How Many Taekwondo Belts Are There? Belt Ranking Explained


how many taekwondo belts lg

Like several other martial arts forms, Taekwondo uses a belt ranking system to track Taekwondo students’ progress. But how many Taekwondo belts are there?

As a general rule, Taekwondo has eleven colored belts. But there are subtle differences between the primary 3 governing bodies, the ITF, WTF, and ATA. The belts that are the same across all 3 are white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black.

Each colored belt has its unique meaning, and it indicates the skill and expertise of the wearer. And each system has slightly different color belts that the students can get based on their level of mastery.

Taekwondo is one of the best-known Korean martial arts that focuses on kicking and punching techniques. It dates back over 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest martial art forms in the world.

If you are just starting out in Taekwondo or you’re curious about this martial art form, you are in the right place.

In the rest of this article, I will be explaining Taekwondo’s belt ranking system and tell you how much time it may take you to earn a black belt.

What is the order of belts in Taekwondo?

There is a fairly popular notion that there is only one Taekwondo belt system, but there is actually more than that, which I covered briefly above.

The reason for the different belt systems is that there are various Taekwondo governing organizations. So, different schools adopt their belt ranking system based on affiliation with their chosen organization.

One international organization regulating Taekwondo is the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). Taekwondo schools affiliated with ITF use the Korean word for rank, which is “Geup” (or “Gup” or “Kup”), to denote the ranks of students.

The ranking system adopted by the ITF has 10 Geups before getting a black belt and nine dans after getting it. Dan is a Korean word for ‘degree’; it is used to designate higher ranks of black belts.

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Belt Order

  • 10th GeupWhite belt (for beginners)
  • 9th GeupWhite belt with yellow stripe
  • 8th GeupYellow belt
  • 7th GeupYellow belt with green stripe
  • 6th GeupGreen belt
  • 5th GeupGreen belt with blue stripe
  • 4th GeupBlue belt
  • 3rd Geup Blue belt with red stripe
  • 2nd Geup – Red belt
  • 1st GeupRed belt with black stripe
  • Black belt

World Taekwondo Belt Order

World Taekwondo (Previously called, World Taekwondo Federation) is another Taekwondo governing body. In fact, it has the highest number of schools affiliated with it around the world.

The order of belt ranking system adopted by it is: (from beginner to expert):

  • White Belt (for beginners)
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Blue Senior Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Brown Senior Belt
  • Red Belt
  • Junior Black Belt
  • Black Belt

I must mention, at this point, that if a Taekwondo student achieves a black belt but is under the age of 15, he will be awarded a ‘poom rank.’

A poom rank shows that the student has fulfilled the academic requirements and skills for a black belt but does not have the same performance strength in self-defense as an adult.

ATA Martial Arts Belt Order

ATA Martial Arts (previously, American Taekwondo Association) is another Taekwondo governing organization. Its belt rankings are:

  • White Belt (For a new student)
  • Orange Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Camouflage Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Red Belt
  • Black Belt

How long does it take to get belts in Taekwondo?

Most Taekwondo schools usually test their students every three to four months. Each test checks to see if the student has mastered the required skills and knowledge to progress to the next rank.

In 3-5 years, you can earn a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Some stricter schools require a minimum of four to five years of training before you can be tested to attain a black belt.

Can you skip belts in Taekwondo?

If you are enrolled in a McDojo that gives out belts like candies, you can. But more traditional schools would not permit it. A McDojo is a martial arts school that is established for the sole purpose of making money instead of genuinely teaching martial arts.

The real question is, ‘why would you want to skip belts?’ Skipping a belt means skipping the time needed to learn the skills and knowledge required to earn that belt.

You need to qualify for promotional testing and pass the promotion tests to advance to another rank. Only then can you obtain a new belt.

If you are wondering how often you have to train to be proficient in Taekwondo, I discussed this in a recent article.

In it, I talked about how many hours per week you should devote to training (depending on your purpose for learning the art).

Clicking on the link will take you back to my website to read the article.

What does the 4th degree black belt mean?

A 4th-degree black belt is referred to as either a Master rank or a Junior or Associate Master. The title of a 4th-degree black belt wearer changes to “Sa Bum Nim”, and they can open their own Taekwondo school.

So there isn’t just a black belt. There are several black belt ranks.

They are also qualified to promote color belts under their teaching up to the 1st dan. You, however, need to be at least 25 years old to test for this level.

After getting your first black belt, usually referred to as a first-degree black belt, you will realize there are still higher degrees of black belts (called Dans).

There are ten black belt levels in Taekwondo. They are:

  • 1st-degree black belt. It takes a minimum of 3 years to achieve your first-degree black belt.
  • 2nd-degree black belt. It takes an additional two years to obtain this dan.
  • 3rd-degree black belt. You have to have been a 2nd-degree black belt owner for at least three years to get this belt.
  • 4th-degree black belt. It takes a minimum of 4 years to obtain this dan.
  • 5th-degree black belt. It takes an additional five years to get this belt.
  • 6th-degree black belt. You have to have been a 5th-degree black belt owner for at least six years to get this belt.
  • 7th-degree black belt. It takes a minimum of 7 years to achieve this dan.
  • 8th-degree black belt. It takes an additional eight years to obtain this belt.
  • 9th-degree black belt. It is rare to achieve this dan. It takes a minimum of 9 years of owning an 8th-degree belt to accomplish this dan.
  • 10th-degree black belt. This is the highest obtainable black belt degree, and it takes a minimum of 10 years of owning a 9th-degree black belt to obtain this.

What is the highest Taekwondo belt?

The highest obtainable Taekwondo belt is a 10th-degree black belt. 

It is only awarded to those martial artists who have demonstrated a lifetime of significant achievement in martial arts.

It takes 54-55 years of practicing Taekwondo to move from a white belt to a 10th-degree black belt. Yes, that is indeed a lifetime of Taekwondo. It takes consistent training for life and tremendous dedication to the art.

In another recent article of mine, I answered a popular question that most people ask concerning Taekwondo: Can you learn Taekwondo on your own?

I also shared helpful online resources to learn the fundamentals. Check it out if you prefer to learn the basics on your own and in the comfort of your house.

Martin's Taekwondo Journey to BLACK BELT(3 Years in 20 Minutes)

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, I understand that there is a widespread notion that there is only one Taekwondo belt system, but there is actually more than that.

Different Taekwondo governing organizations have their unique Taekwondo color system. Because of these differences, the colored belt for a rank might differ depending on the belt ranking system of the organization your school is affiliated with.

They, however, all agree that a white belt is for beginners and a black belt is for experts.

In conclusion, there are ten colored belts to be obtained before acquiring a black belt (making it a total of 11 belts).

If you are interested in comparing Taekwondo with Judo, you can check out my recent article. It will help you decide which martial art you should practice between the two.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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