The belt system in Taekwondo may be difficult to grasp if you are a novice starting out on your journey.
Like most forms of martial arts, Taekwondo employs different belt colors to signify different levels of achievement for its students.
Each of the different colors acts as a reflection of their skill level and gives students the motivation to strive towards the next stage of training.
As well as containing a variety of colors to signify different ranks, Taekwondo also has many different varieties of black belts where the student can advance even further.
In this article, we look at the different types of black belts in Taekwondo.
The Origin Of Belts In Taekwondo
In comparison to the many centuries in which martial arts have been practiced in the East, using belts to signify rank is a fairly new system.
Indeed, the concept of using belts to distinguish ranks was established by Dr. Jigoro Kano during the early 1880s.
During this time, there were only two different belts, white for beginners, and black for experienced students.
Gradually this was developed, and eventually colors were used to signify different levels.
It was not until the 1940’s that Taekwondo gained widespread popularity, and its belts were influenced by Jigoro Kano’s system.
Traditionally, a white uniform is worn in Taekwondo. They are normally plain with a v-neck top and elasticated bottoms.
The symbolism of the matching uniform indicates that everyone is equal, it makes no difference who you are or where you come from.
In addition, the starkness of the plain white makes it easy to distinguish the different varieties of belt color the practitioner has achieved.
They are traditionally called a ‘dobok’, or a ‘gi’.
What Are The Belt Colors In Taekwondo?
In Taekwondo, belts are separated into two different categories. These are ‘junior’, or ‘kup’, and ‘senior’, or ‘dan’.
There are usually ten levels in the junior system, all of which are represented by a different color belt.
These colors can vary from different institutes, but generally, each belt color is signified as follows:
- White Belt – 10th KUP
- Yellow Belt – 9th KUP
- Orange Belt – 8th KUP
- Green Belt – 7th KUP
- Blue Belt – 6th KUP
- Brown Belt – 5th KUP
- Senior Brown Belt – 4th KUP
- Red Belt – 3rd KUP
- Senior Red Belt – 2nd KUP
- Poom Belt – 1st KUP
Black Belt Levels
In Taekwondo, black belts are grouped into several different degrees, or ‘dan’, as they are named traditionally.
Unlike other forms of martial arts, Taekwondo has nine different degrees of black belt to aspire to.
Black belt status can be awarded from the age of 15 onwards. Below you will find a description of each of the different black belt ranks in Taekwondo.
1st Degree Black Belt
After you reach black belt status, you will usually be entrusted with teaching students who still rank as juniors.
Normally, you will begin by teaching lower grade colors to acquire some teaching experience.
2nd Degree Black Belt
The second-degree black belt holder shares similarities with the 1st, however, at this stage you will be qualified to teach higher ranking colors.
You will be known formally as a ‘Kyo San Nim’.
3rd Degree Black Belt
This is the stage at which many become instructors, being able to train those with colored belts into black belts.
To qualify to become an instructor, you have to be 21 years of age or over. 3rd-degree holders are known as ‘Sam Dan’.
4th Degree Black Belt
At this stage, you will be considered a master of your art. Holders are known as ‘Sa Bum Nim’, and can even open their own Taekwondo school.
5th Degree Black Belt
Students at this stage share many similarities with the grade above, and traditionally continue to teach lower-ranking black belts how to advance further.
6th Degree Black Belt
At this point, you will be considered a senior master. You will continue to teach and advance yourself.
You will primarily be in charge of teaching other instructors.
7th Degree Black Belt
You will continue to be taught by a grandmaster, as you are for the 6th degree, but will be unable to progress to this level until you are 36 years of age.
8th Degree Black Belt
In case you were wondering, this is the stage at which you are considered a grandmaster of Taekwondo.
An interesting aspect of this rank is that you have to undergo physical examinations by a doctor, to ensure that your health is impeccable.
Reaching this rank is a lifetime achievement, as you need to be in your 50s to qualify.
9th Degree Black Belt
This is the most difficult rank to reach. Those who reach a 9th-degree black belt have often served on boards or worked as referees for matches.
To reach this rank, you must practice an ongoing, lifelong devotion to your art.
10th Degree Black Belt
Earning a 10th-degree black belt is comparable to an honorary title, to signify one’s dedication to their training.
It is speculated that there are only 20 to 30 holders of a 10th-degree black belt in the world.
In some schools, they may only award the title after the student has died.
There is also only one female holder of this belt ranking, Keiko Fukuda, who was presented with her belt as a mark of dedication at the age of 98.
Achieving a black belt in Taekwondo, one of the most respected forms of martial arts, is a colossal achievement.
It represents consistent hard work and dedication to your sport.
The best thing about choosing to practice this martial art is that there is a lifelong opportunity for progression.
Once you reach black belt status, you will not only be able to impart your knowledge on students below you, but will also be able to continue to improve yourself.