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  • Writer's pictureSteve Bartley

The Path to Promotion: Understanding Stripes at Elite Martial Arts


What are Promotion Stripes?

Promotion Stripes (which are smaller than Belt Stripes) are away to visually show how a student is progressing within a rank (belt) level. Four stripes (yellow, green, blue, red) are given by the instructor in class when a specific skill or technique has been mastered. The last stripe (black) is given by parent(s). Before a student attends a promotion test all stripes must be obtained.


Yellow Stripe – Patterns

You are required to know a pattern to achieve the next belt level. A pattern is a series of movements such as blocks, kicks and punches in action and reaction against an imaginary opponent.

Green Stripe – One step sparring (punching and kicking)

Up to two yellow stripes, you are required to know the basic punching and kicking drills that we do in class, ie. horse stance, middle punches, high lifting, front kick, round house kick, side kick and back kick.

At two yellow strips and above you learn One Step Sparring or ~One Step Self Defense”. You learn to defend against a one-step punch attack. As you learn these, you will also learn to attack, defend and in some cases, fall correctly.

Blue Stripe – Breaking

One of the things that we do at our school is to take our techniques and put them into practice. We do this by breaking boards. Some may be intimidated by this, but they shouldn’t be. If you have proper technique and form and keup, you will break the board!

Red Stripe – Sparring

Up to two yellow strips, sparring is non-contact. This is one of the most important times to be paying attention. It’s at this point that you start to work on putting the kicks and punches together in combination. This is also the time that you learn to judge distance against your opponent and learn control.

At two yellow strips the sparring is full contact but with control, which means not with full power. The goal is not to hurt your opponent but to learn how to react against a real opponent. It’s like full contact chess. This is the time to test and try your techniques.

At each belt level above two yellow stripes you are responsible to show the different techniques that you have learned.

Black Stripe – Attitude

This stripe is required for Children and Jr.’s. This is the only stripe that cannot be obtained from an instructor. This stripe must be given by the parent (guardian). The parent must feel that the student is deserving of this stripe with respect to the students attitude, whether it be respecting their parents, doing their homework, doing their chore(s), etc. It is the parent(s) that must decide this and is the only one that can give the stripe as well as has the right to take it away. Without this stripe the student cannot test.



With each of the stripes obtained and enough classes, one is ready to test, with permission from the head instructor.

One must realize that as they move up in rank towards black belt, you are still responsible for all that you have learned to that point.. This does not mean that you can forget about any patterns that you have already learned, or the breaking techniques or one-step or sparring or even attitude, you are still responsible for them At any time the instructor may ask you to teach and show a lower belt their pattern or a kicking technique or one-step or sparring. Be prepared.

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