The length of time it takes to earn a black belt in karate depends on the dedication of the student and the standards of the martial arts school issuing the black belt. There is no standard period of training time required to earn a black belt in karate. However, there are general guidelines that are followed by most karate schools. Factors such as the age of the student and frequency of training are also taken into consideration.
An adult student of karate who attends class two times per week on a regular basis can expect to earn a black belt in about five years. Some very dedicated karate students who train more intensely have been known to earn a black belt in as little as two or three years. This is not typical and is often discouraged by karate masters. The wisdom required to be a black belt in karate is obtained through time spent studying the martial art. Many karate masters believe that shortening this time period reduces the wisdom.
Children studying karate can earn a black belt in approximately the same amount of time as an adult. This is about five years of continuous training. However, children under the age of 16 years old are often awarded a "junior black belt." The standards and training for a junior black belt are usually the same as those of an adult black belt. The designation of junior black belt is consider provisional. The child must be retested when they reach the age of eligibility for a regular black belt.
When a karate student is awarded their first black belt they are designated "first dan." This indicates that they are now a serious student of karate and they can now begin serious training. It does not indicate mastery of karate as many people believe. A first dan is expected to train at least two more years before earning a second dan. This is also referred to as a second degree black belt.
As karate black belts advance in training, it takes longer and longer to earn higher ranks. A second degree black belt is required to study at least three more years before being promoted to third dan. A third dan must train at least four more years before earning a fourth dan. Another five years of work is expected for elevation to fifth dan when the karate black belt is considered a master.
It takes most karate masters about 20 years of continuous training to achieve the level of fifth dan. Each succeeding black belt rank requires that many more years of study. A sixth dan requires six more years of training, a seventh dan requires seven more years, and so on. Ranks for karate masters go as high as tenth dan, though this is exceedingly rare and usually reserved for the founder of a martial arts style.