In a lot of martial arts, there are often ranking systems and different names for students and masters.
As a result, those who are interested in taking up these martial arts should learn all the appropriate names for their fellow students and instructors.
But what are they? Here we are going to go through all the potential names for taekwondo students and teachers.
This way, you can address the right people by the right names and avoid any embarrassing mistakes during your classes.
So, let’s get started!
What Are Taekwondo Students Called?
In taekwondo all students are referred to by the name ‘hak saeng’ or ‘jeja’.
The reason behind these two different names for students is due to the fact that there are different systems in taekwondo.
There are a range of things that differ between them, but some systems refer to their students as ‘hak saeng’ while others will refer to their students as ‘jeja’.
This means that which term is used to refer to you and your fellow students all depends on your dojo and instructor, and which system of taekwondo they teach and follow.
However, not all students will be called either of these two terms.
There is a third name kept for senior students who are higher up in the order of the belt system than you – ‘sonbaenim’ or just ‘sonbae’.
This name is kept specifically for senior taekwondo students who have put a lot of time and effort into their art and have climbed up the ranks.
However, they are not quite at the master level yet – but they’re not far off.
So, as a sign of respect, you are expected to call students who are a higher belt than you ‘sonbae’ and not ‘jeja’.
On the other hand, you will refer to other students who are below you in the belt order ‘jeja’ while they will call you ‘sonbae’.
How To Pronounce The Names For Taekwondo Students
So, beginners students are either called hak saeng or jeja in taekwondo while more advanced students are called sonbaenim or sonbae.
These names all refer to taekwondo students, and are each pronounced as follows:
Jeja is pronounced as ‘jey-jah’, and sometimes is mispronounced as ‘jeejay’ or ‘jee-jah’.
The reason behind jeja’s pronunciation is because it is an actual word used often in Korean, so don’t try to pronounce using English rules of pronunciation.
The same goes for the other names used for students in Taekwondo.
Sonbae is pronounced ‘sonn-bay’ and not as ‘sun-bay’ (a pronunciation that is the result of misspelling sonbae as ‘sunbae’) or ‘sonn-bai’.
To pronounce sonbaenim, just add ‘nim’ at the end. Hak saeng sounds like ‘huk zing’.
So, if you hear these names during your classes, it could mean that an instructor is calling you.
Most instructors will know their student’s names but as part of the discipline of the art, they may refer to all their students either by jeja – including you!
However, when talking to other students, it’s important that you are aware of the order of the belts so you can appropriately address students who are above you and below you in the order.
So, let’s take a look at the belt system so you know how to appropriately address your fellow students!
The Taekwondo Belt System
Like most martial arts, taekwondo also follows a belt system to rank their students in order of experience and skill.
However, there is no certain name for every single rank other than the color of the belt.
This means that a lot of students who are referred to as ‘jeja’ or ‘hak saeng’ could be spread over a lot of different belts, meaning that not all jejas are the same in skill or experience.
However, there is no unique name for each level – each level is only represented by the color of their belt.
So, beginners will start out with a white belt when they start their training but still be referred to as ‘jeja’ just like those who are on the next level up – yellow belts.
The colors then change with each new level with the blues above the yellows, then red, then the red and black belt, then a special belt known as Cho Dan Bo, then black and white, then finally the black belt.
Each belt will also have a stripe to indicate the grade of each student so there is ranking within each belt.
For example, two students could be both blue belts but one will be blue I while the other is blue III.
There are three grades per belt so once a student is ready to progress from their grade three, they move up into the next belt color.
For these belts, there are no particular names given to the students.
Black belts, however, are considered masters and thus they are given the new name ‘Dan’.
Dans are the masters of taekwondo and there is a ranking system that separates first dans (beginners in black belt taekwondo) from the more advanced dans, but they all refer to each other as ‘dan’ rather than ‘jeja’ or ‘sonbae’.
So, keep in mind what belt you are and where you rank in the order.
This way, you know how to properly address those who are a higher belt than you and those who are lower down.
What Are Taekwondo Instructors Called?
So, that’s all the names for taekwondo students – but what about the instructors? Are they ‘dans’ too?
Taekwondo instructors actually have their own name to refer to their master status while still placing them above their dans students in the hierarchy.
So, your taekwondo instructor will be named ‘sabomnim’ or just ‘sabom’.
This correct name is pronounced as ‘sah-bom’ and not ‘say-bom’ – an embarrassing mistake a lot of newbies can make during their first few classes!
So, there are a few different names for taekwondo students and which one you will be called depends on a range of factors, including the system of taekwondo your classes follow and who is addressing you.
Be aware of all these names so you can address others appropriately and understand when someone is addressing you.