How to tie a karate belt

how to tie a martial arts belt

Take a look at any martial artist out there wearing a belt (otherwise known as an obi). No matter the art, any that incorporate the use of belts all tie them the same way; although, some variations do exist.

Some are unfortunately wrong, and some are just based on the personal preferences of a particular school or instructor. Even so, there is a simple way to learn how to tie a martial arts belt that should help out anyone.

We have put together a quick, step-by-step instructional guide that will be able to help all, beginners in particular. Having your belt tied correctly is important due to the fact that your entire uniform is vital to your art. You should know though that there are instructors who are more lenient with beginners and white belts. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t walk into class with a correctly tied belt. That’s a sure way to impress your instructor and fellow students!

How do I tie my karate belt?

Here is a step by step look at the traditional Japanese method:

Step 1: Placing your hands in the middle of your belt, hold it out and let the ends hang toward the floor to make sure both ends match. This will both makes sure that your belt will be evenly wrapped and tied around your torso and remind you about the importance of balance in your training.

Step 2: Once you’ve found the exact center of your belt, place it over the front of your karate uniform, in line with the position of your navel, with the end of the belt that has the tag on it on your right side.

Step 3: Wrap the belt around your waist, crossing one side over the other, and bring both ends to the front and double-check to make sure that both sides are still even. The tag should now be on your left side.

Step 4: Now that the belt ends are in front of you, cross them again, keeping the end with the tag on top. The tag will now be back to your right side.

Step 5: Without twisting the belt, tuck the tag end under all of the layers of the belt that are wrapped around your waist. Pull both ends tight. The tag will still be on your right side.

Step 6: Bend the left end of the belt up to make a loop. Bring the right end over the top of the loop. The tag should now be on your left side.

Step 7: Tuck the tag end of the belt through the loop and pull tight to form a box knot. This will both keep the belt (and your karate uniform) firmly in place, and remind you of your internal strength and the solidity of your commitment as you prepare to train.

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tying karate belts

First Things First: Make Sure Everything Fits

how to tie a martial arts belt

Before you can learn how to tie a martial arts belt, you should make sure that every part of your uniform actually fits correctly. If something is too loose or too tight, then that is certainly going to negatively impact your overall performance.

In terms of belt tying, using an obi that is too long or too short, you will never quite get a good feel to it. It can fall off in class or constrict your movements. Be certain that everything fits well before you embark on our little journey here to understanding how to properly tie a martial arts belt.

Let’s Get Started: Tying a Martial Arts Belt the Traditional Way

how to tie a martial arts belt

The first step-by-step process we have laid out for you all is closer to the traditional method of tying a martial arts belt. You will see variations depending on your instructor and/or school, but many do prefer this method. If your school wants you to use a specific method, however, it may be best to speak to them prior to trying the steps listed in our guide.

  • Step 1: Grab the belt and find the middle. This first step is about making sure the belt is balanced well. Having a properly balanced belt is key to ensuring an even tie all the way around. To find the middle of your obi, fold it in half and hang it down in front of you.
  • Step 2: Place the center of the belt against your abdomen. You will place it near your naval. Make sure that the sizing label is on the inside.
  • Step 3: Now you can begin the process of wrapping the belt. Hold both ends to wrap the belt around. When you go around, be sure to cross the ends behind your back so that they form an “x” symbol. Cross the belt from the left end over the right end. Keep the ends even in length as you do so.
  • Step 4: Bring the belt ends around to the front of your waist. Once you have come around, you will have to cross again, repeating the “x” pattern. You can cross from the left or right here. For the sake of this example, we will be crossing left over right again.
  • Step 5: It is time to work on the knot. Take the top end and tuck it under the entire belt. Pull it upwards, making sure that both ends of the belt are pulled snug in order to keep everything secure.
  • Step 6: From here, you will cross over the top end so you can form a loop. Grab the bottom end and flip it up, then down to tuck it through the loop. You will then grab onto both ends and give them a good, tight pull outward so that they close the knot.
  • Step 7: All that’s needed are some finishing touches. Flip both of the ends forward; doing this will help them lay down better so they don’t get in the way. Also, this will give you the chance to do a quick check to see if the end lengths are still close to even. They can be a little bit off, but not so obvious. If they are, then you need to loosen up the knot and readjust the belt until they are closer to even.
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Interested in a visual aid? Take a look at a short, 40-second video. In the video, an instructor demonstrates a traditional tie of a martial arts belt on a child practitioner:

Alternate Method to Tying a Martial Arts Belt

how to tie a martial arts belt

As we have mentioned earlier on, there are various methods when tying a martial arts belt. This alternate method is a popular one. The end results are not too different, but there noticeable distinctions from the traditional tie in the steps.

  • Step 1: Hold the belt across your abdomen in front of your navel. The belt will be at the right side of your waist, and the right end will remain shorter than the left. However, it will still be a little bit longer (a couple of inches or so) than the length you want the belt to be once it is all tied and knotted up.
  • Step 2: Wrap the longer end of the belt once around your waist from behind. When you are doing this, be sure to hold the shorter right end in place.
  • Step 3: Cross the long end over the short end. Make sure you keep this intersection near your naval area. You will then wrap around your waist for a second time, crossing the long end over top the short end, same as before. Some people may have to wrap around more than twice. Others only wrap once. Children often have to wrap three times. However, if you have a properly fitted belt, you should be able to wrap twice.
  • Step 4: Pull the long ends outward toward the center. Doing this ensures that the belt is snug and in place. It also helps you check out the length of the ends before you begin the knot.
  • Step 5: Drape the long end over the short end. By now, your short end should be aimed to the right. Pull the long end under and up both layers of the belt. From here, pull both ends tight, and you should be half-way done with the knot.
  • Step 6: It’s time to finish the knot. Making sure the ends are close to even in length, cross one end over the other. By crossing them, you’re creating a loop. Pull the long end up and over the other end so that it can go through the loop. Tug on both ends again to tighten up the knot.
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In spite of what some practitioners may say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this alternative method. It’s where many beginners learn. You can be sure to find seasoned practitioners still using this super quick technique as well. It’s simple to do, especially for younger practitioners.

Take a look at the video below to get a visual idea of what we’re talking about:

Some Additional Tips

  • You are going to get it wrong the first time. Everyone messes up the first time. You’re trying something you’ve never done before. It is normal and even expected for you to mess it up. So, if you do, don’t let that deter you. Those pros you see with perfectly tied belts struggled just like you are.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your instructors are there for a reason. They want to teach you. Teaching doesn’t just incorporate learning the correct form and techniques. That includes understanding everything about the uniform. If you need help, go to your instructor and ask. An instructor will respect you more if you admit to not understanding something than pretending you do and getting it wrong.
  • Regular practice helps. If you want to walk into your next class with a properly tied belt, then you should be wearing that uniform at home. Stand in front of a mirror and practice the various methods we laid out for you. Figure out which one works best for you. Which one are you more comfortable with? Watch yourself work in the mirror, and you can get a better idea of what you may be messing up at. This will help you correct any mistakes and get you on track to tying the perfect belt.

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Step 1: The Balancing


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 serves as a reminder that excellence can only be achieved when physical training is balanced with theoretical studies.

In classical Karate, this concept is known as ‘Bun Bu Ryo Do’ – meaning; 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.

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