History of the belt system

White Belt (beginners): symbolizing purity, innocence, a blank canvas for the Taekwondo Master to fill with knowledge and skill.

Yellow Belt: symbolizing the rising sun which brings life, the start of each day, and the beginning of the journey.

Green Belt: symbolizing growth, stretching out to the sky. It is at the green belt level that many master instructors believe the student should work hardest on fundamentals, setting the foundation for future development.

Blue Belt: symbolizing the sky, reaching toward the heavens but rooted to the ground. The blue belt student is focused on developing power and concentration.

Red Belt: symbolizing blood and fire, a warning to students that their skills, while improving, are still not honed, and therefore are dangerous to themselves and to others.

Black Belt: The combining of all the colors, the black belt symbolizes “rebirth” or “restart.” The black belt is not, as some believe, a pinnacle of achievement; it is a continuation of the journey, starting fresh at 1st degree.

Many WTF schools have half-steps involving stripes or colored tape on them, indicating a promotion half way to the next level.

WTF Tae Kwon Do's Belt System

You start out with the rank of white belt. This marks and symbolizes the beginning of your Tae Kwon Do journey.


The Black Belt Level

Legend has it that there were no colored belts in the first 2,000 years of Taekwondo, the sash or belt that the Hwa rang do and other practitioners of Taekwondo wore just became darker and darker, until the white belt was black from stain and dirt. This is legend, not fact.

The system of colored belts was adopted in the twentieth century by several martial art systems. It was a practical way for instructors to see each student’s level and determine who should participate in certain classes.

A Taekwondo student looks forward to nothing more than the next belt rank. It starts once you have your white belt. I can remember thinking, “If I can just get a little more experience, just one more class, I can get ready for the next testing and get my next belt!”

There is a saying:
“A beginning student will block an attack; an advanced student will counterattack after blocking; a black belt does not need to block.”

This illustrates how Taekwondo develops a person’s abilities and confidence.

Lake Hughes • California

HOW To Tie Your Belt

The second rank would be your yellow tip. That is your white belt with a yellow stripe. This means you're between a white and yellow belt. At tournaments, you could be classified as either as a yellow belt or still a white belt.

The third rank would be your yellow belt. That would be your solid yellow belt. At tournaments, you're definitely classified as a yellow belt.

The fourth rank would be your green tip. That is your yellow belt with a green stripe. You're between a yellow belt and green belt. At tournaments, you can be classified as either a yellow belt, a green belt, or an orange belt.

The fifth rank would be your green belt. That's pretty much your solid green belt. At tournaments, you're classified as a green belt.

The sixth rank would be your blue tip. This is your green belt with a blue tip. You're between a green belt and a blue belt. At tournaments, you can be classified as a green belt or a blue belt.

The seventh rank would be your blue belt. This is a solid colored blue belt. At tournaments, you're classified as a blue belt.

The eighth rank would be your red tip. This is your blue belt with a red tip. At tournaments, you're more than likely to be placed in the blue belt division.

The ninth rank would be your red belt. This is your solid red belt. At tournaments, you're classified as being in the red belt division.

The tenth rank would be your black tip. This is your red belt with a black tip. At tournaments, you're classified as still being a red belt.

The eleventh rank would be your double black tip. This is your red belt with two black tips. At tournaments, you're still classified as a red belt.

The twelfth rank would be your 1st Dan black belt. This is your solid black belt.



Black belts also have nine ranks. A tenth degree black belt is only for very influential Taekwondo masters, and is usually a ceremonial belt only.

WTF System
The WTF system has ten black belt levels (including the ceremonial number ten).

  • A person who holds a first through third degree black belt is considered to be a kyo sah nim (assistant instructor).
  • A person with a fourth through sixth degree black belt is considered to be a sah bum nim (instructor/master).
  • A person with a seventh through 10th degree black belt is considered a kwan jang nim (grand master).

The World Taekwondo Federation is directly involved in the testing of all master instructors.

Tenth Degree Black Belts
In the WTF, only been a few tenth degree black belts have been bestowed by the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters). One was WTF founder Un Yong Kim. The others were bestowed posthumously upon masters Byeong Roh Lee for the foundation of Jido kwan; Chong Soo Hong for the foundation of Moo du kwan; Il Sup Chun from Jido kwan; and Nam Suk Lee from Chang moo kwan. These masters were instrumental in developing the systems of their particular kwans, which later joined together to become Taekwondo 1955.