West Midlands Schools
of Tae Kwon-Do

Belt Order & Meanings

Belt Rank Grade Meaning
White Belt 10th – 9th Kup Signifies innocence, as that of a beginner who has no previous knowledge of Tae Kwon-Do.
Yellow Belt 8th – 7th Kup Signifies earth, from which a plant sprouts and takes root as Tae Kwon-Do foundations are being laid.
Green Belt 6th – 5th Kup Signifies the plants growth as Tae Kwon-Do skills begin to develop.
Blue Belt 4th – 3rd Kup Signifies the heavens towards which the plants matures into a towering tree as training in Tae Kwon-Do progresses.
Red Belt 2nd – 1st Kup Signifies danger, cautioning the student to exercise control, and warning the opponent to stay away.
Black Belt 1st – 9th Dan Opposite to white, therefore signifying the maturity and proficiency in Tae Kwon-Do. Also indicates the wearer’s imperviousness to darkness and fear.

Within ITF Tae Kwon-Do, the colour belt ranking system consists of six solid colour belts: White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Red and Black. Coloured belt ranks are called ‘Grades’ in English and ‘Geup’ in Korean (however, this usually incorrectly spelled as ‘gup’ or ‘kup’), whereas black belt ranks are called ‘Dan’.

Black Belt Promotion

The reason for nine black belt degrees is that the number nine is not only the highest of the single-digit numbers, but also is the number of three multiplied by three. In the Orient, three is one of the more esteemed numbers. The Chinese character for 3 is three horizontal lines, one above the other. The bottom line represents earth; the middle line represents mortals; the upper line represents heaven. It was believed that a man who could unite the three realms in himself, would aspire or be reborn into a king; this is shown by the vertical line connecting the realms in the character for king.

Up to 8th dan, all ranks require the student to perform a test of all skills and knowledge up to their rank to be promoted. 9th dan may be awarded with consent of the promotion committee with no physical test required; due to the nature of and responsibilities of a master no longer being centered on the physical development of students. However, if the recipient desires, a demonstration may be performed. 9th degree (being the highest) can only be awarded when the special committee examines and reaches a unanimous consent.

According to an ITF Encyclopedia 4th degree may grade students up to 2nd degree. A 5th or 6th degree International Instructor may grade students up to 3rd degree, while a 7th degree Master may grade students up to 5th degree. An 8th degree Master may grade students up to 6th degree. Promotion to 7th degree or above should be awarded by the ITF’s Master Promotion Committee.

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