My six-year-old does Taekwondo. Currently, the little guy is a yellow belt. He’s only been at it for a year, but he’s lasted so long, learned so much patience, focus, determination.
It wasn’t until after he earned his yellow belt that I learned the meaning behind the colors of all the belts, which are nearly uniform across many martial arts, with some variation.
Many people assume that a black belt is the highest degree, and in a way they’re half right. Black belt is the highest color. But it’s like saying twelfth grade is the highest education. From there, mastery takes on a whole new level. Black belts themselves have many different stages of mastery.
It turns out there’s a story to the belt colors, a story written in nature. For you see, the colors of the belts represent the life cycle of a growing plant.
The blank slate of the beginner student, the bright first light of a sprout. This also means ignorance of the art.
The sprout now acquainted with the sun providing the light.
The sunlight’s warmth now bathes the plant, immersed in the art.
The plant grows leaves of its own, vibrant in the art.
The plant is reaching upward now, toward the sky.
The plant has begun to flower, its form taking on true beauty.
As it increases, the plant bows to the earth humbly, but is stronger, like wood.
The plant is showing its true colors through its experience. Red is also a warning to use the dangerous art carefully.
Through trial, the plant is converted from wood to ash in fire, purified and made for purpose. Also, the opposite of white. The student is now fully acquainted with the fundamentals, and proceeds to stages of mastery.