Taekwondo Belt Colors: The Ultimate Guide

taekwondo belt colors

In various martial arts like Taekwondo, the familiar colored belts correlate with rank. The various colors represent a student’s competence in the sport and, perhaps even more significantly, the progression through the ranks reflect the inner journey taken by the student earning the sash. In Songahm Taekwondo the belt system has deep symbolism. Each belt color is a metaphor and represents an accomplishment by the student that is worthy of respect.

The information in this article is for the discipline or school of Songahm Taekwondo. This type of martial arts is taught and sanctioned by the ATA or American Taekwondo Association. There are many other disciplines and schools of Taekwondo. Therefore, belt color distinctions, meanings, and testing requirements may vary slightly.

How Are Taekwondo Belt Ranks Achieved?

Belts are not awarded to students for having practiced a certain number of hours, participated in contests, or spent an amount of time at a previous level. To advance in rank, a student must prove they have mastered the techniques including basic moves, sparring, and forms, within their current designation.

Explaining Taekwondo Belt Colors and Testing Requirements

Each belts color carries a rich symbolic meaning that is meant to mirror the student’s journey. For each belt color, there are specific criteria needed to advance.

The White Belt

white belt

White signifies a clean slate and purity. In the beginning of the journey, the student’s mind is open and ready to filled with the valuable lessons martial arts is known to teach: patience, virtue, strategy, mental and physical toughness, and restraint. Additional visual imagery of the white belt is a pine tree seed. The seed must be planted and nourished to develop its strong roots.

How to get to White Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: high, low, and inner forearm
  • Punches: front and reverse
  • Strikes: knifehand
  • Stances: ready, front, middle
  • Kicks: front, side
  • Basics: Songahm spirit
  • Form: Songahm 1, 18 different moves, positive attitude
  • One-step sparring: techniques 1 – 4,
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get White Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is two months.

The Orange Belt

orange belt

The color signifies that the sun is beginning to rise. The beauty of the sun at dawn is recognizable, but its immense power is not yet known. This is metaphorical of a student who is just starting to experience the art and beauty of Taekwondo. However, they have yet to learn the power behind the techniques before getting the orange belt.

How to get to Orange Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: outer forearm block, double outer forearm, twin low block
  • Strikes: backfist strike
  • Stances: back stance
  • Kicks: round kicks 1- 4
  • Form: Songahm 2, 23 different moves, martial arts attitude
  • One-step sparring: sparring techniques 1-3,
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Orange Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is two months.

The Yellow Belt

yellow belt

This color represents the fullness of the sun. The pine tree/student is beginning to see the sunlight and understand the basics of Taekwondo’s techniques and skill.

How to get to Yellow Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: double knifehand block, knifehand high block, knifehand low block
  • Strikes: vertical spear hand
  • Kicks: crescent kicks 1 – 4, jump front kick
  • Form: Songahm 3, 28 various moves, martial arts attitude
  • One-step sparring: sparring techniques 1-3,
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Yellow Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is two months.

The Camo Belt

camo belt

The camo belt designation is relatively new, and not all schools of Taekwondo recognize this level. In Songahm AKA classes, the visual imagery is explained: the student/sapling is still hidden among the taller pine trees. It is time for the student to use their emerging skills to “fight” their way higher through the ranks.

How to get to Camo Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: Twin inner forearm block
  • Kicks: Reverse sidekick, step reverse side kick, spin sidekick, step spin side kick
  • Stances: Sparring stance
  • Form: Songahm 4, 31 various moves, martial arts attitude
  • One-Step sparring: Free sparring with kicking technique, sparring techniques 1 – 3

How long to get Camo Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is two months.

The Green Belt

green belt

The color metaphor represents a pine tree beginning to grow needles. The student is continuing growth and develops skills and strengths in the sport. Components of the core techniques learned are starting to work together in unison.

How to get to Green Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: twin outer forearm block
  • Strikes: ridgehand strike, reverse horizontal spearhead
  • Kicks: reverse crescent kick, step reverse crescent kick, spin crescent kick, step spin crescent kicks 1-4,  jump side kicks
  • Form: Songahm 5, 34 various moves, martial arts attitude
  • One-step sparring: free sparring includes kicking technique, sparring techniques 1 – 3,
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Green Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is three months.

The Purple Belt

purple belt

Purple signifies the mountain the student will need to climb to reach the next level. The student is developing and moving upward. However, the path is becoming steeper. Techniques, forms, and sparring require more skill. Purple is the mid-way point to Black belt.

How to get to Purple Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: square block, front high/low block, knifehand block
  • Strikes: reverse horizontal elbow strike, back elbow strike
  • Punches: vertical punch
  • Kicks: hook kicks, reverse hook kick, step reverse hook kick, spin hook kick, step spin hook kick, 1 – 4 jump crescent kicks, 1 – 4 jump round kicks
  • Form: In Wha 1, 44 various moves, martial arts attitude
  • One-step sparring: Free sparring with kicking technique, sparring segments 1 – 3,
  • Breaks: one station, one board
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Purple Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is six months.

The Blue Belt

blue belt

The explanation given by the ATA for this rank is: The pine tree has grown from the basics now and can reach for the sky. Now that the student has passed the halfway point to Black Belt level, they are encouraged to reach higher.

How to get to Blue Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Blocks: low X-block, ridgehand block, horizontal palm heel, knifehand square block, side high/low block
  • Punches: twin upset punch
  • Strikes: reverse upward elbow, upset knifehand, head grab, knee strike
  • Kicks: jump reverse crescent kick, step jump reverse crescent kick, jump spin crescent kick, step jump spin crescent kick, reverse round kick, step forward reverse round kick
  • Form: In Wha 2, 42 moves, martial art attitude
  • One-step sparring: free sparring with kicking technique included sparring segments 1 – 3,
  • Break: one station, one board
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Blue Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is six to eight months.

The Brown Belt

brown belt

Brown represents the earth. The pine tree is firmly rooted in the fundamentals of Taekwondo which helps it in its continued growth. Excellence is demanded of the student, personally and in the sporting arena.

More advanced forms are being learned, and the art of Taekwondo is put into practice as the student adeptly chooses precise and effective combinations of movements and maneuvers while sparring or competing.

How to get to Brown Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Stances: rear stance
  • Blocks: palm upset block, double knifehand low block, side high/low knifehand block, high x-block
  • Strike: low double ridgehand strike, palm heel strike #1 – 4
  • Kicks: heel kicks, reverse heel kick, step forward reverse heel kick, spin heel kick, step forward spin heel kick
  • Form: Choong Jung 1, 44 moves
  • One step sparring: free sparring with kicking techniques
  • Break: two stations, one board
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Brown Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is eight to twelve months.

The Red Belt

red belt

The sun is beginning to set. The red sky indicates that the time has come for the student to move into the next phase of Taekwondo. The student focuses on mastery that requires both physical and mental strength. Restraint and strategy are becoming an integral part of this student’s choices in the sport and at home.

How to get to Red Belt

  • The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:
  • Blocks: Double inner forearm block, knifehand high x-block, horizontal back elbow
  • Strikes: Long upset ridgehand strike, reverse upset, palm heel strike
  • Kicks: #3 jump round kick, reverse hook kick, #1 – 4 jump hook kicks, jump reverse hook kick, step forward jump reverse hook kick, jump spin hook kick, step forward jump spin hook kick
  • Form: Choong Jung 2, 46 various moves
  • One-step sparring: free sparring with kicking techniques
  • Break: two stations, one board
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Red Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is 12 months.

Red-Black Belt

red black belt

According to the AKA, these colors represent the sun rising, signifying the birth of a new day. From here the student’s focus is to be on achieving the ultimate pinnacle of the Black Belt. They are fully expected to be able to perform any skill requested of the examiners during testing.

How to get to Red-Black Belt

The panel may ask the student to demonstrate proficiency in all or a combination of the following:

  • Form: Choong Jung 2, 46 various moves, any lower forms
  • One-step Sparring: free sparring – using personal kicking technique
  • Kicks: 1- 4 Axe kicks, jump reverse heel kick, step forward jump reverse heel kick, jump spin heel kick, step forward jump spin heel kick
  • Board breaking: board break once at both stations
  • Self-defense techniques are optional.

How long to get Red-Black Belt?

The approximate time it takes to advance in rank is 12 months.

The Black Belt

black belt

The color is the combination of all the colors in the rainbow spectrum. Together these colors culminate in the absence of color which is seen as black. The pine tree is fully grown and is expected to plant seeds for future growth.

The Black Belt student will now mentor and teach other students. As well, they are expected to continue learning and achieving new levels and skills. The testing for Black Belt always changes to add new techniques and disciplines. Each school has their own very stringent requirements to test for this level.

How to get to Black Belt

A testing panel can ask anything of a Black Belt, and they are expected to be able to show proficiency in both old and new techniques, forms, and combinations. A few of the most common requirements are listed here. However, these are only examples.

A demonstration of proficiency of the following kicks using both the left and right leg:

  • Flying kicks – side pushing, side thrusting, 360-degree reverse hook, twin foot high, twin foot turning, twin foot side turn
  • Mid-air kicks: 180-degree reverse crescent
  • Consecutive kicks: Various combinations of different kicks, targets, or direction

A demonstration of physical mastery of the following combination stances and techniques:

  • Walking stance with high front strike position or upward block with knifehand, reverse hand, twin palm
  • Sitting stance with middle front block with outer forearm, side strike – back fist outward
  • L-stance with checking block and x-knifehand
  • Various other moves that the student will be asked to perform are:
  • Punching – forefist
  • Inward strike – reverse knifehand
  • Side strike -back fist
  • Two-handed lapel grab
  • Piercing back kick
  • Two-handed choke with the hands – behind

Are There Ranks Beyond the Black Belt in Taekwondo?

Yes, most disciplines recognize degrees of Black Belt Masters. Each degree has various criteria (not listed) time limits in the sport.

  • 1st degree Black Belt or IL Dan completes in two years
  • 2nd degree Black Belt or Ee Dan completes in two years
  • 3rd degree Black Belt or Sam Dan completes in two years
  • 4th degree or Sa Dan  completes in four years
  • 5th degree or Oh Dan  completes in six years
  • 6th degree or Yook Dan completes in six years
  • 7th degree or Chil Dan completes in eight years
  • 8th degree or Pal Dan – NA
  • 9th degree or Koo Dan – NA

In conclusion, in Songahm Taekwondo the beginner student should not focus on becoming a skilled martial artist quickly. The emphasis should be on building a strong foundation while understanding and learning from the journey. Attempting to advance to the next rank before the student is ready is like building a house on unprepared soil.