get really good if you want to make it past white.
So it’s no surprise that the question of what color the highest belt is has been a hot topic for years. There are answers out there, but nothing clear-cut and universal. So, keep it here.
So, Is the Highest Judo Belt Really Red?
Yes. The highest level in Judo is called “Koku-no-kami,” which means “the red belt.” It represents the 9th or 10th Dan rank attained. The other four grades are Hachimaki (white), Kyo-no-kami (brown), Fuseki (yellow), and Yudansha (black).
Judo black belts are awarded for long-term commitment to the sport. However, this rule was changed in 2006 by the International Judo Federation, and now red belts are awarded for high-level achievements, such as achieving a certain number of victories and major tournaments.
History of the Red Belt in Judo
It wasn’t always red, though. In the early years, a student had to go through five belt levels: white, yellow, green, brown, and finally, black.
Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano originally wanted the belts to reflect a student’s progress: white for beginners and intermediates; yellow for advanced students; green for expert knowledge of throwing techniques; brown for dealing with opponents bigger than you; black belt as the final level of judo belt achievement.
Somehow this progression has been lost, and the red belt represents the highest level of achievement for students (partial credit is given to Kano’s famous student Mitsuyo Maeda).
How can a judo student achieve a red belt In Judo?
Judo is a sport of great depth and breadth with many different schools, techniques, and methods: it would be impossible to define easily what level of ability or achievement would earn a student the right to wear a red belt.
For example, in Japan, where Judo originated, students often start at a young age. To achieve the first belt level, the white belt in Japan must show control and sophistication in basic skills such as joint locks, arm bars, and chokes; very few other martial arts require this from white belts.
For the second yellow belt level, candidates must demonstrate mastery of the chokes and throws they learned as white belts.
The third belt level, the green belt, is awarded to students who are able to defend against senior students in randori (free sparring).
Students submitting themselves to randori at this point are intelligent enough to know that they can be beaten by a higher-ranked opponent.
Winning at this stage requires a higher level of self-confidence than most martial artists possess. The fourth belt, the brown belt, is awarded when students have demonstrated their skill and knowledge of techniques against black belts, who are typically the best judo students in a school.
The highest level of judo achievement is actually called the red belt. These Judo belts differ from other martial arts because they must be earned.
You will not find the red belt just lying around on the ground. The highest level of training in Judo allows you to face top-level opponents every day, and you need to be able to deal with defeat time after time so as not to get discouraged or disheartened.
Basically, you get a red belt by becoming a top-level judo competitor (going to major tournaments, being ranked high in the world, and being able to win against other competitors).
How long does it take to get the red belt in Judo?
It actually depends on how much time you dedicate to your art. There is a ranking system that determines how long it will take to get to the red belt.
As I mentioned above, a student who started Judo at a very young age (typically 4 or 5 years old) could be receiving his or her red belt by the time they are 16 years old because the first three belts can be earned in less than three years.
Thus, 10-16 years of commitment can earn you the red belt if you are an adept judo student.
However, to get the red belt, it’s going to take a long time, many hard hours of training, internalizing all the knowledge you’ve learned in the past, and getting totally comfortable with your skills.
Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Time will fly by if you are enjoying yourself.
If you are having fun, training hard, and always reaching for new challenges in your Judo, then you’ll be on the right track to getting that red belt.
After all, if it was easy, everybody would have it. There are only a few of them in the world, after all.
What is the test taken for the red belt in Judo?
There are two ways to qualify for the red belt.
One way is to win the “Grand Shukokai” or “Grand Championship” judo tournament in Japan, which would require traveling to Japan from all over the world, including from Europe and North America, and fighting over the course of three days in front of judges.
This test is believed by some to be the hardest test for obtaining a red belt.
In the United States, there are, however, two ways to get a red belt. The first is based on winning the “USJF Red Belt Alliance” tournament in California, which the United States Judo Federation runs.
This test is considered equally difficult as the Japanese Grand Shukokai tournament, and some students have taken 17 years to obtain their red belt under this competition process.
The second way to get your red belt in Judo is through an international system called “Judo-Kai.” This system requires students to travel consistently for many years and compete at major judo events, such as “Kodokan Judo Masters.”
This competition process also gives students a chance to test their skills against other major players in the world, such as the Japanese judo star Masahiko Kimura.
The available highly ranked players in this system have achieved their red belts through this type of competition over a period of years.
The judo red belt represents high-level skills, courage, and dedication. Don’t expect to put on a red belt without showing your teacher, coaches, and everyone else in the world that you are committed and focused on the art. It will take a long time because it’s worth it.