Taekwondo Belts: Belt Order and Complete Guide

Thinking about starting Taekwondo and want to know the Taekwondo belt order? There is nothing better than remembering back to when you were a white belt after finally getting your black belt. It can be a long road to travel, but with the information in this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about Taekwondo Belts.

In this ultimate guide to Taekwondo belts, you’ll find everything you need to know regardless of which style you practice.

Where Did Taekwondo Belts Come From?

You might be wondering why martial arts have belts anyway; here’s a brief history of how Taekwondo got its belts.

When I first started training in Taekwondo, my instructor told me the story of a student given a clean uniform and belt on his first day of class. But after the first month, his belt started to get stained yellow from the dirt floor he trained on. Over time the belt got more stained with dirt, sweat, and blood, eventually turning brown and finally black.

It’s a nice story, but it’s just a story. The actual origin of the martial arts belt was a judo master named Jigoro Kano. Kano played the ancient game of Go and saw that players’ levels were distinguished by a sash worn around the waist. Go has a rigid structure of levels starting at 25 kyu to 9 dan; each level represents a one-stone advantage.

Kano borrowed the terminology and the outward display by creating ranks for his new marital art, judo. In 1883 Kano introduced a two-belt system – white and black. He awarded the first Black Belts to Shiro Saigo and Tomita Tsunejiro, and later, he added three more belts.

Since then, colored belt systems have been used in almost every martial art in existence to differentiate students’ levels and create motivation for progress. Eventually, being passed on to Tang So Do and finally Taekwondo.

Taekwondo Ranks

Different Schools have slightly different ways of ranking their students, but every Taekwondo association recognizes gup and dan levels.

The gup levels correspond to the colored belts for students of Taekwondo, while the dan levels represent the master level denoted by black belts.

Kyup level counts down from 9 in WTF, ITF, and ATA styles; 1 gup is the highest level with a red belt and black tag.

Contrastingly, the dan levels go up from one to nine, with one dan being the lowest of the black belt ranks.

To achieve the next rank or grade, you’ll need to successfully complete a grading where you will be tested on the appropriate pattern, “poomsae,” board breaking, techniques, and sparring.

World Taekwondo (Previously World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Belt Order)

The World Taekwondo Federation, headquartered at Kukiwon in Seoul, South Korea, is the body that oversees Taekwondo in the Olympics. Now rebranded as World Taekwondo (possibly due to the new common usage of “wtf” online,) its mission remains the same.

According to the World Taekwondo Website, its mission is:

“Develop and grow Taekwondo throughout the world, from a grassroots level all the way through to an elite level, to provide all with the opportunity to play, watch and enjoy the sport regardless of age, gender, religion, ethnicity or ability.”

The belt order of World Taekwondo (WTF) is as follows:

Grading or LevelBelt ColorRepresentation
10th GupWhite BeltEmptiness
9th GupWhite Belt Yellow Tag
8th GupYellow BeltSeed Planted in the Ground
7th GupYellow Belt Green Tag
6th GupGreen BeltFirst Growth
5th GupGreen Belt Blue Tag
4th GupBlue BeltGrowing Toward the Sky
3rd GupBlue Belt Red Tag
2nd GupRed BeltBlood
1st GupRed Belt Black Tag
1st DanBlack BeltMaster
2nd DanBlack Belt
3rd DanBlack Belt
4th DanBlack Belt
5th DanBlack Belt
6th DanBlack Belt
7th DanBlack Belt
8th DanBlack Belt
9th DanBlack BeltGrand Master
This table shows the World Taekwondo belt order

International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) Belt Order

The International Taekwon-do Federation, now headquartered in Spain, is the older of the two main Taekwondo associations. Sometimes called the North Korean Taekwondo style, It has less emphasis on sport in favor of more martial art and self-defense aspects.

First established in 1966, it keeps the same belt order as its World Taekwondo counterpart, although the forms “poomsae” or patterns “tul” needed for each grade isn’t the same.

Here is the belt order for ITF Taekwondo:

Grading or LevelBelt ColorRepresentation
10th GupWhite BeltEmptiness
9th GupWhite Belt Yellow Tag
8th GupYellow BeltSeed Planted in the Ground
7th GupYellow Belt Green Tag
6th GupGreen BeltFirst Growth
5th GupGreen Belt Blue Tag
4th GupBlue BeltGrowing Toward the Sky
3rd GupBlue Belt Red Tag
2nd GupRed BeltBlood
1st GupRed Belt Black Tag
1st DanBlack BeltMaster
2nd DanBlack Belt
3rd DanBlack Belt
4th DanBlack Belt
5th DanBlack Belt
6th DanBlack Belt
7th DanBlack Belt
8th DanBlack Belt
9th DanBlack BeltGrand Master
This table shows ITF Taekwondo Belts

American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Belt Order

The American Taekwondo Association (now ATA Martial Arts) is one of the largest Taekwondo organizations in the world, with over 300,000 members. Founded in 1969, ATA’s Songahm Taekwondo differs from the other traditional styles greatly.

This difference is reflected in the ATA Taekwondo Belt order.

Grading or LevelBelt ColorRepresentation
Songahm 1White BeltPurity
Songahm 2Orange BeltRising sun
Songahm 3Yellow BeltSeed sees the light
Songahm 4Camouflage BeltSapling is hidden among trees
Songahm5Green BeltSapling growing
Inwha 1Purple BeltGrowing to the mountain
Inwha 2Blue BeltGrowing toward the sky
Choong Jung 1Brown BeltFirmly rooted
Choong Jung 2Red BeltSetting sun
1st Degree (Recommended)Red & Black BeltNew day
2nd DegreeBlack BeltNew permanence
3rd DegreeBlack BeltPeace of mind
4th DegreeBlack BeltCrest of granite mountain
5th DegreeBlack BeltMaster
6th DegreeBlack BeltLong life
7th DegreeBlack BeltLeadership role
8th DegreeBlack BeltMoving forward to ideals
9th DegreeBlack BeltGrand Master
10th DegreeBlack BeltEternal Grand Master
This table shows ATA Taekwondo Belt Order

Questions About Taekwondo Belts

How to Tie a Taekwondo Belt?

What Are Taekwondo Belts Made of?

Taekwondo Belts, like Karate belts or jiu-jitsu belts, are almost always made entirely of Cotton.

How Long Should My Taekwondo Belt Be?

Use this table to buy the right Taekwondo belt size for you. If you prefer a longer or shorter belt, adjust accordingly.

Waist SizeBelt Length
26″102″
28″106″
30″110″
32″114″
34″118″
36″122″
38″126″
40″130″
Table showing appropriate belt length for waist size

Can Children Earn Taekwondo Black Belts?

While children can reach 1st dan black belt level, they won’t receive their black belt until they are old enough (usually 16 years old.) Instead, they receive a “pooms” grade, which comes with a half-red, half-black belt. This belt is accompanied by a uniform with a matching collar.

Can You Learn Taekwondo at Home

While it is possible to learn a martial art by yourself at home with the use of video or online instructors, you will have much more success learning in a class. In a taekwondo class environment, you will be able to practice techniques and try sparring with the other students.

Also, without attending a taekwondo class, you will have no way of doing gradings or rising through the ranks and getting your colored belts or black belt.

What Should I Use for Adding Tags or Stripes to My Belt?

Before you start adding your own tags to your taekwondo belt, ask your instructor. Schools usually add tags for their students after they have passed their grading and achieved a new rank.

Electrical tape is what most schools use to add tags to belts. You can buy it cheaply online.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Taekwondo Black Belt

Most people who train in martial arts have a lifelong goal of earning a black belt. According to the ITF taekwondo encyclopedia, training for an hour and a half per day, three days per week, will earn you a 1st dan black belt in 30 months, which is two and a half years.

Get Training, and You’ll Achieve Your Next Belt Soon

Remember, belts in taekwondo are only a reflection of the hard work and training you’ve put in. So spend some more time practicing your patterns, kicks, breaking boards, and sparring, and you’ll smash your next grading in no time!

Originally from the U.K, Greg has lived in Asia for over 15 years. Fluent in a handful of languages, he ran a management consultancy before creating Face Dragons. He spends his time now traveling around Asia, writing, taking photos, and drinking coffee.