CKF Advanced Belt Colors

Note: In the CKF we are unique as an organization in many ways.  One of those is that once you receive fifth degree black belt and higher instead of a black belt with red bar/tips, you will receive a red belt with black bar/tips.  This red belt with black bar/tips can be given only by CKF President Sean P. Kelley.


Chinese Karate Federation Advanced Black Belt Ranking

The color of one’s belt is to symbolize the level of the practitioner within the confinements of the base material being taught and tested upon, beginning with white belt and leading to black belt through constant refinement of skill and intellect.  In American Kenpo one must learn certain basics, sets, forms, freestyle, and self-defense techniques in each belt to test upon as a blueprint of motion providing the tools to reach his/her full potential.  Aside from the physical movements, students learn the concepts and principles of Kenpo based on science—primarily physics and geometry—as well as certain rules, code words, themes, definitions and possible theories so that they can also speak the language of Kenpo, become free thinkers and self-correcting. What is learned outside of the tested curriculum through analyzing, interpreting, tailoring and improving is what is most important, however.  The written material guides us to the ultimate findings in our journey throughout the three stages of American Kenpo: academic, sport, and combative.

The ranking system in Martial Arts is not an ancient custom, however, because it was first used by Kano Jigoro (founder of Judo) in the 19th century. Senior Grandmaster Edmund K. Parker, the founder of American Kenpo Karate, dug deeply into the “Color in Chinese culture.”  To understand the ranking system we need to know the following:

The ancient Chinese culture was based on the color BLACK = YANG and WHITE = YIN to represent the cycle of life.  The ancient Chinese regarded BLACK as the KING OF COLORS and believed “BLACK as the color of HEAVEN and BEGINNING” while they believed in “WHITE as the END.”

In the traditional Chinese culture and Chinese physics, China’s emperors selected standard colors by using the “Theory of the Five Elements.”

Movement: Earth Metal Water Wood Fire
Color: Yellow Purple Blue Green Red
Direction: Center West North East South
Planet: Saturn Venus Mercury Jupiter Mars
Energy: Stabilizing Contracting Conserving Generative Expansive


By knowing the basics of Chinese culture the ranking system is easy to understand:

White The “End as new “Beginning”
Yellow To Stabilize what you’ve learned
Orange Add a little red to yellow and learn more
Purple To Contract what you’ve learned
Blue To Conserve what you’ve learned
Green To generate what you’ve learned
Brown Combine yellow to green and keep going
Black Heaven and the “new beginning”
Red Stripes Fire = Expansion


As in all aspects of life, there is always an opposite and a reverse. Therefore, we view everything in American Kenpo as such.  “For every move, concept, principle and definition there is an opposite and a reverse.”

Through studying the meaning of colors in Chinese culture in detail, Mr. Kelley has decided to reverse “HEAVEN and FIRE” (black belt with red stripes) into “FIRE and HEAVEN” (red belt with black stripes).  This signifies humility, honors the wisdom and commits to the willingness of being a lifetime student of Kenpo, with the final goal “THE REAL HEAVEN.”

It’s an honor to get and to wear the “red belt” which can be only presented by the President of the Chinese Karate Federation for ranks 5th and above.

FAITH          –          SPIRIT          –          WISDOM

CHINESE                KARATE              FEDERATION

Researched by: CKF Secretary Brigitte Schulte

Written by: Brigitte Schulte and CKF Public Relations Administrator Michael Miller