Home » Tae kwon do Complete Belts Ranking System

Tae kwon do Complete Belts Ranking System

Home » Tae kwon do Complete Belts Ranking System

Get ready to level up your knowledge of Tae kwon do belts! In this article, we’ll dive into the complete ranking system, including the history and origins of the belt system, the meaning behind each belt colour, and the requirements for advancing to each rank. With this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the belt system and what it takes to climb the ranks in Tae kwon do. So, tighten your belt and let’s begin our journey!

When you get in taekwondo, it teaches you the life skills of respect, self control, discipline-that’s why I love it. I really attribute those skills to really getting over my dad’s death. If I didn’t have that, I would have lost it.

Anthony Pettis

The Origins of Belts and the History of Taekwondo 

Ever wondered what the word Taekwondo actually means, and where did this martial art originate from? The literal translation would be “the way of the foot and the fist.” This intriguing martial art was developed in Korea after World War II as a way to unify the various martial arts styles in Korea. 

The roots of Taekwondo can be traced back to ancient Korea, where warriors used a variety of combat styles in battle. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the modern form of Taekwondo, as we know it today, emerged.

In 1945, with the end of the Japanese occupation, Korean martial arts schools began to flourish, and various styles were unified under the name of Taekwondo in 1955. The Korea Taekwondo Association was established in 1961, which helped to standardize the art and establish a ranking system. 

Here’s some brief distinctions behind the meaning of this intricate belt system.

  • The belt system is an integral part of Taekwondo and represents the student’s level of skill and knowledge. In the early days, the belt system was not as elaborate as it is now, and there were only two belts: white and black.
  • As Taekwondo evolved and spread around the world, the belt system became more complex. Today, there are many different ranks and levels in Taekwondo, each with its own unique belt colour.
  • The white belt symbolises purity and innocence, and it represents a new student’s beginning journey in Taekwondo. The yellow belt represents the first rays of sunlight, signifying the growth and progress of the student.
  • As the student advances in rank, the belts become darker, with green representing the earth, blue representing the sky, and red representing the power and passion of the student.
  • Finally, the black belt represents the culmination of the student’s journey in Taekwondo, and it is the highest rank attainable. It symbolises the student’s mastery of the art and his or her commitment to its principles of discipline, respect, and self-control.

Overall, the belt system in Taekwondo serves as a reminder of the art’s history and the journey of its practitioners. Through hard work, dedication, and discipline, students can progress through the ranks and achieve the ultimate goal of a black belt.

Taekwondo Belt Ranking System Explained 

Before proceeding, let’s understand a bit the organizational structure of Taekwondo. ITF, ATA, and WT are the three major Taekwondo organizations. ITF stands for International Taekwondo Federation, ATA stands for American Taekwondo Association, and WT stands for World Taekwondo. Each organization has its own belt system and ranking system, but all follow the general color belt progression from white to black belt.

Here’s a brief overview of each organization:

  • ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation) – Founded in 1966 by General Choi Hong Hi, ITF is one of the original taekwondo organizations. It emphasizes the traditional aspects of taekwondo, with a focus on power and technique. ITF taekwondo is recognized for its use of patterns, or “forms,” as a training tool.
  • ATA (American Taekwondo Association) – Founded in 1969 by Haeng Ung Lee, ATA is a North American taekwondo organisation that places a strong emphasis on self defense and fitness. It incorporates aspects of traditional taekwondo, but also includes elements from other martial arts such as karate and judo.
  • WT (World Taekwondo) – Founded in 1973, WT is the international governing body for taekwondo, recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is focused on promoting taekwondo as a sport and is responsible for organising the Olympic Games and other major taekwondo competitions worldwide. WT taekwondo places a greater emphasis on speed, agility, and sparring skills compared to ITF or ATA.

Still with us? Great! Let’s look at the different belts and their requirements for each organisation.

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF)

BeltColorRequirements, Meaning, and Differences
10th GupWhiteBeginners, no requirements
9th GupYellow StripeFirst test, fundamental techniques
8th GupYellowChon-Ji pattern, footwork
7th GupGreen StripeDo-San pattern, hand techniques
6th GupGreenWon-Hyo pattern, sparring
5th GupBlue StripeYul-Gok pattern, self-defense
4th GupBlueJoong-Gun pattern, board breaking
3rd GupRed StripeToi-Gye pattern, advanced techniques
2nd GupRedHwa-Rang pattern, weapons
1st GupBlack StripeBo-Staff, special techniques
1st DanBlackMastery of all techniques, teaching ability

World Taekwondo (WT)

BeltColourRequirements, Meaning, and Differences
10th GupWhiteBeginners, no requirements
9th GupWhite with Yellow Stripe4th Kup, basic techniques
8th GupYellow3rd Kup, first pattern
7th GupYellow with Green Stripe2nd Kup, basic one-step sparring
6th GupGreen1st Kup, advanced one-step sparring
5th GupGreen with Blue Stripe1st Dan, advanced patterns
4th GupBlue2nd Dan, mastery of sparring techniques
3rd GupBlue with Red Stripe3rd Dan, distinguished performance in tournaments
2nd GupRed4th Dan, contributions to the art of Taekwondo
1st GupRed with Black Stripe5th Dan, exceptional service to Taekwondo
1st DanBlackMastery of all techniques, commitment to Taekwondo

American Taekwondo Association (ATA)

BeltColourRequirements, Meaning, and Differences
WhiteWhiteBeginners, no requirements
OrangeOrangeBasic techniques, discipline
YellowYellowSelf-defence, perseverance
CamouflageCamouflageBasics of sparring, humility
GreenGreenForm and technique, integrity
PurplePurpleWeapons and jump kicks, courage
BlueBlueAdvanced sparring and self-defence, control
BrownBrownLeadership, teaching ability
RedRedPerformance and tournament training, dedication
BlackBlackMastery of all techniques, commitment to Taekwondo

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Belt Order

The ITF uses a colour belt system with ten ranks, starting with white belt and progressing through yellow, green, blue, red, and black stripe belts before the black belt. Each colour belt rank has three degrees, denoted by a stripe on the belt.

  1. White Belt
  2. Yellow Belt
  3. Green Belt
  4. Blue Belt
  5. Red Belt
  6. Black Belt (1st-9th dan)

World Taekwondo (WT) Belt Order

The WT also uses a color belt system with ten ranks, but it has different colors and ranks from the ITF. The WT ranks go from white belt to black belt, with each rank having one degree.

  1. White Belt
  2. Yellow Belt
  3. Green Belt
  4. Blue Belt
  5. Red Belt (1st-3rd poom)
  6. Black Belt (1st-9th dan)

American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Belt Order

The ATA has a color belt system with 18 ranks, starting with white belt and progressing through different colors, stripes, and degrees before the black belt. Each color belt rank has four degrees, denoted by stripes on the belt.

  1. White Belt
  2. Gold Stripe Belt
  3. Gold Belt
  4. Camouflage Belt
  5. Green Belt
  6. Purple Belt
  7. Blue Belt
  8. Brown Belt
  9. Red Belt
  10. Black Belt (1st-9th dan)

Requirements for getting each belt

Let’s get to the good stuff – how to earn those belts! Getting a belt in taekwondo requires dedication, hard work, and patience. Each belt has its own set of requirements that need to be met before you can advance to the next level. Here are some general requirements that you will need to meet to advance to the next belt:

  • Attend classes regularly and participate actively in class
  • Demonstrate proficiency in all techniques required for your current belt level
  • Show improvement in physical fitness and overall technique over time
  • Pass a test or exam that assesses your knowledge and skill level

Specific requirements for each belt level may vary depending on the school or organisation. It is important to check with your instructor or school to know exactly what is required of you before attempting to test for a new belt.

To upgrade your skills, it is important to practise regularly, attend extra training sessions or seminars, and receive feedback from your instructors. With dedication and hard work, you can earn your next belt in no time!

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

The black belt is the ultimate goal for many taekwondo practitioners, and rightfully so! But it takes dedication, hard work, and discipline to achieve this prestigious rank.

The time it takes to earn a black belt in taekwondo is widely varied based on factors such as the student’s dedication and training regimen, the frequency of training, and the requirements of the student’s school or organization. These factors can all affect the time it takes to earn a black belt in taekwondo, but on average, it can take anywhere from three to five years.

The process of earning a black belt typically involves passing a series of belt tests that increase in difficulty as one progresses through the ranks. To prepare for these tests, students must regularly attend classes, practice at home, and master a series of techniques, forms, and sparring drills.

Aside from technical proficiency, taekwondo also emphasizes personal development, such as discipline, respect, and perseverance. Therefore, while earning a black belt in taekwondo requires physical training and skill, it also requires mental fortitude and a willingness to push oneself beyond perceived limits.

Understanding Dan Levels and Gup Ranks

In addition to belt colours, taekwondo also has a ranking system that includes “Dan” levels and “Gup” ranks. But what do these terms mean?

“Dans” are levels of expertise for black belts, and “Gups” are levels for coloured belts. The Dan system is used to differentiate black belt holders by their level of expertise, with the highest level being 10th Dan. On the other hand, the Gup system is used to differentiate coloured belt holders by their level of proficiency, with the lowest level being 10th Gup.

It is important to note that the requirements for each Dan level and Gup rank vary by organization and country, so it is best to consult with your instructor or organization for specific information.

In general, to advance through the Dan levels and Gup ranks, practitioners must demonstrate their mastery of taekwondo techniques, forms, sparring, and self-defence. Testing for each level typically involves a combination of physical tests and knowledge tests, and may require a certain amount of training time at each level.

Achieving higher Dan levels and Gup ranks requires not only dedication and hard work, but also a deep understanding and appreciation of the philosophy and culture of taekwondo.

Final words

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of our Taekwondo belt ranking system guide. We hope this article has provided you with a thorough understanding of the various belts and their meanings, as well as the requirements and timeframes for obtaining each one.

Remember that the path to becoming a black belt in Taekwondo is not easy. It takes dedication, hard work, and a willingness to push yourself to the limit. You can, however, achieve this coveted rank and become a master of this martial art with the right mindset and training.

We encourage you to continue your education and strive for success in all aspects of your life. Taekwondo is a way of life that teaches valuable lessons in discipline, respect, and self-control.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and we wish you the best of luck on your Taekwondo journey!


What is the order of belts in taekwondo?

White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Red, Black.

How many belts in taekwondo?

There are 9 color belts (excluding black belt) in taekwondo.

How long does it take to get each belt in Taekwondo?

It varies depending on the school, the student’s dedication, and the belt rank. Generally, it takes around 2-3 months to progress to the next belt.

What are the belt colors in Taekwondo and each meaning?

White represents innocence and purity, yellow represents the earth and the seed growing, green represents the plant growing, blue represents the sky and water, red represents danger and fire, and black represents maturity, proficiency, and expertise.

How do belts work in Taekwondo?

Belts signify a student’s level of proficiency, with each belt representing a different rank. As students progress in rank, they are expected to demonstrate increased skill, knowledge, and responsibility.

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

It typically takes 3-5 years of consistent training to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo.

What is the highest belt in Taekwondo?

The highest belt rank in Taekwondo is the 10th-degree black belt.

What does Dan mean in Taekwondo?

Dan is a Korean term used in martial arts to indicate a black belt rank.

How many Dans are in Taekwondo?

There are 10 Dan ranks in Taekwondo, with the 10th Dan being the highest achievable rank.