How to Tie Your Karate Belt Correctly (& Why It Matters)

How do you tie your Karate belt?

In my travels around the world, I’ve seen many ways.seishin_karate_black_belt

Some good, some bad, some weird…

Today I want to share the traditional Japanese way of tying your Karate belt.

I believe all beginner should be taught this way.

Why?

Because it’s more than “tying a belt”.

The following video of tying your Karate belt serves as a humble reminder that the essence of Karate lies in your mindset.

Everything you do is a reflection of it.

Including the act of tying your belt…

Watch & learn:

Explanation:

Step 1 – The Balancing

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_1

The first step of tying the belt is to make sure it hangs evenly from the middle.

This act symbolizes the importance of balance – both spiritual, technical and physical (known in Japanese as ‘Shin Gi Tai’) – but also that excellence in Karate can only be achieved when physical training is balanced with theoretical studies. This concept is known as ‘Bun Bu Ryo Do’; literary study and physical practice are united in the ‘Way‘.

Western philosophers refer to this as the “pen and the sword”.

Your hand is in the middle.

Controlling the balance…

Step 2 – The Wrap Around

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_2

Now that you’re balanced, the next step is to wrap the belt around you.

This is done by placing the middle of the belt below your navel.

By placing the belt below your umbilical, you’re reminded that the proper practice of Karate empowers you with the unique skill to give, receive and end life.

Therefore, we must uphold the moral values that define us as a Karate-ka and strive to manifest them in our every interaction during Karate practice.

Then, cross the belt behind your back.

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_3

As the belt makes an “X” behind us, we are reminded to be prepared for those who might cross us behind our backs.

Bring the belt to the front again – because what goes around comes around.

We always reap that which we sow.

Then make the “X” again in the front of the body.

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_4

This reminds you that what goes on behind your back can go on under your nose too.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer…

Step 3 – The Knot

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_5

Now, bring one end up under the belt and the other down.

This reminds the Karate-ka of the two directions in which our mind can travel when we are not at peace with ourselves, and the importance of striving upwards in an effort to seek constant improvement (Jpn. ‘kaizen‘).

Lastly…

By tying the knot tightly we are reminded of the importance in tightening our resolve in all matters, fortifying our spirit (Jpn. ‘fudoshin’).

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_6

Finally.

At the end of this ritual, we make sure the ends are hanging perfectly even.

how_to_tie_karate_belt_step_7

However, don’t worry if it’s not “perfect”.

Karate is not about reaching perfection…

But always strive for it!

That’s the spirit of Karate.

(Read more.)

Good luck! ; -)

______

PS. The method presented in this article (crossing behind your back) is the traditional way of tying the karate belt. Variants without the “X” exist too, but some Japanese organizations (e.g. Inoue-ha Keishin-kai) consider it improper. This is why kata world champions like Rika Usami and Antonio Diaz always tie their belt by crossing it behind the back. In the end, I recommend you follow the etiquette of your dojo.

97 Comments

  • pete
    Hi Jesse, Great article once again.Can you elaborate on the tying of the knot? I've found that that is the difficult part. I've seen students do it a few different ways. Some end up with one of the belt sticking up instead of having both going down.Done right the know sits flat and looks tidy. A close up of how the knot looks when complete would be great - it's a bit hard to see in that final image
    • @ Peter, I have found if you want to have both sides hanging down you have to pull diagonally, otherwise it points to the sky and your toes :) So as you tighten twist and pull.Congrats Jesse , you have really turned us into true Karate Nerds!! I've never thought that I would intimately discuss the knot on my belt...
      • @MadelynWhat I've found over the years (by helping my students learn to tie their belts properly) is that the ends pointing up and down is the result of tying a "granny" knot (right over left then right over left again) as opposed to a square knot (right over left then left over right).Give that a shot then you should be able to pull straight out to the left and right, thus the knot will be tighter.
    • Hi Pete, The initial reason for tying the belt was to keep your sword secured against your armor. THAT is the single reason why the belt is so long in the first place, it needed to wrap around armor AND secure your sword(s), knives, and other weapons and tools. Properly understood the "karate" belt is the ancient equivalent of the modern day police officer utility belt or the soldier's pistol belt (nowadays tactical vest).Another aspect that most get incorrect is that the belt is supposed to be uneven to better accommodate the other weapons and tools. As martial artists get further away from their warrior roots, the desire to become "prettier" has surfaced and now belts have all sorts of things on them.The only symbolism if tied correctly is that the two ends of the belt fall downward at equal lengths at approximately 45 degree angles forming the shape of an arrow. This designated a specific level of LICENSURE for that warrior and his training path. The arrow shape on the belt also signified the highest level of licensure which was to become an archer (thus the arrow). Mostly because an archer got paid more!So in the classical sense there is only one way to tie the belt properly and even the hand motions used for this method of tying have a martial application on the battleground, NOTHING is wasted for training. As for mental and spiritual balance and all the other wonderful things, those are recent additions to the martial arts and had no true basis in historical martial heritage. Don't get me started on how unprofessional a frayed, worn out belt is too. You ever see a police officer on patrol with scuffed up pants and shoes!!? Exactly...I sincerely hope I added some depth to your martial knowledge. Alan
      • beanie
        And where do you get that idea that belts are used to hold weapons? Remember that the masters of Te didn't practice in what we called gi today. So no belts at all.
  • Matt S.
    The method I use is very similar but there is no X in back (it's all stream lined). I could explain my method using history and the development of how the belt came into use (which is a Judo story not a Karate story). You see once upon a time the belts (Obi doesn't mean belt by-the-way) was actually a wrap, like what is used with Kimono today. So if you start on one side and wrap the Obi (again which doesn't mean belt) around twice you end up with one part underneath the other and that nice stream line view from behind.However being lazy, and somewhat sly, we've realized that you didn't have to do this. You could just start in the middle and wrap both sides individually, but have to remember to tuck one side under the other when you get the two ends behind you to maintain the look of doing it the original way.Honestly weather they cross in the back or not doesn't bother me a bit. I'm much more concerned about the final knot rather than the method used for getting the Obi around your waist. After all it's that knot that holds the whole thing together. ;)
    • Thanks for chiming in, Matt-san! You are correct, "obi" is originally the name of the sash that wraps a kimono. It is also used for the paper wrapper on books, CDs, etc. Today we generally translate it to "belt" though. As a fun fact, the Japanese word for a regular belt (like the one you use for holding up your jeans) is actually "beruto", which is the Japanese way of pronouncing the word borrowed from English. :)
      • ikkyo
        Beruto sounds similar to Burrito, the Mexican wrap. The poetic irony made me lol just a little bit.
    • On my school we do it both ways depending on whether you are a beginner or an advanced student. Under the green belt we do it like Jesse san puts it, from green belt onward, we do it like you Matt san say. It has to do with the way an advanced student grows. By the way, if you start from the left, you're telling everybody that you're going to be lazy that day, if you do it from the right, you're saying that you're gonna give over 100%, at least that's how we do it.
      • Nicole
        wow I've never heard of that before, thanks for telling
    • I do mine in a similar way - without the cross at the back. Its how I was shown when I first started as a kid. Now I have my own club. To be honest, I too am not fussed how they tie them, provided they a presentable, evenly hung and stayed knotted throughout training.
  • Jesse,This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I cannot tell you how many belts I have fixed since started teaching over seven years ago. Hundreds or maybe thousands by now. Uneven belts and belts that have mouth in the front drive me crazy. They make me want to free spar without my fist guards. Just kidding but it really does drive me crazy!I know many of the students I work with are young but even some adults have belt issues. Would an adult wear a tie with the thin part six inches lower then the thick part to a job interview? I don't think so. Would these same people walk around with their shirts buttoned wrong? Probably not.If I have to tie my belt five times just to make sure it is correct, I will do it.Rant mode off. :-)I really don't get that upset and I always tie belts with smile but sometimes I do wish we could spend an entire class having the students tie their belts 100 times. Maybe I could create a new technique called beltwaza or something.
    • Doug-san, I'm honored by the presence of a true belt connoisseur! Let me know if you have a solution to why kids' belts keep mysteriously falling off during class... ;)
      • vic
        If I may interject here.Take the tail ends of the tied belt and weave them around the belt to left and right pull the ends tight in opposite directions
      • Ed
        In my experience, kids' belts tend to fall off, "... because my mom tied it wrong." To which I reply, "Your mom isn't in karate - you are. Let's show you how this works ..."
    • Matt K
      I agree that it can be rather irksome fixing belts all the time. I sm just curious why can't you have a class where you work on tying you belt for a chunk of class? I have spent 15-20min in class working on it, it goes back to discipline and respect. Just my thoughts
  • I am not a fan of the cross over method at the back. Much prefer the wrap method that leaves a flat belt at the back.
    • Clif
      Stu, I use the wrap method also.Perhaps the symbolism there could be to reflect on the multiple layers that martial arts has for us, and to remind us to always keep digging for the next level of knowledge/skill?
    • Draco
      That is the method we teach at our school. My instructor was taught and teaches us that the circle formed while wrapping the belt represents the never ending cycle or our training.
    • Joseph J. Truncale
      I agree with Stue. When I was first introduced into the martial arts (Judo in 1961) while stationed in Japan I was taught the cross in the back method of tying the belt; however, when I began training in Karate-Do (1963) they taught me the wrap around method which I think looks much neater. This is the way I taught my own students, but to each his own. The method shown in this video clip is how I was originally taught to tie a belt, which is fine. It is just a matter of preference I believe not a dogmatic rule.
    • Me too. I initially learned this way from my first sensei and would forever be getting bruised on my back from doing grappling or kick ups on the ground as I am fairly bony. My second sensei I noticed wore his belt differently and I thought it looked very smart and neat, so I asked him to show me. I have tied it that way since and find it sits better and is more comfortable.
    • DragonSF
      Me too. Doing ground exercises on the back with crossed belts is a pain. Parallel and smooth is my way.
    • Luis
      We also do the wrap method because my sensei says it represents the concentric evolution of the karateka,you go around the same spot over and over again, but stronger, faster, wiser. Also it looks neater than the cross style.
  • Matthias Schaudig
    Jesse-san,I still couldn't figure it out how to tie my Hirota belt for competition with those strings - have you also a tutorial for this? :)
  • Hi Jesse-san,Coincidence that you wrote this article now? I am teaching my children in class specially in february how to tie their belt. If they can do that right at the end of the month, they will get a diploma :) I also start in the middle, but first put one end around and than the other. In that way you get the belt flat instead of an X. And the difficalt part is to get even ends :) Also, tieing the knot is difficult for children, they do it many times the other way round.And yes, I recognise the problem of kids' belts getting lose... Just tie them over and over again ;)
  • Nilsosu
    Wow, this is how I do it, and I thought I´ve been doing it wrong all this time! This is exactly how I was taught to do it way back when I started shotokan, but since then I´ve been seing a lot of people doing this thing when they wrap the belt two times around their body and then tie it together, and thought that was the norm. Though I think that as long as the knot looks presentable and your pants stay on for the rest of the training session both methods are fine.
  • Brian S.
    Jesse...I've tied obi's so many different ways I finally settled on one. That's my way....I teach my students to all do it the same way. You earn White Belt in my school by tying the belt correctly 5 time before me. Then I will present you with your obi in front of the entire school and your family. Knowing from day one you earned your way by demonstrating your ability to apply knowledge. No belt will be given freely and you will demonstrate your ability to apply knowledge at each level. I prefer the tuxedo version of tying a belt. If I'm competing I will use the lock method. Thanks for the post.
  • Tie your belt strong, with all your heart! Osu!
  • Sergio
    Enkamp Sensei,Thank you for your sharing the knowledge on >how to tie your belt< very important for all of us studying and practicing Karate-Do.Sergio E. Aleman-Soto Yon-Dan Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Guatemala
  • Brian A.
    I just want to add a tip for keeping the ends the same length, which I am sure many of you know or do without thinking. When you get to the point of the picture in "Step 3" above (or the picture before it of making the X in front), simply check that the tip lengths are the same. If they are not, grab around both layers on each side of the belt and slide to create a new mid-point where the tip lengths are equal. Then, finish tying the knot.Also, I believe the practical reason that some sensei prefer the belt crossed in the back is to eliminate having the bulk of two layers of belt stacked up against your lower spine, which can be hazardous if you do throws, rolls, groundwork, etc. regularly. My aikidou sensei in Japan specifically told me to cross it in the back for that reason, whereas I had been doing the flat/stacked wrap for aesthetics in my karate.
  • Mark A
    I tie mine judo style when I do not want it coming undone.
    • Mark-san, please tell me more! :)
      • Mark A
        LOL! Your dojo does it too I surmise. :)Keep the kick ass content coming brudda. Always enjoy your articles.
  • jim alexander
    I prefer no x in the back, the obi should appear as one line going around the waist in my tradition. Also if their is rank on the obi, it should hang on the right. If embroidered with your name, it should be on the left as nihongo is read left to right.Point of interest. The term kaizen though used in modern times was introduced into post war Japan by American efficiency expert Edward Demming, who was brought to help with post war reconstruction of industry.
  • Hi, Jesse. This is off-topic, but the preferred abbreviation for Japan or Japanese is "Jpn." "Jap" is a racial slur that has an ugly history in the United States. My father, his mother and younger siblings were shipped off to an internment camp in Arkansas following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, even though he was born in the US and had never set foot in Japan. He says that the day before they took the bus to report for internment, someone wrote JAP on the front door of their house. I don't think they intended it as an abbreviation for Japanese. Thanks.
    • Hisaye-san, thanks for your wisdom! Changing it asap.
  • Steven Barth
    Does there really need to be symbolism in tying your belt? This is really "new age" crap. I started training in Okinawan karate in 1969. There was no idea of elevating your spirit, no symbolism. Karate was to defend yourself or others pure and simple. Seems modern practitioners have forgotten that part. All of this spiritualism is simply a way to attract and retain paying students. Karate does not make you a good person, you are already a good person. If you're a bad person wanting to do bad, then you're probably not going to stick with it anyway.
    • Matt S.
      Read some old books (prior to... 1969 did you say?) even as far back as the 1940s and beyond Karate was developing into a "Do" a way of life. Funakoshi of course was a big proponent of this as were many others. I think you'll find its not "new age" and any attempt to better your life probably shouldn't be called "crap" either.You'll find that different instructors focus on different things. Its best not to judge too harshly, or to vocally, about these differences. But I could just be mistaken, for I'm just a young pup. ;)
      • Steven Barth
        The 1940s is well within the modern era when many changes were taking place. Keep in mind that Funakoshi made many changes to things in order to "market" Karate to the Japanese sensibilities. Funakoshi was simply one of many Karate teachers on Okinawa but in Japan he was THE Karate teacher and had to sell the art and himself to make a living. In the 30s there was a big push by the Okinawans to get Karate to be accepted by the Japanese martial art community. In order to do so, they had to introduce a formalized ranking structure, promotion guidelines, and competition rules. Basically, anything to make it palatable to the Japanese taste. The spiritualism that we see today is primarily Japanese philosophy and not Okinawan (there is a difference). I have had the opportunity to discuss "spiritualism" with 4 Okinawan Kobudo teachers and all have said the same thing. That in old Okinawan culture, religious and spiritual beliefs are very personal and not normally discussed with others, that Okinawan martial arts are simply that, a martial art and not a religion or a spiritual exercise.
        • Matt S.
          I supose I both agree with you and disagree, lol. For example in the letter written by Anko Itosu to the Japanese minastry of war and education he starts off by saying karate is not connected with buddism or shintoism. But as you say, "spiritual beliefs are personal and usually not discussed with others." Within the schools I've trained in we don't teach silly philosophies or spirituality, but to me the dojo has always been my sanctuary. It never mattered what was going on outaide it's doors, once you walked through them It was just about training. This is in a small part my spiritualism, again has nothing to do with religion or God(s), but with me finding inner piece. Same way knowing I can defend myself in 99% of the situations life throws at me gives me inner piece. (And if my karate fails me I'll either be dead or just start training harder.)
          • Steven Barth
            Matt, I think that we really have similar views. While on a personal level I am very philosophic and spiritual I think it wrong that I should portray my own beliefs to my students as a part of the art. Okinawan Karate was developed as a practical fighting method, period. It can indeed elevate us to higher levels but was not designed to do so (practicing any art can do the same thing). Tying the belt and how to do so is a practical matter. It should be done neatly out of self respect and respect to your art. As far as Okinawan culture goes it has no moral or esoteric meaning. That symbolism is all "made up" by well intentioned people who want there to be something where there is not.
      • MaT
        "It's best not to judge too harshly, or to vocally, about these differences."Everything that's wrong about traditionalism is right there in that sentence. Far too many karateka are excruciatingly precious about any challenge to their world view, which is all too often made up from half truths, myths and outright lies.I think vocally challenging these ignorantly or wilfully perpetuated lies is ESSENTIAL if karate is not to go the way of the dodo.
        • Matt S
          I have a friend named Mat and wonder if you are him... ;)I don't disagree with what you said, but I'll be bold enough to express you didn't quite understand the context in which I said the above quote.I've worked very hard over the years to clear up misconceptions and bold faced lies within my own style so I'm with you on your above point.Hear hear! Rah, rah! Go team! Go! :)
    • MaT
      Hear hear Steven!All this nonsense symbolism is just designed to make the training seem like more than it is, and most of it is complete BS.
      • beanie
        True true and true
  • Felipe Garcia
    Greetings, I rarely comment on topics such as these though I do find them interesting. I agree that on the whole, the way one ties their belt is about as important as which pant leg one puts on first, it is yet another example of the beautiful symbolism and individualism of the "art" forms. In my 40 years as a student of Goju-Ryu, I've many variations and beliefs behind them. For example, the cross at the back, uneven belts and never the use of the "three-diamond" knot are all signs of the kyu ranks whereas the even belt lengths, straight back and three diamond knot are reserved for the Dan ranks.
  • I do a judo-style wrap'n'pull the knot between the two layers of belt, because that's how I learned it during my judo days. It's an affectation, a little reminder of the art that put me on the martial path in the first place. And it also serves as a reminder to have a sense of pragmatism with me when I walk into the dojo - enojy and admire what you do, but remember it's not magical, it should be practical and earned. And it doesn't hurt that it is the only way of tying the belt that's never come undone for me - here's a video of how to tie it in said manner/style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksKl1ptKUV8
  • Te'o
    Great article Jesse-san! Another "fun" point of discussion has always been the issue of stripes on belts. Most schools, mine included, have stripes for the under belts to indicate they've learned techniques, kata, etc and are ready to progress with testing. However, there is the controversy of stripes for Dan ranking. Is it necessary? Is it too showy? Should the stripes be the right or the left? Our organization has stripes for Dan rankings mainly to recognize who is who. And, we have our stripes on the right; why? I think because we've always done it way and most people are right handed....I guess! Anyway...another good topic! Have a great weekend!!! Alofas!!!
    • vic
      the rank of my black belts is embroidered in kanji no stripes
  • Excellent article. This is exactly how we do it.Love the "X"
  • Brian S.
    First a big hello to Barth, Sensei...back to belt 101...I remember my first belt had huge meaning and significance to me...then someone stole it....I learned quickly I needed a new belt....no belt can substitute your knowledge...I had a jujitsu teacher. He never wore a belt. He said it was useless...he said if the belt around your waist can jump off of your and wrap around a persons neck and hang them from the ceiling then it's got worth...that one he would wear all the time. Only time he would wear an obi was outside of his own dojo as a guest. Then plain black belt that looked like he just ironed it came out. Nothing more. He also taught there was no place in the dojo for religion. He said, " I'm a Martial Arts Teacher, not a Martial Arts Preacher." Each has their place and both should be given proper respects....I didn't know he was Catholic until I had trained 16 years with him...I try to reflect the same attitude. He said, if he interjected his beliefs into his martial arts he would limit the ability to teach certain students. By keeping religion out of his arts he never would reject a student. All were welcomed.
  • vic
    I received PM on facebook from someone asking me to join his "world wide assoc> of karate masters"I declined the offer .A week later the same message with more detail he claimed a 10th dan and had many of such rank in his group.I decided to look at his page and there was a picture of him in his gi.My reply "I have viewed your home page and have one question.Were you absent the class they did the proper belt tying lesson?".End of conversation lol.
  • Next, Jesse, if you can hint to certain people that they need to take the labels off their belts after they buy them, I would be supremely happy.It's one of my pet peeves, but I do not leave tags on my other clothing, why would I leave a visible label on my obi?
    • Mat
      Mark, , perhaps therapy would be more helpful to you in the long run to help you overcome your anal retentiveness?
  • Hi!Is there any CORRECT way to tie that damn belt???
  • What has been left out in the discussion of whether the "X" method or the "wrap over" method is to be preferred ...... is the etiquette of tying and adjusting the belt in the dojo.For example, in our dojo, one does not put on, take off, or adjust/tighten one's belt while facing the front of the dojo, or while facing a sensei. Additionally, tying or untying the belt is to be done while kneeling on one knee rather than standing.I don't mention that as "THE rule you must all follow" but as an example of etiquette in one particular dojo/style. Feel free to mention how your dojo does it differently, as I'd love to hear about the different ways that different dojos approach this.
    • We put our belts on off the dojo floor but can be done however you wish (doesn't have to be done kneeling but some choose to as that was their practise at previous dojo). We always turn away from shomen to adjust our gi or obi as a sign of respect.
  • Steve
    I'll make one comment on the flat belt vs. the X in the back. Forgetting symbolism, I can grab your flat belt behind you to throw you much easier than I can a crossed belt.
    • Matt S.
      Of course, many classic judo throws are designed around the concept of grabbing the belt.
  • I was told by a 10th Dan from Okinawa, that is was hugely disrespectful to wear your belt with it Crossing at the back!I was told that was the American way of tying your belt, there are two ways of traditionally doing it where your belt does not overlap at the back!
    • Avairain
      I'm still trying to figure out how that tradition of it being "disrespectful" came from. . .The crossing behind the back(which should look more like an over lap than an 'X') is actually the proper classical way of tying it. The intention is that if necessary a warrior could carry their knife on their back in the belt. The extra surface area created by the cross holds the knife better and reduce the risk of loosing it.
  • chris jones
    This is great for beginners especially kids because it is easy but will always leave your belt crossed at the back.The way to get perfection would be to let hang the belt down to your left knee then wrap the long lenght round twice then follow on from step3.
  • chris
    How not to tie your belt:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROwtw3d1a3c
  • Taylor
    I love how the belt represents all these cool things, like the balance and the colors!! Pretty awesome
    • Mat
      It doesn't - this is just made up mysticism. If I tell you that the fibres represent the threads of your destiny, and the length is the river of your life, it all sounds very clever, but a belt is just a piece of heavy duty cloth designed to hold our gi closed - everything else is just different people making stuff up to make it seem more special.
  • Mike
    The Belt be with you.
  • Like i've seen in the comments above, it seems to be a draw in whether to tie your belt with a "X" or the "Wrap over" method. In our club we uses the "wrap over". Simply cuz' of the looks of it. As the belt is earned I think it should be shown the respect, thus having a clean look to it.I've recently been given a question by a instructor at a seminar. And therefore I will ask you guys if you have an opinion. The question is; "Why is the belt tied around your waist, and not somewhere else?" When answering the most obvious; "To show your rank" and "to ensure your gi isn't going anywhere", the answer was no.I've read in a comment above that the belt should be just below the umbilical to be a reminder that Karate empowers you with the unique skill to give, receive and end life.Might there be any other answers to this question?
    • Ian
      Perhaps a more practical reason ... to hold the two front bits of the top in place, and to provide a rudimentary "pocket" for carrying kick-knacks and such.
  • Mark Laderwarg
    A belt around the middle is a handy place to slip a sword in place for an efficient draw. Many modern martial arts practice some form of sword or knife art.Asian cultures are not the only ones to adopt a waist sash to hold weapons. In fact, all of them did.
    • Christer
      We tried that answer and it was also wrong in this, might we call it, riddle.
      • Mark Laderwarg
        I didn't realize it was one of those "Why do firemen wear red suspenders" questions.
      • talprofs
        @Christer I have attempted to provide an answer to your question as to why the belt in Karate and other Martial Arts is tied at a point below the umbilical cord with reference to explanations given by Master Kanazawa Hirokazu (explained at '(a)') and also by the late Aikido Master Tohei Koichi (explained at '(b') but not referenced correctly by me:-(). While these explanations in no way detract from the comments of the more learned posters to this forum, they do hold a practical resonance for me by way of trying to understand a uniquely Oriental philosphical concept. I find Master Tohei's view (see (b) below) that it is important to develop a concentrated awareness of the 'seika-no-itten' a challenging concept for me as a Westerner; Master Kanazawa's advice to tie the belt firmly around the abdomen so that the knot presses gently but firmly on this point (seika-no-itten)(see (a) below) seems, to my mind, to be a very practical method to approach the challenge posed by Master Tohei. @talprofs
    • yondanfranks
      Your comment is spot on from all I have read and learned from multiple styles is that the flat tie is formal or everyday training. The cross in the bag creates a seperation for you to put a samurai sword in between the two wraps to help stablize the scabbard when the sword is drawn. A flat wrap with the sword allows the scanners to flop around.
  • MaT
    Made up symbolism and Christmas cracker pseudo mysticism like this is exactly why karate has rightly become a dying art.If you want your students to watch their backs, tell them often to watch their backs. If you want them to pay attention to detail, then tell them often pay attention to detail. Encapsulating it in the tying of a belt accomplishes NOTHING except a pedantic adherence to made up rules that are far more about conformity than any spiritual or practical benefits.Oblique symbolism is INSTANTLY lost on all but the very most attentive/anal of students.The fact that there are so many differences of opinion on exactly HOW to tie a belt and why, reveals this for the joke it is.
  • Mark Laderwarg
    MaT, perhaps therapy would be more helpful to you in the long run than insults.
    • Mat
      There were no insults there - merely statements of fact- but if you feel personally insulted, perhaps you could ask this therapist that you recommended why that is the case.You might also ask why some karateka feel this desperate need to adhere to fabricated ritual. He'd probably talk about cult behaviour, herd mentality and the need to add value to an art that has been pointlessly mystified. Incidentally, these are also traits of most other religions.
      • shotonoob
        MAT I ACCEDE TO YOU POINT, CYNICAL AS IT IS:Strictly speaking, the application of traditional karate is self defense. Skills & techniques are taught that are designed to maim or kill opponents. Yet beyond that cold, hard practical truth for the application of karate training... there is a broader truth.Here's my view. Many of the Okinawan & Japanese karate masters saw a societal or community benefit to incorporating a philosophical or moral side to the art of traditional karate. So, both practical and moral principles were embodied in the art.At the same time, the legitimate purposes of same as I have outlined can be used to manipulate or deceptively market a commercial product. Happens to be true with any human endeavor.If karateka want to focus on practicality... that's a good thing. Ineffective karate is dangerous. OTOH, the human psyche is far more complicated than pounding nails into a board to make a house. So, should karateka want to earnestly purse interpretations of philosophy, human values, moral & practical lessons in their pursuit of their art... that's a good thing too.I see room for both perspective in traditional karate practice, and they are not by any means mutually exclusive...\Your views were well articulated... IMO.
  • talprofs
    @jesse Thank you for this excellent article. While there are undoubtedly many ways to tie a belt in Karate and other Martial Arts, the method you describe, courtesy of Patrick McCarthy, accords with the method taught me by my childhood Judo instructor, who in turn studied under Master Kano Jigoro's disciple Koizumi Gunji, the founder of the Budokwai in London (UK). When I tie my belt, I do so bearing in mind these two 'practical' philosophical precepts proposed by Master Kanawaza Hirokazu and the late Master Tohei Koichi of Aikido: (a) Tie the belt tightly around the base of the spine and the top of the hips, taking care to ensure that the knot, when tied, presses against the lower abdomen at a point one to two inches below the navel; this allows the belt to support the spine, and make the practitioner conscious of the relationship between the tanden and hara -- from which the power required for Martial Arts techniques derives (Kanazawa); (b) the point below the navel -- seika-no-itten -- is where the practitioner must endeavour to concentrate the repository of his ki, for balance, well-being and the unification of his body and spirit. @talprofs
  • talprofs
    Final word from me on this topic, courtesy of an instructional video on how to tie your belt from Rener Gracie of the legendary Gracie Jiu-Jitsu family, featuring three very practical methods for belt tying:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-shq5oDSCs4&feature=player_detailpageTo my eye, the first method seems exactly the same as your article, @Jesse, the second method is the 'wrap-around' method, and the knot used in the third method, described as a 'super-lock' knot, seems very similar to the diamond-shaped knot employed by the late Master Nakayama Masatoshi.@talprofs
  • Andrew J
    I find this discussion rather fascinating. How come no one's mentioned the rest of the belt crap? I don't believe in the mysticism, spiritualism, etc either.There are practical arguments to the mysticism: The x or wrap, as would allow a sword to be properly held. This is strange to me: the belt represents the clothing one wore (if an obi, then a bathrobe/kimono, and if a beruto, then business slacks or blue jeans - neither of which are typically worn with a sword!!) So for me, that urban legend is out. Otherwise, wear whichever suites you as far as your training is concerned. No one ever checked the wearer of a Kimono whether his obi was an "x" or a wrap, did they?The next is the "turn-your-head-and-cough" (I mean, face away from the shomen, or instructor, or highest ranked student, or any black belt, or your father, or someone who could be a father, or an elder, or someone who might look like your elder)I think if you were wearing a kimono, and your zipper needed zipping (oops, your belt needing adjusting) then you should, out of politeness, turn away so as not to expose your genitalia. But with or without a belt, genitalia are not exposed. So... remind me again why it is we are turning away? And anyway, I've seen places where they insist that you bow looking at your adversary, but would turn your back on him to adjust a belt. That's silly. There are no enemies in the dojo and you don't bow to your attackers on the street, so look at the floor when you bow; and you're not wearing anything likely to expose genitalia, so don't bother turning - just fix the thing and move on for Pete's sake. (Women might have a legitimate claim to exception here.)The next is never to let the belt touch the floor. You mean, it's okay to to roll around on the floor - and get the entire gi dirty (as if the training mat is dirty...) but it's not okay to let it touch the floor when putting it on? Hmmm, methinks another myth here.The next is the belt colors representing blood, grass stains, the reflection of the blue sky, and years of training. Meanwhile, you can tell the idiots who keep putting their belts in the washer and dryer to make it look like their belts are weathered. Your training will out you, I think. For me, hogwash: colors are meant to easily divide up a class and group people by relative skill level, like a starbuck's selection of short, tall, venti, grande, and trenta. Except you can't say "ok, fat people work on this kata, and short people work on that kata". You CAN say "blue belts work on this kata, and brown belts work on that kata." And if you wanted to be passive aggressive about it, never promote fat people past brown belt, and short people past blue belt... But nevertheless, the colors are arbitrary. I don't care what Kano's meanings for the colors were at the time, they're just ways to divide up a class (and for the mcdojo owners to get fat off their paying students).The next is the hole in the knot must face left (of who? the wearer or the starer?) because it faces the rising sun, representing the beginning of the training (or it faces the setting sun, representing all of the hard work we put in for the day), or does it change if we turn around - and what if we're already facing east or west - what's the significance of north and south-facing holes?No, for me, this is utter nonsense too. If you're left handed (and let's face it, some of us are), then the knot hole will find it's way facing one way; if you're right handed it'll face the other way. Either way, get over it, shut up, and train.I could care less about one's belt, so long as there seems some reasonable attempt to avoid looking like a schlemiel when coming onto the mat.There, I'm done ranting.
    • Alex
      About belt colors: back in the day in Japan (Pre-war and the immediate years post-War), there were no ready made belts, in fact there were no ready made do-gi. So, a student starts off with white belt and white gi, and when they got promoted(in those day there were only white belts, brown belts and black belts), they dyed the belts themselves. So it made sense to dye it darker as you got promoted (since you can't un-dye). They did not just throw aside a belt and buy a new one ! Subsequently with the kyu-grades as well, white - add yellow dye- gives yellow belt, add blue dye on yellow belt gives green belt, add, red dye on green belt gives brown belt. And add black dye on brown belt (Since that's the only color that makes an impact on brown) to get a black belt. Hope this ends the myth of symbolism behind black-belts.
  • PAUL REYNOLDS
    Steve Barth- it seems we come from the same karate make-up or hard Japanese disciplined standard. I do appreciate your karate aspects! keep them coming, they inspire me to continue viewing Jessie's blog. My Shotokan training was in Japan, Okinawa,Korea, Philippines. I am Retired U.S. military and satationed in the orient more than half my life. My family is American / oriential which connects the Asian cultures naturally and with respect etc. I have learned to lighten-up on younger karatesta for inspiration for they are progressing physically, but they need karate nurturing and development spiritually, hopefully they will find it starting at the 2nd or 3rd Dan level. Attitude adjustments will develop as they progress in karate, if they have a Master who deeply administers respectful speech, customs and actions etc. We who are Renshi or Sensei have the obligation to TEACH the traditional Japanese culture as well as the technical aspects of Japanese karate. For those who doubt, ask the question of why are so many Japanese high-level rankings have PHD's, have become Buddist Priests, or achieved professional occupational titles. The answer is they have developed in society as well as in karate, but at the highest level. Karate is simply developing the body and mind in the right-way of life. Consult with O'Sensei or Shihan for advisement and "challenge" your karate development physically and mentally will make you a better person. Stay in the dojo and grow spiritually ! If you feel different, follow your own path! PAUL REYNOLDS, SHOTOKAN, YANDAN
  • Gazz
    I see things to be far simpler, but I am a simple man. If I don't take pride in my training then no-one else will. IE From wearing a well fitting gi and belt, to putting my all into each training session, if I take pride in helping myself then others will be more likely to help me too (and visa-versa - I'm more likely to help and have respect for someone who has those qualities themselves).When boiled down I imagine that's what all this additional symbolism is supposed to be trying to communicate.
  • Warwick
    Hi all, To ensure the ends are the same lenght I keep my belt folded the same as a new belt. (In half, then half and half again. So its stored flat and about a foot long.) Makes it easier to find the centre to start as the article says. But AFTER I wrap it and just before tying, i will put the two ends together putting the belt ends away from me then run my hand back down the belt to find where the centre of the knot should be, tie it then position the knot by sliding the belt.. In our school we tie the 'X' style.
  • Ivan
    Actually, every time I've seen Antonio Diaz in competitions he doesn't cross it in the back. Just an observation :)
  • I'm impressed. You have a bunch of people talking about one of the most basic things in martial arts and you made tying a belt interesting. I don't like crossing the belt in the back but that is a personal preference. Martial arts guys never get set in their ways either. You got us talking about something core! It's all about the basics. I'm looking forward to what's next. Thanks.
  • PAUL REYNOLDS
    What perspectives about the Obi and mine to follow !I'm not suprised about the differences portrayed in the blog. Japanese tradition calls for a respectful observance of each style's meaning behind tying and wearing the obi. It's true about the history of the obi in old ways, but I don't hear of the reverence to the meaning of black. Yes, symbolism is part of Japanese culture and karate is part of that make-up. Your outside opinions do not count, your karateka duty is to respect and comply to standards, and Sensei's are simply responsible for enforcement. The essence of good karate-do is maintaining high level standards including moral activeism and ethics. Your tongues are too bold and reflects upon your imaturity. As a Renshi, I would sanction your attitudes. Some of you need to aspire to higher pro-activeness through greater maturity and self-respect. example: 5th dans failing tests for 6th Dan or Master. Reason is not for the technical performance, but based on their character or reputation of untrust. The hiarchy of Japanese organizations are usually hard on testings because they must rely on traditional Japanese customs and karate standards enforcement. There are not exceptions or politics here. Yes, I have seen some political promotions, but they were based on good community standing including world-wide organizational growth development etc. Usually promotions were to 8, 9th Dan or honorary in special achievements. Can you see the upper level seriousness! I'm gratified to have been witness in the IJKA organizaton and wish the younger generation to maintain the Japanese culture, history, and karate traditions, as they will make good character persons in any society. Age is wisdon in karate, you can learn from it! Keep practicing karate-do! PAUL (paldo) REYNOLDS SHOTOKAN YONDAN
  • With all the different types of sites, videos and even infographics showing you how to tie your Karate belt, this is really that we can relate to the most. I also know in Jiujitsu tieing it with the "X" behind the back is also very common.Thanks for really going through and explaning the very basics, as Pat has mentioned above. Sometimes going back to basics is necessary in our training - than going through full blast into some of the more advanced skillsets.
  • Akshat Chaudhari
    Thank u i never even bothered to know the meaning behind such a simple task It is true , in karate everything has a deep meaning .... Keep writing great work
  • I love how you made this video! So calm and nice
  • Karate nerd cuber
    very good video
  • shotonoob
    AGAIN, I THINK THE PHILOSOPHICAL LESSONS PRESENTED IN THE VIDEO ADD TO THE PRACTICE OF THE ART.Rather than debate why it is said... I suggest the debate should be about what is said. The Article's Author is giving a karate lesson about how to correctly tie the belt. Within that technical lesson, is another lesson on how the method & approach to tying the belt also presents & reinforces some important, foundation principles of the traditional karates.Perhaps the simplest illustration would be to say that like tying a belt, traditional karate is not just about physically punching & kicking according to the textbook teaching. It's how the human being behind that activity is using & developing the innate strengths of the person in order to make those punches & kicks (don't forget blocks) forge into a palate of effective martial skills.Something completely absent when UFC Champion Jose Aldo lunged ahead with a formerly successful MMA gambit and found himself not making it to the 15th second of his match with Conor McGregor. Lack of discipline & self control ended his UFC reign very quickly. Maybe a good dose of practical morals would have taken him to Round 2 where Nate Diaz in his match did soundly defeat McGregor.I liked the video and valued it's interpretive lesson...
  • Liam
    We teach our students on their first lesson how to tie this way, because it is the easiest one we have to teach our 6 year olds and our 80 year olds.It is one of two ways that i've seen belts tied, the other is done primarily by our clubs black belts to keep things even and personally found it more secure than the way you mentioned.Maybe I should buy a Seishin Kuro Obi?!?!?!?!
  • Graziela
    When I started Judo at age 10 or so, I was so hyped, that I searched for instructions on the internet and did it ca. 20 times a day for a week and now it's sealed in my brain(and heart) forever. And everytime I see kids starting martial arts and they are struggling to tie their belt, I think of myself at that time(and of course, help them!). But the people are not always kids. I my kobudo class on friday, the 16-year-old boy who started a week before me, was struggling to tie his belt. But that is just something you have to practise and learn. Thank you, Jesse-san, of reminding me of myself starting my martial arts journey and telling me the background of the crosses and knots, because I never thought about that so deeply!
    • phil
      And you're still wrong
  • phil
    If you're tying the belt that way and it still has a twist in the back and you as the Sensei says it's about your mindset then that twist in the back is telling. I have learned how to tie my belt with no twist and over lapping. I have found no schools that teach it that way.

Leave a comment