The Different Belts in Taekwondo by Chong KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim

A student’s Taekwondo belt corresponds to the rank earned by demonstrating a proficiency of required military arts and life skills.


In Taekwondo, as with any martial art, skills and knowledge increase in direct proportion to the length time spent training. All USNTA schools have a ranking system in which students are generally identified as novices, intermediates, advanced, or black belts. The former categories are further divided by a series of colored belts, with common colors being white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and red. Additionally, stripes of any color are sometimes added to indicate intermediary steps between these belts.

Typically, curriculums begin with white belt and have a progression of colored and striped belts before arriving at the first black belt level. Testing is the venue in which students have the opportunity to progress to the next level and usually consists of a demonstration of techniques within the context of individual drills, forms, self-defense, sparring, and breaking. The long term goal for many is to earn the rank of black belt and for some to continue to earn multiple degrees in the black belt rank. This progress from white to black belt is represented in the expectations for each rank color and is directly mapped to the anticipated growth of a student as they learn Taekwondo.

🥇 The ranks of White, Yellow, and Orange Belts 🥇

White indicates newness to Taekwondo, thus students new to the martial art wear a white belt with their uniform. Once they begin their training, however, the imagery of a planted seed is conjured, and it takes root and struggles to grow into a small plant. The colors of these next levels are yellow and then orange color, identifying with the student’s increasing grasp of the techniques they are learning. This represents the student who has developed strong Taekwondo roots, but has unknown potential and the faint light that filters into the earth as seen by the new plant just before it breaks through the surface.

🥇 The ranks of Green, Purple and Blue Belts 🥇

Intermediate colors of green, purple and blue continue to trace the growth of a tree as it reaches towards the sun and sky. These stages parallel the student’s growing confidence as they progress from the unfamiliarity of Taekwondo to building a strong foundation of technique. At this stage, students are also becoming comfortable about applying the techniques within a variety of contexts from self-defense, sparring, and forms practice.

🥇 The ranks of Brown, Red and Black Belts 🥇

Brown, Red, and Black Belts represent a student’s progression to advanced techniques. The color red is often associated with the blood resulting from unintentional injuries caused by the students at this level; however, as they become more aware of their execution and power, they gain increasing control. Then, having mastered the basics, one web source called the Taekwondo-Connection summarizes “the Black Belt represents full maturity and knowledge of Taekwondo. The black color of the belt also represents this student’s ability to overcome fear and triumph over darkness.”

Further Meaning ✍

A final meaning can be found in the tree’s branches which stretch out in different directions but remain part of the tree throughout the constant renewal of the seasons. Similarly, students begin to explore the details of Taekwondo and refining their techniques from their first black belt and continuing the cycle of learning through 2nd, 3rd Dan, or degree, and beyond. Furthermore, the tree illustration underlines the intangible meanings behind each rank level that involve more than performing for a test.


Yours in Taekwondo,

KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim

Chairman of the USNTA Board of Directors

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