How to tie your Karate belt

The karate belt knot is a simple square knot. The tricky part is getting the belt around the waist. There are two methods of doing it, the “Twist” method and the “Narrow” method.

The Twist method is easy. Find the middle of the belt. Put it on or near your belly button. Wrap the ends around your waist until they come to the front again. Then tie the knot. This produces a twist in the back where the belt crosses over itself. Some people find this uncomfortable when they roll or slap out.

The Narrow method is trickier but makes a single belt line in the back. Start with an end and place it on the hipbone. Start wrapping the belt across the belly and around until you get to the end. The end should be in front of you otherwise make adjustments to get it there. Pull the initial end out slightly from underneath the wrap. Measure that they are nearly the same lengths.

If not, then slide the whole belt around until the ends are the same lengths. Then tie the knot.

Whichever end is on top is the first link. For this demonstration, it is the right end. Tuck the right end under BOTH layers of the belt and pull until snug. Then loop the left (the same one that was right a step before) inside the right. Pull both ends until the knot is secure.

If you started on the left hip then just reverse the left and right notations. The Karate belt knot should look like a square knot. Below is a demonstration of tying the belt so you can see how it works. Play it a few times until you get it.

Our school has a few customs for tying a belt. These are not universal rules since I’ve discovered most schools have similar or no rules regarding the belt. Breaking these rules won’t result in Manner Ninjas attacking you in the night. It won’t even get you kicked out of a respectable dojo. They’re here just to provide guidelines on proper behavior and etiquette. Respect the belt and you respect your accomplishments.

  1. Perform a belt blessing before putting it on. This involves two steps. First touch the folded belt to your forehead, lips and chest representing the uniting of mind, spirit and body. The next step is snapping the belt — holding two folded ends and pulling quickly to produce a snap.
  2. Don’t let the belt ends drag on the floor while wrapping or tying the belt. This is demonstrated in the video by holding the folded section until it is wrapped around the waist. It gets easier with practice.
  3. Kneel down when a Black Belt  (or higher-ranking Black Belt) dons their belt. Some schools require you to face away from the Kamiza (the portrait of the Grandmaster or front of the room).
  4. You should kneel down when tying your belt. (Although this is not observed much anymore.)
  5. Always fold your belt after use. Keep it clean and put away. This is a good practice for everything you own, fold it and put it away.

Does your school have any belt traditions or customs? I’d like to hear about them.

How to shiko or knee walk

Shiko is a word I was taught for knee walking. I don’t know if that is the correct term but I’ll use it in this article and in class until I learn the proper term.

We use shiko to move around on the padded mat (the tatami) in the dojo. From the kneeling position (Fig. 0), often called seiza, you lift the left knee and slide the right foot behind the left foot. (Fig. 1) The right foot should be on the ball of the foot, not the instep. Keep the heels of both feet close to each other the entire time of the shiko. The feet are at right angles to each other. Place your hands on your thighs near the kneecap. If they slide up to mid-thigh to higher, move them back to this position.

Fig. 0: Seiza or kneeling position

Fig. 0: Seiza or kneeling position

Fig. 1: Left knee up

Fig. 1: Left knee up

To move forward, press down on your left knee with your left hand. When the knee contacts the mat, pivot your hips so your right knee is up and your left foot slides under the butt and next to the right foot. (Fig. 2) Again maintain the right angle and close proximity.

Fig. 2: Right knee up

Fig. 2: Right knee up

The body should not move or sway. Only the hips, knees and feet move. To move forward again (Fig. 3), press down on the right knee with your right hand. (Fig. 4) When the knee contacts the mat, pivot your hips so your left knee is up and your right foot slides under the butt and next to the left foot. Maintain the right angle and close proximity to the other foot.

Fig. 4: Front view with knee up

Fig. 3: Front view with knee up

Fig. 5: Pressing the knee down

Fig. 4: Pressing the knee down

Continue alternating these sequences until you get to where you want to go. It should be smooth and quiet. Don’t wobble or fall over. Take your time and maintain your balance throughout the entire process.

Turning around is easy. Assume your right knee is up. Fold it towards your left knee, which is on the ground. At this point you are almost in a kneeling position called seiza except you’re on the balls of your feet not the insteps. Lift the left knee out to a right angle. At this point, you are ready to continue your shiko walk.

We use this movement when others are kneeling in meditation, for receiving rank awards or when the instructor is discussing something and all the students are listening. When a visiting master instructor or other dignitary is sitting, it is rude to stand while they are seated. By keeping our profile low we can scoot off the mat and attend to the task at hand.

The Truth about Dojo Self-Defense

Not only is this skit funny, it also shows the ugly, misguided side of teaching martial arts in a professional dojo. Sometimes we forget the reality outside the dojo and get blinded by our training. Let this serve as a wake up call to our egos before we become complacent in our method of training.

When you hear yourself say those words, “You attacked me wrong.” Stop yourself and think about what you just did. Our own students will never attack us, rather we’ll be attacked by people who know nothing of form, style, discipline or strategy. They’ll just attack wildly and we had better be ready.

It’s a lesson I have to relearn every few months – this video is my alarm clock. What’s yours?