Black belt Karate Sensei closeup stances

How Long to Get Black Belt in Karate

Karate is one of the most iconic martial arts made famous by the Karate Kid movies. But, is also well regarded in MMA. In this article, I will explain how long it takes to reach a black belt in karate.

On average, it would take 5 to 10 years to get a black belt in karate. This is based on going to class 1 to 3 times per week. If a person trained every day they could expect to get a black belt in karate in 3.5 years at a minimum.

Each belt in karate takes a certain amount of time, and some black belts take longer to get in different martial arts. So, below I will cover how long it takes to go from one belt to the next in karate if getting a black belt in karate is hard, and which martial arts takes the longest to get a black belt.

How Long It Takes To Get Each Belt in Karate

The first few belts in karate take the shortest amount of time to get. The belts after that take almost double to triple the amount of time to get. Here’s how long it takes to get each belt in karate.

On average, it takes 3 months to 1 year to go from one belt to the next. The first 2 belts, yellow and orange take 3 months to get. It takes 6 months to go from orange to green. And then blue, brown, and black take 1 to 1.5 years each.

Here’s a table that shows the total time it takes to get awarded each belt in karate:

BeltCumulative time (time total)
White0 – you can wear to your first class
Yellow3 months
Orange9 months
Green1 year, 4 months
Blue2 years
Brown3 years
Black4.5 years

You can see that getting a yellow belt takes the least amount of time, only 3 months. But, each belt after that takes 6 months, and then 1 year. It’s also common at many karate schools to award stripes. For example, a yellow belt will get awarded orange stripes along the way. 

There are also ‘dan’ ranks after black belt. These are stripes that are awarded on your black belt. The highest dan rank is a 10th dan. The dan ranks take FAR longer to get. According to the Japan Karate Association here’s how long it takes to get each dan rank after black belt:

Dan ranking – after black beltCumulative time
1st Dan1 year
2nd Dan2 years
3rd Dan4 years
4th Dan7 years
5th Dan11 years
6th Dan17 years
7th Dan24 years
8th Dan31 years
9th Dan39 years
10th Dan48 years

If a person starts karate at an early age, they can get all 10 Dan ranks in their lifetime. But, depending on when you start it may be impossible to get the highest rank in karate. A 10th Dan black belt has spent most of their life training karate.

Many expert martial arts practitioners from other martial arts say that stripes are sometimes optional. At some schools, they will award stripes, whereas, at others, they don’t. Stripes are particularly good for motivation and keeping you excited to train. This is very helpful because it does take quite some time to get awarded the next belt.

There are a few factors that influence how long it takes to go from one belt to the next. These are:

  • When the grading ceremony is
  • How often you train
  • How strict your karate instructor (sensei) is

Skipping belts based on when the grading is

There are typically 2 to 3 grading sessions in a given year in karate. For example, they may have one halfway through the year, and at the end of the year. Or, they might have them every 4 months. Depending on when you start karate it may take slightly longer to get awarded the next belt.

Many karate instructors make it quite easy to get the next belt and will work with you to make sure you know everything to get awarded the next belt before the next training grading. But, it can happen that start halfway between when they had one grading session and when the next one is. So, you might have to wait a much longer period of time.

This very much varies from school to school. You may find that you get awarded your next belt and half the stripes for the next belt at the grading. So, no time is lost. In either case, provided you keep training, you’ll still get awarded each belt in the same amount of time.

How Hard Is It To Get a Black Belt in Karate

Martial arts are very physical, and martial arts, in general, require a person to be somewhat tough mentally. They also need to have a moderate level of pain tolerance. With karate specifically, here’s how difficult it is to go from white belt to black belt.

In general, it’s not hard to get a black belt in karate. But, it requires consistent attendance for a long period of time. But, the individual classes aren’t overly difficult. After a person attends a few weeks of classes they will be used to what is required to train karate.

Most people will have the initial level of physical fitness required to do a karate class from start to finish. This involves the warm-up and performing various drills such as 10 repetitions of the punches and kicks. 

Some karate styles develop physical toughness and pain tolerance, through drills. Generally, though fitness and physical toughness are developed slowly and gradually which doesn’t make it very difficult.

Which Black Belt Takes the Longest

A black belt is the highest rank in most martial arts and signifies a very high level of skill. Some black belts take longer to get than others. This is which black belt takes the longest to get.

As a general rule, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) takes the longest to get a black belt. On average, it takes 10 years to get a black belt in BJJ. Whereas, all of the other martial arts take between 3 to 7 years. This time can be reduced if a person trains very frequently.

For example, most people train 1 to 3 times a week. However, if you were to train every day you could reduce the time it takes by half. But, for an average person, this is typically very difficult to do. 

The reason is there are other life commitments such as family, work, and other hobbies that take up most people’s time. There can also be a bit of time getting to and from the gym.

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