September 4, 2022

Taekwondo Belt Ranks (ITF, ATA, WTF)

Taekwondo has been in the Olympics for 20 complete years and is still one of most audience attracting martial art sports in the Olympics. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that has a combination of different martial arts styles.  

They formed Taekwondo in 1973 as, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in Korea. They held the first world championships in Seoul, Korea the same year. It officially became an Olympic medal sport in the 2000 Sydney games. 

In this sport, the fighters can only use their hands and feet to overcome their opponents. There are over 25 million Taekwondo martial arts practitioners across 140 countries. This sport is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. 

Belts As Per 3 Leading Organisations

ITF, WTF, and ATA are three leading Taekwondo organizations in the world. Each of the organizations has a slight difference in belt ranking patterns, but the fundamental belt ranking system is the same. Which starts with a white and ends with a black belt. 

taekwondo belt colors

ITF (International Taekwondo Federation)

General Choi formed ITF in Seoul, South Korea to promote Korean martial arts in 1955. The core function of the organization is to set standards, approve tournaments and provide ranks and certificates. 

The ranking starts from a white belt to a black belt. They have 10 Geup. Geup means rank in Korean. Each color belt represents Geup. And they have 9Dan, for a black belt. Dan means a degree in Korean. 

The IFT belts format is as under:

  • 10geup (White belt) – White signifies beginner and pure. 
  • 9geup (White belt with a Yellow tip) – The students are eligible to get this belt after 3 months. 
  • 8geup (Yellow belt) – The student receives a yellow belt after 4 months. 
  • 7geup (Yellow belt with a Green tip) – This signifies the watering of the plant process. 
  • 6geup (Green belt) – This signifies the growth of the plant with a firm root. 
  • 5geup (Green belt with a Blue tip) – Making the root stronger. 
  • 4geup (Blue belt) – This signifies the tree is maturing. The seed is growing into a tree. 
  • 3geup (Blue belt with a Red tip) – The trainee is advancing to a danger zone. 
  • 2geup (Red belt) – You are in a red zone. Things are getting tougher from now onwards.
  • 1geup (Red belt with a Black tip) –  You are advancing to a dark world. 
  • Black belt – By now the student has learned Taekwondo and can take a fight. A person should be in this rank for one and a half years to advance to the next belt. 

WTF (World Taekwondo Federation)

WTF is another Taekwondo organization that has the most partnership with schools in the world. Most schools follow their belt ranking system. WTF has a simple belt ranking system. 

They focus on the Olympic belt ranking system. The ranking system is:

  • White belt
  • Yellow belt 
  • Orange belt
  • Green belt 
  • Purple belt
  • Blue senior belt
  • Brown belt
  • Brown senior belt 
  • Red belt 
  • Black belt 

It’s not that easy to get new color belts, completing 3 or 6 months does not mean you’ll get the next belt. You’ll have to pass the test and complete each belt training to get the next belt. 

ATA (American Taekwondo Association)

ATA is also one of the largest and popular taekwondo associations in the world. It has over 800 schools and 300000 students in 21 countries. It was founded in 1969 by Richard Reed and Haeng Ung Lee (Grandmaster). 

ATA practice ‘Songham’ style taekwondo. Songham means ‘pine tree and rocks’; which signifies evergreen as pine trees and strong as rocks. 

The ATA belts rank as below. 

  • White belt – White is the color of purity and innocence. The plantation of the seed. The student is entering the world of taekwondo. 
  • Orange belt – This belt signifies the rising sun. The students are learning new things every day. 
  • Yellow belt – The seed needs the sun to grow. The seed is starting to see the sun. The student is starting to learn the basics. 
  • Camouflage (Camo) belt – Its sparring time. It’s time to show the hidden talents that a student has learned in the course of the journey. 
  • Green belt – The student is getting stronger each day.
  • Purple belt – The techniques are getting tougher. It’s like climbing the purple mountain.  The student is advancing to an intermediate level. 
  • Blue belt – The tree is reaching out to the blue sky. 
  • Brown belt – The tree roots deep in the earth. 
  • Red belt – The student is entering the dark zone. The sun is setting and it’s getting darker. 
  • Black belt – At this level, the tree has grown strong. The student has become an expert and he/she doesn’t fear the darkness because he/she has overcome it. 

Each student will have a story by the end of the journey. And each belt also signifies a story. But to advance to the next belt, every student has to work hard and should prove their skill in their current belt.  

How long does it take to get a Black Belt?

Becoming a taekwondo black belt can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years but it depends on your learning skills and the requirements of the school.  Some get the belt in less than 3 years while some take more than 5 years. 

man wearing taekwondo black belt

If you want to become a taekwondo black belt quicker you’ll have to work harder and attain classes every single day. There is a formality you have to go through. You’ll have to pass the test to become a black belt. 

Your instructor knows when you are ready for the test. Though some schools give you the opportunity to take the test on your own will. But there is a chance that you will fail the test. The black belt title is not that easy to get. You have to sweat to earn it. 

Each school has its own requirements for black belts. Some schools follow the traditional systems while some are tournament oriented. If you are in a school that follows a traditional system, it will take at least 3 years to get the black belt regardless of how good your taekwondo skills are. 

But if you are in a school that is tournament oriented. You can become a black belt in less than 2 years. It all depends on your skills and the school in which you are training. 

How many degrees of Black Belts are there in Taekwondo?

There are 9 degrees of black belts in Taekwondo. Each student should have a specific age to get each degree. To get the first-degree black belt the student should be at least 17 in age. Whereas to become a grandmaster, the student should be at least 40 in age. 

But again, it depends on the school and to which Taekwondo association they affiliate with. The degree of Taekwondo black belts are:

  • 1st dan black belt – This level is an expert level. The first stage of a black belt. 
  • 2nd dan black belt – A person can become an assistant instructor but should be in this rank for 2 years. 
  • 3rd dan black belt –  To become an international instructor, a person should be in the 3rd dan black belt for 3 years. 
  • 4th dan black belt – 4th dan is the stage where a black belt can become an international instructor.
  • 5th dan black belt – You can become an instructor at this level. 
  • 6th dan black belt –  To advance to the master instructor you have to be in this rank for 6 years. 
  • 7th dan black belt – You get the title master. And to be a master instructor you have to be in this rank for 7 years. 
  • 8th dan black belt – After master level, there is one last level known as a grandmaster. To reach grandmaster you should be in the master title for 8 years. 
  • 9th da black belt – You are a grandmaster. At the top of all. 

How many taekwondo belts are there in order of color?

Each school and association has a different order of color belts. Some have over 10 color belts, some have fewer. The fewer the colors the longer you’ll be spending on each belt. 

Every taekwondo school follows the basics of taekwondo but their approach to the belt ranking system may vary. But if you look at the belt grading system of the 3 most popular associations ITF, ATA and WTF. You will notice all have 11 color belts. 

The number of the color belt is similar but there is a slight change in some belt color. ITF uses a mixed color belt whereas ATA has a camouflage color belt. The color order also varies from school to school. 

How to Tie a Taekwondo belt?

When it comes to tying a Taekwondo belt. There are two basic methods. 

Single Warp Methods 

  • The first step is to find the center point of the belt. Find the middle point by folding the belt equally. 
  • Hold the center of the belt and place it in on your waist below the navel. 
  • Take each end of the belt to your back and make a complete circle bringing it back to the front middle point below your navel. 
  • Adjust the length of the belt in front of you. If you find the middle point at the first step you will get the exact length of each side of the belt. 
  • Pass one end of the belts beneath the already wrapped section. 
  • Adjust the length of each end and make a knot. 

Traditional Double Wrap Methods

  • Keep one end of the belt below your navel. 
  • Rotate another end of the belt around your waist and back. And bring to the front and over the ending that is below your navel. 
  • Rotate one more time. 
  • Bring out the end of the belt that is under the 2 layers of the belt. 
  • Adjust both ends of the belt. You will have to unloose the wrap a little bit.  
  • Cross each end of the belt and make a hole. Cross the top over the bottom end and pull. 
  • These are the two ways you should wear a taekwondo martial art belt. 


By now you know the types of belts and their significance. You learn how to wear a belt. Now it’s time you work hard and get the belt. 

Follow your instructor, respect them and enjoy the process. You never know how close you’re to your next belt.  

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

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