March 1, 2024

US National Taekwondo Association

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The Different Belts in Taekwondo by Chong KwanJangNim Gregory Glover

The Different Belts in Taekwondo by Chong KwanJangNim
Gregory Glover

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 can 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

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. 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 involves more
than performing for a test.

Yours in Taekwondo,
KwanJangNim Gregory V. Glover
Vice President: USNTA
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