The Belts and Their Meanings
The belt ranking system used to chart a martial arts student’s progress varies from school to school. At Choe’s Martial Arts, we encourage students to think of the belt ranks in the same way that they think about grade levels at school. We also teach that whether or not the student is in uniform, he/she wears the belt at all times—around his/her heart. This means that at all times and in all places, students are expected to conduct themselves in a way befitting the level of accomplishment in martial arts training that he/she student has reached. In particular, as the student advances through the ranks, the Tenets of Taekwondo should become more and more evident in all areas of life. Here we provide a brief overview of the belt ranking system used at our school, along with a description of the meaning of each belt color and some of the requirements for belt advancement.
Level 1: Think of Level 1 as martial arts elementary school—at this stage, students focus on learning the basics that will be necessary for all stages of education that follow. Promotion from Level 1 to Level 2 does not require the student to have flawless technique—but they must demonstrate a willingness to show discipline and show lots of spirit. Within this level, the Belt Ranks and Colors are:
White (10th Gup):
All students coming to Choe’s Martial Arts without any prior martial
arts training start as white belts. The color white represents purity
or blankness—the student with no previous knowledge of Taekwondo starts
essentially as a blank slate to which training will give color. White
belts are introduced to basic double-hand and kicking techniques, and
learn Basic Taekwondo Form 1. Board break is Hammer Fist Break.
High White (White/Yellow, 9th Gup):
This is a half-way stage between white belt and moving up to full yellow belt. The belt is still white but with a strip of yellow, showing that the student is still a beginner but no longer a blank slate. Training has begun, so the belt takes on some color. Students continue to work on basic hand and kicking techniques and learn Basic Form II. Board Break is Side Snap Kick Break.
Yellow (8th Gup):
Yellow symbolizes both the earth from which plants sprout and the sunrise. The student is like the earth in which the seed of Taekwondo has been planted and is beginning to sprout. The student has begun to learn the martial arts, but just as the sunrise is just the start of the journey, there is still a long journey ahead before the student reaches black belt. Taekwondo form (poomse) for this Belt rank is Tae Guk Il Jahng; Board Break is Palm Strike Break.
Orange (7th Gup):
Orange is also a color of the sun, but the deeper color signifies the student’s continued progress on the journey towards becoming a black belt. The sun’s color also reminds us of the energy that the student will need to put into training. Taekwondo form is Tae Guk Ee Jahng; Board Break is Front Snap Kick Break.
Level 2: The student has now entered the martial arts equivalent of middle school. Having been introduced to the basics, the student now focuses on practicing and refining techniques. New techniques are taught which build on the basics of Level 1. Within this level, the Belt Ranks are:
Green (6th Gup):
Green is the color of growth. The green belt symbolizes the seed of Taekwondo beginning to sprout in the fertile soil of the student who has completed Level 1. Taekwondo form is Tae Guk Sam Jahng; Board Break is Crescent Kick Break.
Purple (5th Gup):
Purple, being a deeper color, shows that the student is making progress and growing deeper in his/her understanding of the martial arts. Purple is also the color associated with mountains. As the student nears the halfway point towards the black belt, he/she can expect the path to become steeper and to face more challenges ahead. Taekwondo Form is Tae Guk Sa Jahng; Board Break is Back Side Kick Break.
Blue (4th Gup):
Blue symbolizes the sky. Blue belts are halfway through the journey towards reaching the black belt rank. They are far from the beginning of the journey, but the end is not yet in sight. By the time they reach blue belt, many students feel like they’ve had enough. This is a good opportunity for students to see just how well they have incorporated the tenets of Taekwondo into training and life. The color blue reminds them to keep the goal in sight, reach for the sky, and keep persevering on the journey. Taekwondo Form is Tae Guk Oh Jahng; Board Break is Flying Side Kick Break.
Level 3: The student has reached martial arts high school. Students have moved from the beginning and intermediate stages to now be able to consider themselves advanced students. Level 3 students focus on mastering the basic techniques they have learned. Within this level, the Belt Ranks are:
Brown (3rd Gup):
The color brown symbolizes ripening, or maturity. The brown belt student is maturing in his/her technique. Taekwondo Form is Tae Guk Yuk Jahng; Board Break is Knife Hand Strike Break.
Red (2nd Gup):
is the color of blood. One meaning of this symbol is a warning that
the red belt has learned Taekwondo skills which, if misused, can cause
harm to others—thus the belt serves as a reminder of the importance of
self-control, respect, and integrity. Red also symbolizes the blood
and sweat that the student has had to put into training to get this
far. Taekwondo Form is Tae Guk Chil Jahng; Board Break is Double Board
Back Side Kick (Power) Break.
High Red (1st Gup):
Just as the high white belt represents the beginning student who is halfway between white and the first color belt, the high red belt represents the advanced student who is halfway between being a colored belt and becoming a full black belt. Taekwondo Form is Tae Guk Pal Jahng; Board Break is Back Spinning Wheel Kick (Speed) Break.
All the colors of the preceding ranks have now been combined
into one—black. The lessons taught at every stage of the Taekwondo
journey have been thoroughly learned and integrated into the black
belt’s training and person. Of every 100 students who begin martial
arts training, only about 10 will persevere long enough to become black
Getting one's black belt is a lot like graduating from high school. Many people celebrate the high school diploma as the sign that they've "arrived" and are satisfied to stop there without pursuing further education But the high school diploma by itself can only get you so far in life. For many careers, further education is a must, and the high school graduate who looks so wise and knowledgeable compared to younger students is just an inexperienced freshman when he/she enters college. IN the same way, getting a black belt doesn't make you a full-fledged martial artist; it simply shows that you've mastered the basics of that particular art and are now ready to begin the "real" training. Receiving the black belt is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of the next stage toward becoming a true martial artist.
Students at Choe's Martial Arts first receive a Deputy Black Belt and begin advanced martial arts training- including weapons training and techniques from other martial arts disciplines. However, they must pass another test before they are given the full rank of 1st Dan. Black belts up through 3rd Dan will be seen helping to teach the color belt students, but they are still students themselves. The teaching is part of their own training process at these Dan ranks. It is not until they reach the 4th Dan that Black Belts become martial arts masters, entrusted to faithfully and correctly pass on the martial arts tradition on their own. Progress through each of the Dan ranks requires rigorous testing. In order to go beyond the 3rd Dan, students should expect to test before masters/ grandmasters of several schools to demonstrate their depth of mastery of the art. Of the 10 students that make it to black belt, you can expect that only one will make it through the training and testing process to truly deserve the title of master.