Taekwondo Belt Order: Complete Ranking System Guide

Taekwondo is one of the best-known martial arts. But not all martial arts use a belt system. And those that do, often use a system that is different from everyone else’s. So what is the Taekwondo belt order?

The Taekwondo belt order differs slightly depending on the organization being followed. In the ATA, the order of belts is white, yellow, orange, camouflage, green, purple, blue, green, brown, red, and black. While, in the ITF, it’s white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black.

ATA is the governing body for Taekwondo in the United States.

The letters stand for the name the company officially used to go by; American Taekwondo Association. ITF, on the other hand, stands for International Taekwondo Federation. And they are more worldwide. However, no matter where you are, you might find schools affiliated with either organization.

As you might guess, not every Taekwondo school follows the same system.

Different Taekwondo governing organizations may have a unique Taekwondo belt system. But they all agree on the core tenets and principles of Taekwondo.

But the above is just the tip of the iceberg. Read on to learn more the color belts used in all the various Tae kwon do associations.

What is the order of belts in ATA Taekwondo?

The order of belts in ATA Taekwondo are white, yellow, orange, camouflage, green, purple, blue, brown, red, and finally, black.

Students start with white belts (first rank) and when they’ve met the requirements, move to yellow and then orange, in sequential order, until a black belt is attained, if they meet the requirements.

No belt is skipped. Each belt represents a vital step in the student’s evolution as a martial artist.

What if you’re torn between Taekwondo and Judo?

Which one’s better? You’re in luck because that’s what I explored in a recent article. I got into the biggest differences and similarities between Taekwondo and Judo. Of course, Judo comes from Japan, whereas Taekwondo is one of several Korean martial arts.

I showed whether Taekwondo is actually effective in a real fight. I even offered my take on who would win in a fight between a Judoka vs. a Taekwondoka.

Click the link to find out the winner.

How do you advance in Taekwondo belts?

Advancing through the Taekwondo belt system requires that a student learn and eventually master several techniques and poomsae (forms). There are 9 series, with a total of 18 attainable belt levels.

There are 9 ranks called “grades” in the colored-belt levels and 9 ranks in the black belt level known as “degrees”. Each rank has its prerequisites that a student must master and be tested on before they qualify for higher ranks and a new belt.

Each belt level has a stripe system, with each level having 4 stripes. When a student has received 4 stripes, they have met the requirements to advance to the next belt level.

Each rank will also have a “recommended” or “decided” designation. The former is considered a “half-rank”, while the latter is a full-rank. A Taekwondo student has the option of taking the promotion exam at half or full rank.

The below list shows how one advances:

  • 9th-grade white belt (beginning student)
  • 8th-grade orange belt
  • 7th-grade yellow belt
  • 6th-grade camouflage belt
  • 5th-grade green belt
  • 4th-grade purple belt
  • 3rd-grade blue belt
  • 2nd-grade brown belt
  • 1st-grade red belt (the 1st geup)
  • Black belt level (It has 9 degrees)

The 9th grade is the first step.

This is where all Taekwondo students start their journey. The while belt is symbolic of their “pure” and “unsullied” state — a reflection of their lack of knowledge. A new student would have to memorize 18 moves to advance to the next rank.

There are subtle differences in the belt system depending on the association.

The World Taekwondo Federation is the preeminent international federation that is in charge of the martial art/sport. They are a member of the Summer Olympics International Federations.

How many belts does Taekwondo ITF have?

There are 6 colored belts in ITF Taekwondo. They are white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black. Each colored belt grade is referred to as “geup” in Korean, while the black belt levels are referred to as ranks or “dan.”

And again, this stands for International Taekwon-Do Federation.

There are two levels on each of the colored belts, and 9 levels at the black belt level. The following sheds more light on the ITF system.

The primary difference between the ITF and ATA is that the ATA adds an orange, camouflage, purple, and brown belt which the ITF does not use.

The white belt is where beginning students start. The color white here is symbolic of their inexperience and innocence. 3 months of training is required before the next level. The next level requires 3 months. After which, a white belt with a yellow stripe is attained.

A yellow belt requires 4 months of training, and the next level (a yellow belt with a green stripe) also requires 4 months of training. Yellow signifies the earth from which plants grow and suggests that the root of Taekwondo is being laid.

A green belt requires 4 months of training on each level, after which a blue stripe is added. Green signifies growth — it shows that Taekwondo knowledge has begun to develop.

The blue belts have the same requirements: 4 months on each level. On the second level, a green stripe is added. The first blue belt requires 4 months, while 5 months is required before a red stripe is added to the end of the belt.

The last grade level is indicated by a red belt. 6 months of training is required, and another 6 months before a black stripe is added to the Taekwondo belt.

The first degree black belt (1st dan) level requires at least 18 months of training before one is promoted to the second level (2nd dan).

At the second level, one qualifies to be an assistant instructor. So one can teach others the physical skill and personal development skills required in mastering Taekwondo. One is required to stay at this level for 2 years.

The 3rd dan requires 3 years. The 4th dan requires 4 years of training, at which point, one becomes an international instructor. 5th dan requires 5 years, while 6th dan requires 6 years.

On both levels, one qualifies to be an instructor.

At the 7th dan, one is required to stay at the level for 7 years. 8 years for the 8th dan, and on both levels, one qualifies to be a master instructor.

On the 9th level, one becomes a grandmaster! There are a lot of black belt degrees! Becoming a master at anything takes time. If that’s your goal with Taekwondo, how often should you train?

I explored this in some depth in a recent article I published.

I offered advice on the ideal number of days to train in a week and how long it would take you to progress in it. But I also revealed whether you could learn other martial arts faster.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is there a 10th-degree black belt in Taekwondo?

Yes. There is a 10th-degree black belt in Taekwondo which is rarely awarded to black belt holders. This is because there are actually 9 black belt ranks. Therefore, the 10th-degree black belt is an honorary award, and not a rank that one is promoted to automatically.

There is no evidence that one has demonstrated a higher level of proficiency than other Taekwondo ranks, even if one has learned so much in the requisite years of training and showed greater character development.

And yet, the 10th-degree black belt is the highest honor one can attain in Taekwondo.

But it’s unlike the others we looked at above because it is an honorary title given to someone who has done a lot to influence the growth and development of Taekwondo.

Considering all we’ve been learning about Taekwondo, is it possible to teach oneself?

That’s what I got into in a recent article. In it, I looked at whether it’s easy to learn and if you can teach yourself online. I even offered a step-by-step guide to learning it at home.

Check it out if you’d like to master the fundamentals on your own.

How many degrees of black belt are there in Taekwondo?

Let’s look at the 9 black belt levels and the time required before promotion tests take place. And the criteria for being honored with the final rung in the black belt ranks (a 10th-degree).

  • 1st Dan Black Belt. This is the basic black belt.
  • 2nd Dan Black Belt. The second black belt can be achieved after a year as a practicing 1st Dan Black Belt.
  • 3rd Dan Black Belt. The third black belt can be achieved after 2 years as a practicing 2nd Dan Black Belt.
  • 4th Dan Black Belt. The fourth black belt can be achieved after 3 years as a practicing 3rd Dan Black Belt.
  • 5th Dan Black Belt. The fifth step can be achieved after 4 years as a practicing 4th Dan Black Belt.
  • 6th Dan Black Belt. The sixth step confers master status and can be achieved after 5 years as a practicing 5th Dan Master.
  • 7th Dan Black Belt. The seventh step confers senior master status and can be achieved after 6 years as a practicing 6th Dan Master.
  • 8th Dan Black Belt. The eighth step confers chief master status and can be achieved after 7 years as a practicing 7th Dan Master.
  • 9th Dan Black Belt. The ninth step confers grandmaster status and can be achieved after 8 years as a practicing 8th Dan Grand Master.
  • 10th Dan Black belt. An honorary title conferred on an individual who has contributed immensely to the advancement of Taekwondo.

Does it take longer to get a black belt in ATA Taekwondo than in the ITF?

Yes is the short answer.

On average, a black belt with the American Taekwondo Association takes 3-5 years, whereas with the International Taekwondo Federation, the average is 2 years.

And that’s intentional.

Trust me, as an on-again/off-again lifetime martial artist, there’s no way to truly master a martial art in 2 years. It’s a gimmick largely designed to attract kids with the appeal of being a black belt in just 2 years.

But even if you went every day for 2 years, there’s just no comparison against that BJJ black belt which took 11 years to get.

Mastery comes with both practice and time, and you can’t rush it.

You can be diligent, focused, and put in the extra effort. And that WILL accelerate your growth. But true mastery takes more than 2 years. So if you want bragging rights, go with the ITF. If you actually want to master your craft, go with an ATA school.

ITF Taekwon-do Belt Order & Color Meanings 🥋


In the article, we looked at the order of belts in the ATA (American Taekwondo Association) and how many belts are used as part of its ranking system.

Then, we looked at how one advances in Taekwondo.

We also explored how many belts Taekwondo ITF employs. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering if there’s a 10th-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Image by redsalsa2 from Pixabay

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