Taekwondo is a combat sport that originated in the 1940s and 1950s. It was developed by Korean martial artists who drew upon their expertise in various martial arts disciplines, including karate and Chinese martial arts. This synthesis of different martial arts forms the foundation of Taekwondo’s unique techniques and principles.
On the contrary, a Taekwondo dojang is a veritable rainbow of belt hues. But why are there so many distinct belt colors in Taekwondo, and who came up with this system? Moreover, there seems to be no universally accepted order for Taekwondo belts, which only adds to the intrigue.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of Taekwondo’s belt ranking system. We’ll uncover its origins, decode the significance of each belt color, and explore the dedication required to attain the coveted black belt rank.
History of the Taekwondo Belt Ranking System
While modern Taekwondo was developed in South Korea in the 1950s, the concept of belt grading has a much older history. Surprisingly, the color belt system in Taekwondo wasn’t the brainchild of its founders, including Hong Choi and other kwans (dojos) that contributed to Taekwondo’s development. Instead, they borrowed this concept, adapting it from Judo.
The history of colored belts in martial arts traces back to Japan in the early 20th century when they were first introduced in various martial disciplines. The credit for the colored belt system goes to Judo’s founder, Kano Jigoro. He aimed to establish proficiency levels that would distinguish students and competitors from one another. Interestingly, Kano Jigoro drew inspiration for the colored belts from the Japanese board game ‘Go.’ The original colors included:
Kano Jigoro’s innovative grading system quickly gained popularity and was adopted by many other martial arts, including Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While each martial art adapted the system to suit its specific requirements, the fundamental principles remained intact.
What is the Belt Order in Taekwondo?
Taekwondo practitioners progress through a series of belt levels, each associated with a distinct color. The following list outlines the belt colors and ranks in Taekwondo:
Taekwondo Colour Belt Levels:
- 10th Geup (Gup) – White Belt
- 9th Geup – White Belt with Yellow Tip
- 8th Geup – Yellow Belt
- 7th Geup – Yellow Belt with Green Tip
- 6th Geup – Green Belt
- 5th Geup – Green Belt with Blue Tip
- 4th Geup – Blue Belt
- 3rd Geup – Blue Belt with Red Tip
- 2nd Geup – Red Belt
- 1st Geup – Red Belt with Black Tip
Taekwondo Black Belt Levels:
- 1st Dan – 1st Degree Black Belt
- 2nd Dan – 2nd Degree Black Belt – Rank for Boo Sabeom Nim (Assistant Instructor)
- 3rd Dan – 3rd Degree Black Belt – Rank for Boo Sabeom Nim (Assistant Instructor)
- 4th Dan – 4th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Sabeom Nim (Instructor)
- 5th Dan – 5th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Sabeom Nim (Instructor)
- 6th Dan – 6th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Sabeom Nim (Instructor)
- 7th Dan – 7th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Sahyeon Nim (Master Instructor)
- 8th Dan – 8th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Sahyeon Nim (Master Instructor)
- 9th Dan – 9th Degree Black Belt – Rank for Saseong Nim (Grandmaster)
ITF Instructor Titles:
- Assistant Instructor – Boo Sabeom Nim (also written as Bu Sabum Nim, Bu Sabom Nim, etc.)
- Instructor – Sabeom Nim (also written as Sabum Nim, Sabom Nim, etc.)
- Master Instructor – Sahyeon Nim (also written as Sahyun Nim, Sahyon Nim, etc.)
- Grandmaster – Saseong Nim (also written as Sasung Nim, Sasong Nim, etc.)
What Each Color Belt Represents in Taekwondo
White Belt: The white belt doesn’t require a formal test, but progression to the next level typically involves achieving a white belt with yellow stripes. Candidates must perform a prescribed pattern, engage in three- and one-step sparring with another Taekwondo practitioner, and demonstrate the ability to defend themselves. On average, it takes two to three months to advance to the white belt with a yellow stripe.
Yellow Belt: The yellow belt examination includes a new pattern and requires board breaking with both hands and feet. Preparing for this exam generally takes two to three months. After obtaining the plain yellow belt, the option to progress to a yellow belt with green stripes becomes available. Subsequent ranks follow a similar testing format.
Green Belt: Advancing from a yellow and green striped belt to a solid green belt involves passing a test that includes a different pattern, one-step sparring, and freestyle sparring. Additionally, students must display their self-defense skills and break two-inch boards using both hands and feet. The average duration of training for this level is around four months.
Blue Belt: To earn the blue belt, students must complete requirements similar to those for the green with blue stripes. A new pattern is introduced, and two-step sparring is added. Students also need to demonstrate their ability to break a one-inch board with a spinning kick and a two-inch board with a punch. Typically, this phase takes approximately four months of training.
Red Belt: The red belt test includes rounds of free sparring instead of the two-step sparring found at lower belt levels. While the test format remains the same, students must break a three-inch board with any kick. Advancing further to a belt with black and red stripes involves breaking two boards of three inches each, with the pattern remaining the same. This level usually requires a minimum of five months of training.
Black Belt: Achieving a black belt is the pinnacle of Taekwondo training. The black belt exam comprises one pattern, one-step sparring, two-step sparring, free sparring, and multiple rounds of free sparring. Students must demonstrate their ability to break two three-inch boards with a single kick or blow, as well as defend themselves against various holds, clubs, knives, and unarmed opponents. After passing the red and black stripe belt test, it takes another nine months of training to reach this prestigious level.
the Taekwondo belt ranking system is steeped in history and tradition. Each belt color symbolizes a student’s progress and proficiency in this martial art. As practitioners advance through the ranks, they not only gain new skills but also experience personal growth and discipline. If you want to embark on a journey through the world of Taekwondo and explore the intricacies of its belt system, remember that dedication and perseverance