Obi (martial arts)

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Obis for budō. The colours range from yellow to brown corresponding to judo kyū levels from 9th to 1st.
One way of tying the obi used in judo, aikido and karate.
In some Japanese martial arts the obi is hidden underneath the hakama. Pictured is a kyūdōka.

Many Japanese martial arts feature an obi (Japanese: ) as part of their exercise outfit. Such an obi is often made of thick cotton and is about 5 cm wide. The martial arts obi are most often worn in the koma-musubi knot (square knot); in practice where a hakama is worn, the obi is tied in other ways.

In many martial arts, the colour of the obi signifies the wearer's skill level. Usually the colours start from white for beginners and end in black or red-and-white for masters.


Unlike in many other martial arts, adult practitioners of aikido do not traditionally wear coloured obis,[1] though in some schools different colour codes have been formed,[1] especially for children. The children's obis range from white for beginner level to 7th kyū, other colours for the rest of the kyū levels, and black for levels 1st dan and up.[2]

In some aikido schools, wearing a hakama is a privilege earned by reaching the first dan level. In other schools, all practitioners may wear a hakama. After taking up using a hakama, the colour of obi does not matter since it will be covered by the hakama.[2]

Example of colour range in aikido[edit]

Below is a typical example of obi colours per level in aikido:[1]

Level Obi colour
6th kyū yellow
5th kyū orange
4th kyū green
3rd kyū blue
2nd and 1st kyū brown
1st-3rd dan black
4th-9th dan black and red, or
white and red
10th dan dark blue

However, aikido schools worldwide may use their own systems with little reference to other schools save the use of a black belt for at least some dan grades.

Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu[edit]

The Bujinkan (武神館) makes use of only a limited set of belt colours, however there are also different associated uniform emblems or wappen (ワッペン), the style of which varies dependent on the grade of the Budoka. Unlike many other martial arts, the number of Dan grades extends to Jūgodan (15th Dan), and practitioners at this grade of may also be gifted the status of Dai Shihan (大師範, roughly translated as "senior instructor") by the Sōke[3][better source needed] This title also comes with its own wappen style featuring a purple background.

Level Obi colour
Without Grade (Mukyū) White
Kyū Grades Green
Dan Grades Black


Ninja obi are required within JNF and WNF.

Obi colour Ninjutsu Level
Yellow 2nd dan
Orange 2nd dan
Gold 8 kyu
Pale Orange 2nd dan and 8-5 kyu
Brown 5th dan and 5 kyu
Green 2nd dan
Blue, Purple 2nd dan and 5 kyu
Black 4th dan and 10 kyu
Dark Blue 3rd dan and 10- 15-15 kyu

Atarashii naginata[edit]

The outfit used for Atarashii naginata practice includes a hakama that covers the obi.[citation needed] The obi is always white; its colour has no significance beyond simply blending in with the white keikogi worn when practicing the art.[citation needed]


The outfit worn to iaido practise includes a hakama, which is worn over the top of the obi, which fastens the keikogi. The obi colour has no meaning in iaido,[4] and is usually chosen to blend in with the kimono or hakama worn by the practitioner.


The outfit used for jōdō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[citation needed]


Below are the colours of obis worn for judo practise. Junior practitioners have a different colour range.[5] There are also other colour ranges used worldwide.

Level Obi colour
Beginners White
5th kyū Yellow
4th kyū Orange
3rd kyū Green
2nd kyū Blue
1st kyū Brown
1st - 5th dan Black
6th - 8th dan Red and White
9th and 10th dan Red


The colours for obis used for Ju-Jitsu practise range as follows:[6]

Level Obi colour
beginners white
10th – 8th kyū red
7th kyū white with
a red stripe
6th kyū yellow
5th kyū orange
4th kyū green
3rd kyū blue
2nd kyū violet
1st kyū brown
Shōdan-ho brown and black
("temporary black")
1st - 5th dan black
6th dan and higher red and white

Different Ju-Jitsu federations use different colours. An alternative is shown below.[citation needed]

Level Obi Colour
beginners red
8th kyū white
7th kyū yellow
6th kyū orange
5th kyū green
4th kyū blue
3rd kyū purple
2nd kyū brown and white
1st kyū brown
1st - 5th dan black


The outfit used for Jūkendō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[citation needed]



For adults, an obi worn in Kyokushin karate signifies rank as follows:[7]

Level Obi Colour
mukyū white
10th kyū orange
9th kyū orange with stripe
8th kyū blue
7th kyū blue with stripe
6th kyū yellow
5th kyū yellow with stripe
4th kyū green
3rd kyū green with stripe
2nd kyū brown
1st kyū brown with stripe
1st - 10th dan black with one stripe per dan

Stripes on non-black obis can be either black or the next obi's color. Some brown obis sport white stripes. On a black obi, gold is the most seen stripe color. Note that some dojo's in Kyokushin use a more elaborate striping system for children, allowing for a higher frequency of exams. Some higher degree blackbelts prefer to wear a plain black obi, with no markings.


The obis used in the wadō-ryū style range in colour as follows:[8]

Level Obi colour
beginners white
10th kyū turkos
9th kyū red
8th kyū yellow
7th kyū orange
6th kyū green
5th kyū blue
4th kyū violet
3rd - 1st kyū brown
1st dan and higher black


The obis used in the shotokan KUGB style range in colour as follows:[9]

Level Obi colour
10th kyū white
9th kyū orange
8th kyū red
7th kyū yellow
6th kyū green
5th kyū purple (violet)
4th kyū purple (violet) and one white stripe
3rd kyū brown
2nd kyū brown and one white stripe
1st kyū brown and two white stripes
1st - 10th dan black


The obis used in the Shitō-ryū style range in colour as follows:[10][better source needed]

Level Obi colour
10th kyū White
9th kyū Yellow/White
8th kyū Yellow
7th kyū Orange
6th kyū Green
5th kyū Blue
4th kyū Purple
3rd kyū Brown
2nd kyū Brown (1 white stripe)
1st kyū Brown (2 white stripes)
1st-10th dan black
10th-15th dan blue


The outfit used for kendo practise includes a hakama that covers the kendogi. An obi is optional; if worn, its colour has no significance.[11]


The outfit used for kyūdō practise includes a hakama that covers the obi. The colour of the obi has no significance.[citation needed]

T'ai Chi Ch'uan[edit]

The outfit used for T'ai Chi is either loose-fitting, comfortable clothing or the same kind of uniform as other Chinese martial arts. Some schools also include a coloured sash, but no standard for their order has been established.


  • Bennett, Gary (1997). Aikido techniques & tactics. Human Kinetics Publisher. ISBN 0-88011-598-X.
  • Goodman, Fay (1998). The Ultimate Book of Martial Arts. Lorenz Books. ISBN 1-85967-778-9.


  1. ^ a b c Bennett p. 8-11
  2. ^ a b Goodman s. 70
  3. ^ Cousergue, Arnaud (2015-05-25). "What Type Of Shihan Are You?". THOUGHTS ON BUDO.
  4. ^ Goodman p. 230-231
  5. ^ Goodman s. 134
  6. ^ Goodman s. 101
  7. ^ "Kyokushin Grading and Belts". Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Goodman s. 32
  9. ^ Goodman s. 52
  10. ^
  11. ^ Goodman s. 214. This was mentioned in Sword Art Online when Kirito and his sister fought using Kendo.