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Exploring the Taekwondo Belt Ranking System: ITF

Taekwondo Belt Rankings

Taylor Saipe |

Taekwondo, a Korean martial art famous for its exciting kicks and strong strikes, uses a structured belt ranking system.

This system showcases a practitioner's skill level and their personal journey and progress in the art.

We wanted to help you take a closer look at the Taekwondo belt ranking system, exploring the different levels and what each one means.

It's important to remember that many Taekwondo schools have their own unique belt levels and colour systems, so be sure to check with your instructor.

The Foundation: White Belt to Green Belt

Let's start by looking at the different types of belts:

  • Gup: This is the rank for colored belts.
  • Poom: This is the junior Black Belt for students under 15.
  • Dan: This is the Black Belt level, available only to students over 15.

White Belt

Every Taekwondo journey starts with the white belt. It represents a fresh start and the beginning of learning martial arts. As a beginner, the white belt reminds you of a blank canvas and all the possibilities for growth and improvement ahead.

White/Yellow Belt

After the white belt, students advance to the white/yellow belt. This stage shows a deeper understanding of the basics. At this level, students learn to escape from grabs and master various steps and moves in a specific order.

Yellow Belt

The yellow belt marks the first significant steps into Taekwondo. Yellow symbolises the earth, where a plant takes root and begins to grow, much like the foundations of Taekwondo are being established.

This belt is the second colour in the beginner program and represents the halfway point to the intermediate level. It's also the first belt where students start learning poomsae.

Yellow/Green Belt

The move from yellow to green is signified by the yellow/green belt. At this stage, students show improved techniques and a better grasp of Poomsae.

Green Belt

As students advance, they achieve the green belt level, the first in the intermediate program. This stage represents growth, similar to a plant starting to sprout. 

The focus is on refining techniques and getting ready for more complex forms. By this point, students have been training for nearly a year and have mastered all beginner techniques. Along with learning a new poomsae, students at this rank will also start sparring.

Green/Blue Belt

Progressing further, students wear the green/blue belt. This level is marked by increased skill and confidence. 

Blue Belt

The blue belt is a significant milestone. At this stage, students show a solid understanding of intermediate techniques and forms. Blue symbolises the heavens above, the direction in which the plant is growing. The blue belt is the final belt of the intermediate program.

Blue/Red Belt

Moving to the blue/red belt shows further advancement. 

Red Belt

The red belt is one of the final steps before achieving a black belt. It symbolizes danger and caution, reminding practitioners of their growing power and responsibility. Red belt students also work on enhancing their technique by practicing one of the more advanced Tae Geuk forms.

Red/Black Belt

The red/black belt is a transitional stage, getting students ready for the ultimate goal of earning a black belt. At this level, students focus on mastering advanced techniques and showcasing leadership qualities.

Black Belt

Earning a black belt is the result of years of dedication and effort. It signifies mastery of both basic and advanced techniques, along with a deep understanding of Taekwondo principles.

The black belt marks a new beginning, allowing the practitioner to refine their skills further and take on leadership roles such as Boo-Sabum (Assistant Instructor), Sabum (Instructor), and beyond.

Black Belt Levels: Dan Ranks

The black belt journey doesn't end at the first Dan. Taekwondo practitioners can continue to advance through the Dan ranks, each representing a higher level of expertise and commitment:

- 1st Dan (Novice): This initial black belt level shows a solid grasp of basic techniques and forms.

- 2nd Dan (Novice): Highlights further refinement of skills and the ability to start teaching others.

- 3rd Dan (Novice): Marks the shift to advanced techniques and leadership roles.

- 4th Dan (Expert): Demonstrates mastery and qualifies the practitioner as an instructor, known as Sabum.

- 5th Dan (Master): A master level, called Sahyun, focusing on deep knowledge and guiding the next generation of students.

- 6th Dan (Master): Reflects continued mastery and significant contributions to Taekwondo, including research and high-level teaching.

- 7th Dan (Senior Master): Indicates a high level of expertise and commitment to advancing the art.

- 8th Dan (Grandmaster): Recognizes a lifetime of dedication and influential teaching within the Taekwondo community.

- 9th Dan (Senior Grandmaster): Symbolises the highest level of mastery and a major role in shaping the future of Taekwondo.

- 10th Dan (Great Grandmaster): Reserved for those who have made extraordinary contributions to the martial art and its global promotion.

Summary of the Different Levels

The Taekwondo belt ranking system is an exciting journey of personal growth, discipline, and skill development. Starting with the white belt and advancing all the way to the prestigious Dan Master ranks, each level symbolises an important milestone in a practitioner's progress.

Grasping the order and significance of each Taekwondo belt color helps students value their achievements and the effort needed to move forward.

Every belt represents a step on the Taekwondo path, presenting challenges and rewards to those who commit to mastering the art.