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Navigating the Taekwondo Ranking System and Belt Color Order: From White to Black

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When individuals consider martial arts, the common association is often with the iconic black belt. However, in the realm of Taekwondo, the dojo presents a diverse spectrum of belt colors. The proliferation of distinct belt hues in Taekwondo raises questions about the origins of this system, its creator, and whether there is a logical order to the arrangement of belt colors.

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Additionally, it might have come to your attention that a standardized sequence for Taekwondo belt progression does not exist, contributing to the overall perplexity. This piece aims to elucidate all aspects of the Taekwondo belt system, including its historical roots, the symbolism behind each color, and the time investment necessary to attain the highest belt rank.

History of the Taekwondo Belt Ranking System

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While modern Taekwondo (TKD) originated in South Korea during the 1950s, the concept of belt grading predates its development. Notably, the color belt system was not conceived by figures like Hong Choi or the kwans (dojos) associated with TKD’s inception. Instead, they adopted and modified the idea of belt colors and ranks from Judo. The roots of Taekwondo’s belt color history trace back to the twentieth century when Japan first implemented belt colors and rankings in various martial arts. Kano Jigoro, the visionary behind Judo, was actively working on a novel grading system during this period. His primary objective was to establish proficiency levels that would distinguish students and competitors from one another.

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He conceived the idea of using various colored belts during a game of ‘Go,’ a Japanese board game similar to chess. The initial colors chosen were:

  • White

  • Yellow

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  • Green

  • Blue

  • Red

  • Black

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The efficacy of Kano Jigoro’s system led to its widespread adoption in various martial arts disciplines, such as Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although each art has customized the system to align with its unique needs, the core principles have consistently endured.

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What is the Belt Order for Taekwondo?

Taekwondo Color Belt Levels

Taekwondo Belt Ranking System | KreedOn
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  • 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

How Many Levels Of Black Belt In Taekwondo - Belt Poster

  • 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 Means in Taekwondo?


The initial stage, represented by the white belt, doesn’t involve an examination. However, progression to the white belt with yellow stripes mandates a specific evaluation. During this assessment, candidates are required to execute a predetermined pattern and participate in three- and one-step sparring sessions with a fellow Taekwondo practitioner. Additionally, students must demonstrate their ability to defend against holds and escape using kicks or punches. On average, it takes approximately two to three months to attain the white belt with yellow stripes.


The examination for the yellow belt follows a comparable structure to the one mentioned earlier, albeit featuring a different set pattern and necessitating the breaking of boards using both hands and feet. Adequate preparation for this assessment typically spans a period of two to three months. Subsequent to achieving the plain yellow belt, individuals have the option to pursue the yellow belt with green stripes. While the tests for advancing to each subsequent rank generally share similarities, the transition from yellow to yellow with green entails a distinct pattern and the breaking of a two-inch board with the hand and a one-inch board with the feet. Additionally, participants are required to engage in sparring with only one step.

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Transitioning from a yellow and green striped belt to a solid green belt necessitates passing a comprehensive test comprising distinct elements: a varied pattern, a one-step spar, and a freestyle spar. Additionally, the examinee must demonstrate proficiency in self-defense techniques and break through two-inch boards using both hands and feet. Progressing further to attain the green belt with blue stripes entails mastering a new pattern and mastering defenses against various holds and simulated attacks. Moreover, candidates must break a 2-inch board using their hands and execute a jump kick to fracture a 1-inch board. The examinations for one-step and free sparring are mandatory components of the evaluation process. Typically, preparation for the advancement test from “green” to “green with stripes” spans approximately four months.


The criteria for achieving the blue belt closely mirror those for the green belt with blue stripes. However, a novel pattern is introduced, and two-step sparring becomes a new inclusion. Additionally, it is required to demonstrate proficiency in breaking a one-inch board with a spinning kick and a two-inch board with a punch. On average, individuals typically take about four months to successfully fulfill these requirements.

Achieving the blue belt with red stripes necessitates proficiency in countering holds, batons, blades, and confronting adversaries without weapons. Additionally, students are mandated to execute punches and execute a kicking maneuver to fracture boards measuring two inches in thickness. This comprehensive training spans a five-month period, commencing at the blue belt stage.


Introducing a novel regimen, the red belt examination incorporates sessions of open sparring, departing from the two-step sparring observed in earlier belt tiers. While the examination format remains consistent, candidates are now additionally tasked with breaking a 3-inch board using any kicking technique. The transition to a belt featuring black and red stripes commences at the red level. Successfully breaking two 3-inch boards mirrors the red belt examination criteria. A prerequisite of at least five months of training is mandatory for eligibility.


The pinnacle of training, the black belt examination encompasses a single pattern, a one-step sparring routine, two-step sparring, free sparring, and multiple rounds of free sparring. Proficiency is demonstrated by breaking two 3-inch boards with a single kick or strike and showcasing the ability to defend against grips, clubs, knives, and unarmed opponents. Following the successful completion of the red and black stripe belt test, an additional nine months of training are required to attain this advanced level.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

The time to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo varies based on factors like training intensity, frequency, and personal dedication, but it typically takes 3 to 5 years.

What does it mean to be a Taekwondo black belt?

A Taekwondo black belt signifies advanced skill, discipline, and adherence to Taekwondo values. It entails ongoing learning, improvement, and the responsibility to teach and uphold the art’s principles.

What does dan mean in Taekwondo?

In Taekwondo, “dan” is a Korean term representing the rank or level of a black belt. For instance, a 1st dan black belt is equivalent to a 1st degree black belt, while a 5th dan black belt is equivalent to a 5th degree black belt.

What is Taekwondo belt progression?

Taekwondo belt progression is the journey of moving up in rank by learning and practicing the required curriculum, demonstrating skills in testing, and receiving new belts as recognition of achievement.

How to promote a belt in Taekwondo?

To advance in Taekwondo, students must fulfill the organization or school’s requirements, including meeting minimum time and attendance, completing the curriculum, demonstrating techniques and skills, and passing a test conducted by a certified instructor. A fee is typically required for the test and new belt.

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