What is the Order of Belts in Taekwondo?

- August 29, 2022
taekwondo belts order

Each taekwondo belt represents skill, experience, and status level. While it may seem confusing at first glance, the taekwondo belt order system is pretty straightforward. Here is a brief explanation.

The ranking system varies between the two main styles of Taekwondo, namely ITF, and WT.

In WT, there are 11 ranks, and the color belt order goes: white, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue, and black. 

The ITF ranking system has 10 ranks and six solid color belts: white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black.

History of Taekwondo belt ranking system

The initial form of Taekwondo emerged in the 1940s and 1950s in South Korea. However, the origins of the belt ranking system used in Taekwondo date back to the 20th century. 

In 1893, the father of Judo, Kano Jigoro, introduced the color belt ranking system, using color belt ranks to separate students by level of skill, age, and experience.

Jigoro’s system was so revolutionary that many latter-day martial arts (such as Karate) adopted his system with variations but similar core concepts.

What is the Order of Belts in Taekwondo?

The belt order in Taekwondo varies between the styles and countries. But in most, the ranking is split between “junior” (color belt) ranks and “senior” (black belt) ranks:

  • Junior ranks – also called “geup” and are given to students below the black belt rank. The belts range from 6 (ITF) to 7 (WT) and go from white to black. Each color belt represents a numerical rank that goes in descending order. For example, a white beginner belt is the 10th degree, purple is the 9th degree, and a black belt is the 1st degree. Depending on the style, there is at least one stripe per belt.
  • Senior ranks – are reserved for students who have reached the black belt rank. Senior ranks consist of nine or ten black belt ranks called “Dan.” Like in junior ranks, each senior black belt represents a numerical rank that goes in ascending order. The lowest rank is the 1st Dan, while the highest is the 9th or 10th.

For the purpose of this article, we will explain the belt order in the three most practiced styles of Taekwondo:

  • ITF
  • WT
  • ATA

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Belt Order

ITF style is also known as the “traditional” style of Taekwondo developed by General Choi Hong Hi in the 1960s. However, in contrast with other styles, ITF is oriented more towards real-life combat, teaching you solid self-defense tactics, and it also includes competition.

Here is a detailed explanation of ITF junior and senior ranks:

Belt ColorRankLevel
White10th GeupBeginner
White with yellow stripe9th GeupBeginner
Yellow8th GeupBeginner
Yellow with green stripe7th GeupBeginner
Green6th GeupIntermediate
Green with a blue stripe5th GeupIntermediate
Blue4th GeupIntermediate/Advanced
Blue with a red stripe3rd GeupAdvanced
Red2nd GeupAdvanced
Red with a black stripe1st GeupAdvanced
Black belt1st Dan 
ITF junior taekwondo belt levels

Color BeltRankLevel
Black belt1st Dan/
Black with two stripes2nd DanAssistant Instructor
Black with three stripes3rd DanAssistant Instructor
Black with four stripes4th DanInternational instructor
Black with five stripes5th DanInstructor
Black with six stripes6th DanInstructor
Black with seven stripes7th DanMaster Instructor
Black with eight stripes8th DanMaster Instructor
Black with nine stripes9th DanGrand Master
ITF senior taekwondo belt levels

World Taekwondo (WT) Belt Order

World Taekwondo is a style established in 1973 by the Korean Ministry of Culture, and it is also known as the sports version of Taekwondo.

This style is recognized by the Olympic Committee, so WT rules apply in Olympic Taekwondo. 

Here is the WT junior and senior belt order:

Color BeltRank
White12th Geup
Yellow11th Geup
Orange10th Geup
Green9th Geup
Purple8th Geup
Blue7th Geup
Blue-Black (Sr.)6th Geup
Brown5th Geup
Brown-black (Sr)4th Geup
Red3rd Geup
Red-Black (Jr.)2nd Geup
Black1st Geup
WT junior and senior taekwondo belt order

American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Belt Order

Though not as popular around the world as WT and ITF, ATA is the main governing body of Taekwondo in the US.

It consists of nine solid color belt ranks in the following order: 

Color beltRank
White belt9th Grade
Orange belt8th Grade
Yellow belt7th Grade
Camouflage belt6th Grade
Green belt5th Grade
Purple belt4th Grade
Blue belt3rd Grade
Brown belt2nd Grade
Red belt1st Grade

Taekwondo Belt Meanings

White Belt

Signifies innocence and purity and is worn by beginners with no previous knowledge of Taekwondo.

Yellow Belt

Signifies the sunrise as beginners are slowly becoming more familiar with the basic techniques and principles. 

Orange Belt

Signifies the warm rays of the sun. The student is gaining new knowledge, drilling, and mastering the fundamentals each day to develop a strong base on which they can later add advanced moves.

Green Belt

Signifies springs and the growth of the plants as students begin to develop intermediate skills and grow at a high rate. 

Purple Belt

Signifies a darkening sky. Students must stay focused and hungry for more knowledge. At this stage, they might face some obstacles on their journey as techniques become more complex. 

Blue Belt

Signifies the blue sky towards which the plant is growing. It represents students’ ambition and commitment to mastering the art of Taekwondo. 

Red Belt

Signifies danger. Despite having solid skills, students lack control. Thus, students dedicate most of their training time at this stage to learning how to execute techniques with control. 

Brown Belt

Signifies the earth and foundation. Students are slowly starting to specialize in certain areas and hone unique styles.

Black Belt

Signifies maturity and proficiency, but not the journey’s end. “Real” learning begins here.

How Long Does It Take To Get Each Belt in Taekwondo?

On average, a dedicated student who attends classes at least 3 times a week may need between 3.5 and 5 years to reach a black belt rank. Bear in mind that 3.5 years is reserved for the most talented students who are fully committed to mastering the art of Taekwondo.

Here is a closer look at how long it takes to get each belt in Taekwondo, both in junior and senior ranks.

Belt ColorRankLevelMinimum time at this rank
White10th GeupBeginner3 months
White with yellow stripe9th GeupBeginner3 months
Yellow8th GeupBeginner4 months
Yellow with green stripe7th GeupBeginner4 months
Green6th GeupIntermediate4 months
Green with a blue stripe5th GeupIntermediate4 months
Blue4th GeupIntermediate/Advanced4 months
Blue with a red stripe3rd GeupAdvanced5 months
Red2nd GeupAdvanced6 months
Red with a black stripe1st GeupAdvanced6 months
Black belt1st Dan Minimum time to black belt: 3.5 years
Junior Ranks
Color BeltRankLevelMinimum time at this rank
Black belt1st Dan/1.5 years
Black with two stripes2nd DanAssistant Instructor2 years
Black with three stripes3rd DanAssistant Instructor3 years
Black with four stripes4th DanInternational instructor4 years
Black with five stripes5th DanInstructor5 years
Black with six stripes6th DanInstructor6 years
Black with seven stripes7th DanMaster Instructor7 years
Black with eight stripes8th DanMaster Instructor8 years
Black with nine stripes9th DanGrand Master 
Senior Ranks

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Highest Degree Black Belt You Can Earn in Taekwondo?

Taekwondo practitioner’s highest rank is the 9th dan black belt rank, known as the “Grand Master” rank. It is earned by practitioners who have dedicated their lives to practice and philosophy and have contributed to the art. 

There is also a 10th Dan rank in WT, but this one is never given to living practitioners. Instead, it is awarded posthumously. 

How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in Taekwondo?

Students with average talent need between 4 and 5 years of consistent practice to reach a black belt rank or 1st dan rank in all styles of Taekwondo.

Some may do it in 3.5 or even 3 years in some cases. It all depends on your dedication and persistence, the school you train in, promotional criteria, and many other factors. 

Conclusion

The taekwondo belt ranking system and how students progress through the rankings are pretty straightforward.

Unlike in other martial arts, there are only three main styles of Taekwondo, so the belt promotion and requirements are pretty much standardized globally.

Lastly, remember that belt ranks are just a tool to separate students by skill level, age, and experience, which means you will get each as you grow as a taekwondo athlete. 

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