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Taekwondo Belts: 7 Color Rankings & Their Meaning For Noobs

Takewondo belts and ranking system

Last Updated on July 15, 2024

As a former Taekwondo student, I didn't really put so much interest in the Tae Kwon Do belts and their colors. However, I know that the colors of these belts possess different meanings, reasons, and even histories that can really be interesting.

And I assume…

I am not the only one, which is why I have prepared this article to inform you about these belts.

In this article, we'll discuss every aspect these belts have and I'll answer all of the questions you'll come up with as we go through the topic.

History Of The Taekwondo Belt Colors

The belt system began with only white, yellow, green, brown, and black since these are the six actual or natural colors. 

Today's Tae Kwon Do schools, on the other hand, have added several color belts such as orange, blue, and red.

These are the colors of the belts you earn as you progress toward your ultimate goal of obtaining a black belt.

The present Taekwondo belt system, which is typically portrayed as the development of a tree or the transition from a baby to an adult, was devised in the early 1940s and is a visual way of breaking down the process of progressing from a white belt (yang) to a first-degree black belt (yin).

Keep in mind that belt colors are not uniform (some having a stripe) and differ slightly from school to school, and some or all of them may be part of your school's promotion system.

Taekwondo Belts Rankings System

The belt rank is separated into two categories: "junior" and "senior." The former comprises colored belts, whereas the latter contains various black belt degrees. White is always the initial color, and the highest level is a 9th-degree black belt.

The "junior" levels are known as geup (급), and there are around ten of them in total; the exact number fluctuates between 8 and 12 depending on the style and regulating organization. 

Each level does not necessarily correspond to a single color; rather, the system is set up so that various colors of a stripe signify a higher degree of the same belt color.

Before achieving a black belt, the geup system begins with the greatest number in the system and continues to the 1st geup, which is the last colored belt rank.

The black belts are divided into grades known as dan (단) or degrees in English. The degrees are numbered from 1st dan (first-degree black belt) through 4th dan (fourth-degree black belt) through the 9th dan (ninth-degree black belt), which is connected with the title of grandmaster.

Black belt degrees are related to a title-based system in both WT and ITF. Degrees 1-3 are referred to as assistant instructors, and they are not permitted to issue black belts; degrees 4-6 are associated with the title of master instructor (only instructors via ITF).

Moreover, the last ranks show the most significant difference between WT and ITF: WT associates the title of grandmaster with all ranks from 7 to 9, whereas ITF only does so for the final, 9th rank, giving the holders of ranks 7 and 8 the titles of masters.

Taekwondo Belts In Order

Listed below is the Taekwondo belt order. Each order is represented by a specific color that has relevance both to the practitioner and the philosophy imbued in the sport:

1. White Belt

This is a symbol that represents purity or innocence.

Similar to a Karate belt, this belt is used by all new students who have no prior experience in Tae Kwon Do. Like the Taekwondo belt order, it symbolizes a fresh start and the start of a journey.

2. Yellow Belt

This color represents the ground and represents a seed being planted for its root system to form as it grows.

At this point, the learner is starting to lay the groundwork for learning Tae Kwon Do.

3. Green Belt

The term "green belt" refers to how a seed, or now a plant, begins to grow.

The student now has a solid basis on which to build, and his or her Tae Kwon Do skills continue to improve.

4. Brown Belt

Brown belt indicates that the tree, like the student and their techniques, is developing and expanding and that the student's skills continue to improve as they go to more advanced techniques.

This means the practitioner is gaining ground in the training and developing a keener sense of understanding of the sport.

5. Blue Belt

Blue belt denotes the start of a conversation about the sky or heaven, to which the plant is developing and on its path to becoming a tall tree.

Like the tree, the Tae Kwon Do learner grows stronger and matures.

6. Red Belt

This denotes danger and serves as a warning to both others and the student.

The pupil must be aware of their newly acquired powers and maintain control over them. This is the student's final belt before achieving his or her first aim of attaining a black belt.

7. Black Belt

This, of course, is the polar opposite of white, indicating that the pupil has progressed to the point where he has completed his Tae Kwon Do fundamental instruction.

To someone who does not do martial art, a black belt means they've mastered the art.

It represents only the beginning of a student's mastery of Taekwondo and more to achieve a belt with a black stripe.

Watch This!

The complementary video shows a student taking a test according to the belt worn:

Black Belt Levels

Once you've won your black belt, this marks the end of your leveling in Korean martial arts (physical) and the beginning of a lifelong practice (philosophical).

As a result, there's a system of levels within the black belts that goes something like this:

  • A kyo sah nim, or assistant teacher, is someone who holds a first through third-degree black belt.
  • A sah bum nim is a person who holds a fourth through sixth-degree black belt and is both an instructor and a master.
  • A kwan jang nim is a person with a seventh through ninth-degree black belt, and a grandmaster is someone with a tenth through ninth-degree black belt. This level also has a minimum age requirement of 40 years old.
  • A person with a 10th-degree black belt is now an honorary belt, given to persons who have had a significant impact on the development and dissemination of Taekwondo globally, or posthumously to practitioners who have made significant contributions to the practice of Taekwondo during their lives.

Black Belts For Under 15

The black belt is awarded at the age of 15. (the age limit has changed throughout the years and is currently set at 15).

Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of younger children completing dan exams.

Instead, they are assigned a special poom rank, comparable to a "junior" black belt (usually red and black). When a trainee reaches the requisite age of 15, his or her poom rank changes to a normal dan.

How To Achieve A Higher Rank In Taekwondo

Promotion is the process of advancing to a higher rank. Each learner begins with the mandatory white belt and progresses through promotions to higher ranks. 

As the ranks rise, the promotion process becomes more challenging, although it is usually a demonstration of the trainee's technical and tactical skills developed throughout the training process.

Lower grades usually only require a display of several Taekwondo attacks and one specific form, which is predetermined as a skill test for each degree.

Forms are a way for the student to show off his or her offensive and defensive talents, as well as his or her technical abilities. 

The number of forms varies depending on the style (for example, WT has eight, whereas ITF has nine), and the forms themselves alter regularly, but to a lesser extent. The learner will be promoted if he or she successfully demonstrates all of these necessary skills.

Higher levels typically contain more advanced techniques, as well as sparring, simulated sparring, self-defense, breaking skills, and even a written test on the fundamentals of Taekwondo.

Even though the organizations have a set of criteria, each federation might have its own set of minimum standards. Black belts (and poom ranks) are usually awarded by the national federation and are internationally recognized. 

Black belts (and poom grades) are often presented by the national federation and are globally recognized, whereas "junior" promotions are normally held inside the school or local community.

The amount of time it takes to advance a rank is determined by the school, the national federation, and the rank in question. 

Lower levels are frequently reached after a few months (1-3) of rapid advancement, however, higher ranks normally require a specific amount of time to pass before attempting promotion.

In some circumstances, promotion from rank one to rank two is automatic, but in others, a standard promotion is required. The time between promotions can be anywhere from a month to over a year. Those times are set by each school and/or national federation.

Factors Taekwondo Schools Consider For Promoting To Higher Taekwondo Belt Rankings

Of course, each school has unique and different promotion tests. However, I’ll be mentioning the tests schools use in general.

1. Poomsae

Poomsae, as used in World Taekwondo Federation or Patterns in the International Taekwondo Federation.

Each colored belt has its Poomsae or patterns, which are a combination of standard and unified kicks, defending, and blocking techniques that students must know and execute flawlessly. As the belts get higher, the complexity of the forms increases.

2. Sparring

Sparring is included in some schools' promotion tests to assess pupils' reflexes in real time.

3. Physical Conditioning

Physical conditioning, strength, athleticism, and stamina are all required of students.

As a result, push-ups, burpees, leaps, and other exercises are frequently included in the exams.

4. Flexibility

As a pupil progresses through the ranks, more flexibility is required.

Certain procedures require a great deal of flexibility to be completed flawlessly. As a result, the test frequently includes side and front splits.

5. Tests

Some schools offer a theoretical test in which pupils are asked questions about taekwondo history and terminology.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the needed time to advance to higher ranks?

Students in Taekwondo schools are tested every three to four months on average for advancement to achieve Taekwondo belts in order. More traditional schools require lengthier exam intervals, up to six months in some cases.

Please keep in mind that higher rankings necessitate more time, especially between the Dan ranks (advancement between the Dan ranks might take years after the black belt).

How long does it take to get a black belt in Taekwondo?

It depends heavily on how long you've been in the dojang. A black belt requires around 1200 hours of practice, being equivalent to 4 years. The answer, though, is mostly dependent on you and how you've been training.

What does Dan mean in Taekwondo?

When a practitioner achieves a black belt in Taekwondo or any other martial arts belt, the Dan is utilized as a ranking system to represent their level of mastery in taekwondo.

Depending on the organization with which the institution is affiliated, each Dan is comparable to a different title. An example is a 4th Dan black belt.


Now that you’ve known how many belts in Taekwondo there are, you may set a new personal goal to achieve in these trying times. However, remember to not pressure yourself in getting Taekwondo belts.

It is not a race or a timed course to get your black belt. A good teacher will consider everything and will not put you in for a belt exam unless he or she believes you are ready.

Remember that TaeKwonDo is something you will continue to do in your daily life, not something you will graduate from and then abandon. You can make it whatever you want.

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