Question 1: How Long Until I Get a Black Belt?
No matter where I go and how many demos I take part in, the first question we receive from an audience member is usually the same:
How long does it take to get a black belt in karate?
Every style varies but I suspect that the average is not significantly deviated from by most styles. Assuming you work real hard and practice often (because otherwise you’ll never get a black belt even if you attend every class), here’s an example within Shotokan Karate in both the ISKF and JKA.
While some McDojos will “guarantee you a black belt in just 2 years”, these black belt factories are meaningless and don’t really indicate your knowledge or progression, just the amount of dues you’ve paid to the karate club.
Even in non-McDojos a black belt doesn’t mean you have mastered the basics, only that there’s a decent chance you’ve done so because there is a grading scheme in place that isn’t motivated primarily by money. Most agree that with hard work and perserverence, many people can be at a stage in their training there they qualify for a black belt in about:
Its like getting an undergraduate degree. In fact, that’s how a good friend of mine refered to a 1st degree black belt, like an undergraduate degree. It shows you know the basics and can even explain many concepts, but there is little in-depth knowledge (except for the karate nerds).
To get a master’s degree in karate? Well that typically comes around the 3+ degree stage. After you reach 1st degree, it will take about another 5-6 years to reach 3rd degree; 2 for 2nd degree, 3-4 for 3rd degree. This is all assuming that you pass every test the first time, a feat about 50% of people achieve.
So, if you’re in high school headed off to university, it is not unreasonable to think that you could have a 1st degree black belt in karate around the same time as you graduate with your undergrad. That is, of course, if you work as hard for the black belt as you do for your undergrad degree (note that for most people completing an undergrad, this will be their 1st degree as well