The world of Taekwondo belts is a fascinating realm where colours hold significance and mark the progression of knowledge and skill. But have you ever wondered about the history behind this unique belt-ranking system? Or perhaps, what do these Taekwondo belt colours represent?
The Beginnings of the Coloured Taekwondo Belts and Ranks
In the early days of martial arts, certificates and diplomas were awarded to acknowledge students’ accomplishments. However, it wasn’t until years later that the concept of Taekwondo belts took shape. And the credit for introducing the idea of coloured belts and the grading system can be attributed to Jigorō Kanō, the brilliant mind behind Judo.
Rumour has it that Kanō was inspired by the strategic Japanese board game ‘Go,’ and devised a grading system that featured various coloured belts, including white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black. On the other hand, some say that the origins of the belt system can be traced back to the practices of Japanese competitive swimmers, who wore black ribbons as a symbol of their advanced skills.
Recognising the need for a standardised way to categorise students’ experience levels, Kanō thus adopted the belt concept. Initially tailored for Judo, this innovative system soon found its way into numerous martial arts around the world.
What is the Order of Belts in Taekwondo?
When it comes to Taekwondo, the order of belts carries great significance, representing the progress and skill level of practitioners.
Taekwondo belts are divided into two main groups: “junior” and “senior.” The junior group consists of coloured belts, while the senior group encompasses various degrees of black belts. The journey begins humbly with the white belt, symbolising a beginner’s entry into the world of Taekwondo. It culminates with the esteemed 10th-degree black belt, an emblem of mastery reserved for grandmasters.
Within the junior group, there are approximately ten levels, although the exact number may vary depending on the style and governing organisation. It’s important to note that each level doesn’t always correspond to a specific colour. Instead, the system incorporates coloured stripes to denote progress within a particular colour.
Transitioning to the senior group, we encounter the realm of “Dan”, or degrees. Black belts are divided into different Dan ranks, with the 1st Dan representing the foundational level of black belt proficiency. As those enrolled in Taekwondo classes climb the ranks, their expertise and mastery deepen. The pinnacle of this progression is the revered 10th Dan, an esteemed rank reserved for grandmasters who have achieved the highest level of mastery and expertise.
What Does the Colour of the Belts Mean in Taekwondo?
The essence of the belt system is to enable students to progress while providing a means for individuals to identify the knowledge level of the opponents, creating a more balanced field in potential combat.
The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) follows a system with ten levels, yet there are only five colour belts. The tip of each belt is marked with the colour of the next belt, signifying the additional level attained between each colour. On the other hand, the World Taekwondo system, which has the most affiliation with Taekwondo schools across the globe, has ten colour belt levels. However, there might be slight variations used in each school. One variation, for example, is the same as the ITF, with the coloured tip being replaced with a coloured belt stripe.
Let’s further unravel the fascinating symbolism behind the differently coloured Taekwondo belt levels based on the Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF) curriculum and understand what each hue signifies.
1. White Belt
The white belt is where every Taekwondo journey begins, symbolising a fresh start and the foundation upon which all future ranks will be built. The colour white, reminiscent of a blank canvas, represents innocence and the eagerness to absorb knowledge. Therefore, at this stage, students embark on an exciting path of learning and growth, embracing the essence of Taekwondo.
Having taken effect in January 2017, the new grading system introduced by the STF features three Foundation Levels — Foundation 1, Foundation 2 and Foundation 3 — for participants aged twelve and below. This foundation-level grading poses as an entry requirement to attain the White 10 — to become an official white belt in Singapore. The Taekwondo instructors will decide on the number of levels each child should take at a time as well as the timeframe for the first foundation test. This process can take anywhere from 3 months to 6 months or more.
Progress to the next rank begins with achieving the white belt adorned with yellow stripes. Typically, it takes approximately two to three months of dedicated training to reach the white belt with yellow stripes.
2. Yellow Belt
Symbolically, the yellow belt represents the budding growth and development of students. During this stage, individuals enrolled in taekwondo classes will have to focus on mastering the basic foundational skills of Taekwondo, enhancing their techniques, and refining their understanding of the art.
To earn the yellow belt, individuals undergo a test that shares similarities with the previous rank. Typically, it takes approximately two to three months of dedicated training before one becomes eligible to undertake the test. And from the yellow belt, practitioners have the opportunity to advance to the yellow belt with a green stripe.
3. Green Belt
The green belt symbolises the rapid development of the student’s skills in Taekwondo. At this stage, practitioners delve deeper into the art, honing their techniques and expanding their knowledge.
To earn the solid green belt, individuals must also undergo a comprehensive test that encompasses various aspects of Taekwondo. Typically, around four months of dedicated training to refine their techniques and enhance their physical conditioning is required before undertaking the test.
From the green belt, students have the opportunity to advance to the green belt with blue stripes. This advancement to the green belt with blue stripes will further represent the continued growth and commitment of those enrolled in the Taekwondo class.
4. Blue Belt
The blue belt represents rapid growth, reflecting the continued ascent of students on their Taekwondo journey. It serves as a reminder that with perseverance, dedication, and a constant pursuit of excellence, they can reach new heights and surpass their previous achievements.
The test to achieve the blue belt builds upon the challenges of the previous ranks. And it typically takes approximately four months of focused training to reach this milestone. Advancing further, the blue belt with red stripes requires finesse and an elevated level of skill. Achieving this milestone will take approximately five additional months of dedicated training.
5. Red Belt
The red belt signifies the stage where students’ skills have become formidable, demanding mental discipline and control. Reflecting the universal colour of danger, it serves as a reminder to both the student and their opponents of their growing proficiency in Taekwondo. At this level, mental preparation becomes crucial as students learn to discern when and how to appropriately apply their skills. This means that they will have to cultivate the ability to exercise restraint and make wise choices in challenging situations.
During their time as red belt practitioners, students are encouraged to spend a minimum of six months at this level, allowing them to deepen their understanding of Taekwondo. Moving forward, the red and black stripe belt awaits those who have proven their skills.
6. Black Belt
The black belt represents the pinnacle of achievement in Taekwondo, embodying years of dedication, hard work, and unwavering commitment. It is the highest rank attainable, symbolising not only technical proficiency but also a profound level of maturity and character development.
After successfully completing the test for the red and black stripe belt, students continue their training for a minimum of nine months to prepare for this significant milestone of attaining the Junior Black Belt. And to reach the coveted black belt, students must undergo an arduous and comprehensive test as well. This process ensures that only those who have truly honed their skills can earn the prestigious black belt.
What is the Highest Belt You Can Get in Taekwondo?
Believe it or not, within the Taekwondo system, the black belt is just the beginning. It serves as a foundation upon which practitioners can ascend through the Dans. The highest ever belt in Taekwondo is the 10th dan, and attaining this Dan rank is an exceedingly rare accomplishment, often bestowed posthumously, highlighting the immense dedication required to reach such levels of mastery. It takes decades of persistent practice, continuous learning, and a profound understanding of the art to ascend through the dan ranks.
Gain Mastery with Our Taekwondo Classes in Singapore
Remember, the journey of a Taekwondo practitioner goes beyond the pursuit of belts; it is a lifelong commitment to self-improvement, discipline, and the mastery of this remarkable martial art.
At our Taekwondo school in Singapore, our experienced Taekwondo instructors are passionate about imparting their knowledge and expertise to students of all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner taking your first steps in learning the basics or an advanced practitioner seeking to refine your techniques, our Taekwondo classes in Novena and Taekwondo classes in West Coast are tailored to meet your specific needs. Enrol in our Taekwondo classes in Singapore today and embark on a life-changing adventure that will empower you both on and off the mat.