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How Long To Get A Black Belt In Taekwondo? Revealed

Each martial art has a slightly different belt ranking system. The total time to get each belt also differs. Today, I will explain how long it takes to get a black belt in Taekwondo.

On average, it takes 2.5 years to get a black belt in Taekwondo. In total, there are 11 to 12 belts in Taekwondo. Taekwondo academies under the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) which are the most common have 11 belts. It takes between 3 months to 2 years to go from one belt to the next.

In some martial arts, the time between belts varies, and often it takes longer to get the later belts.

In this post, I will cover:

  • Is a black belt the highest belt in Taekwondo
  • The World Taekwondo Federation belt system – how it all works and how long to get a black belt
  • The International Taekwondo Federation belt system – how it works
  • How you test for the next belt in taekwondo
  • How many techniques do you need to know in taekwondo
  • How effective Taekwondo is compared to other striking martial arts
  • Is it hard to get a black belt in Taekwondo
  • Is Taekwondo the best striking martial art in the world (and worth learning)
Taekwondo black belts sparring

Is a Black Belt the Highest Belt in Taekwondo?

In some martial arts, a red belt is the highest belt, or a red and white belt. Many martial arts have an almost identical belt order. Is a black belt the highest belt in taekwondo?

In general, a black belt is the highest belt in Taekwondo. There are two Taekwondo organizations that are the largest and have the most academies. The biggest is the World Taekwondo Federation, and their belt system has a black belt as the last belt. But, it can differ by academy.

The reason is some Taekwondo academies are not under the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) affiliation. Having said that, the chances are that the Taekwondo academy you go to will be, because they are the most popular Taekwondo affiliation. 

The World Taekwondo Federation is in charge of the rules for Taekwondo at the Olympic Games, and has regular meetings to discuss issues to do with Taekwondo.

There is one other common Taekwondo affiliation called the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). They are also very popular but not as popular as the WTF. 

In their belt ranking system, the highest belt is a red belt with a black stripe along the entire length of the belt.

However, the key thing to note is that both the WTF and ITF have almost the exact same number of belts.

And the time requirement to go from the first belt to the last doesn’t differ by much. Only 3 to 6 months. 

Below are two tables that show the belt order for the WTF belt ranking system, and the ITF belt ranking system:

World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) belt system

Here is the belt ranking system for the most widespread and popular Taekwondo affiliation, the WTF.

Belt colorTime required before testing for the next beltCumulative time
Yellow3 months3 months
Orange3 months6 months
Green3 months9 months
Purple3 months1 year
Blue3 months1 year 3 months
Blue Snr3 months1.5 years
Brown3 months1 year 9 months
Brown Snr3 months2 years
Red3 months2 years 3 months
Jnr Black belt3 months2.5 years
Black3 months2 years 9 months

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) belt system

Here is the belt order and how long it takes to go from one belt to the next under the second largest Taekwondo affiliation, the ITF.

Belt colorTime required before testing for the next beltCumulative time
White with a yellow stripe3 months3 months
Yellow3 months6 months
Yellow with a green stripe3 months9 months
Green3 months1 year
Green with a blue stripe3 months1 year 3 months
Blue3 months1.5 years
Blue with a red stripe3 months1 year 9 months
Red3 months2 years
Red with a black stripe3 months2 years 3 months

The total time it takes to get a black belt under the WTF and ITF Taekwondo belt system is around 2 to 3 years.

How you test for the next belt in Taekwondo

Grading ceremonies are typically held every 3 months. When the grading occurs, if you feel like you can perform the techniques you need to get promoted to the next belt, you can test for it.

There are 4 outcomes for a grading in Taekwondo:

  • Distinction pass (very rare) – two belts at one grading
  • Pass – 1 belt promotion
  • Incomplete Pass, probation – no belt awarded 
  • Pass incomplete, retest – no belt awarded

There are two ways a person can not be awarded the next belt.

One where they are only lacking in a few techniques, and the other where they can’t perform a significant amount of the techniques satisfactorily. 

If a person being graded in Taekwondo does not pass because they only missed a few techniques, they can reset again the following week. During the reset, they only need to show the techniques they could not perform well.

But, if a person being graded in Taekwondo can not perform a good portion of the curriculum they need to know, they will be asked to retest again at the next grading.

How Many Techniques Do You Need To Know in Taekwondo?

Some martial arts are easier to learn because they only have a small number of techniques.

But, each martial art is different and many grappling martial arts have hundreds of techniques. So, here are how many techniques you need to know in Taekwondo.

In total there are 120 techniques you need to know in Taekwondo to get a black belt. There are 32 kicks, 40 strikes with the hands and elbows, and 48 blocks. Taekwondo has significantly more strikes than other striking martial arts such as Muay Thai kickboxing or boxing.

If you take the number of techniques in Taekwondo and divide them by the number of belts, then you get about 10 new techniques per belt.

In general, graduation ceremonies are held every 3 months. This means you learn 1 new technique a week.

Here are examples of some of the techniques in Taekwondo:

Kicking techniquesStriking TechniquesBlocking Techniques
Flying side kickVertical punchLower outer forearm block
Inward crescent kickForefist upward punchTwin forearm block
Outward crescent kickSide punchPalm upward block
Reverse hooking kickFront punchPalm pressing block
Pick-shape kickUpper elbow strikeTwin palm rising block

It’s generally understood that in learning a new technique you need to repeat it many times. After that, you can begin to develop the timing by doing live sparring, or competing in Taekwondo tournaments.

After about 1000 repetitions of a move, a person will usually perfect it to where they can do it without thinking.

Taking some time to go over the moves by writing them out, practicing them a few times, or mentally imagining them goes a long way to helping you remember the moves. 

It’s necessary to do this because there are SO many moves in Taekwondo. Interestingly, Taekwondo compared to other martial arts has a very large number of techniques.

For example, in boxing, and kickboxing, there are only a small handful of moves. 

Taekwondo has a similar number of techniques to judo, and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

To understand this better, here I did an analysis of the top 6 hardest martial arts to learn. It has data from a survey where people voted for the hardest martial art.

How effective Taekwondo is compared to other striking martial arts

The aim of a martial art is to be effective in a real fight, as well as a way to defend yourself. But, some martial arts are known to be more effective than others.

The most pronounced example is the striker versus grappler match-up.

This is where one person is a specialist in striking such as taekwondo, kickboxing, or boxing, and the other person is a specialist in grappling such as Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo, or wrestling. 

Commonly, both fighters will even themselves out.

If the striker can keep the fight standing they will be at a clear advantage.

On the other hand, if a grappler closes the distance and engages in the ‘clinch’ or takes the other person down to the ground using a wrestling takedown, they will be at a clear advantage.

Varioius fights have happened where a Taekwondo fighter has competed against a fighter from a completely different martial art. 

Kickboxing, especially the Thai version called Muay Thai, is considered one of the most effective striking arts. It is the go-to striking martial arts for MMA fighters.

Some analysis done of Taekwondo fights have shown that overall Muay Thai is more effective than Taekwondo.

While both fighters are generally comfortable exchanging strikes, the ability of a Muay Thai fighter to land leg kicks, and their superior ‘clinch’ eventually brings a Muay Thai fighter the victory.

Here is a video that shows 5 different fights between a Taekwondo fighter and a Muay Thai fighter.

Unfortunately, the commentary is not in English but you can watch all 5 fights:

Is It Hard To Get a Black Belt in Taekwondo?

Learning a new skill often involves a period of frustration in the beginning, until it starts to get easier and easier the more you do something.

Martial arts are always physically demanding, so here is an overview of how hard it is to get a black belt in Taekwondo.

Overall, it’s not hard to get a black belt in Taekwondo. It also takes far less time to get a black belt in Taekwondo compared to other martial arts. In total, there are 120 techniques in Taekwondo a person needs to demonstrate to get a black belt.

Some other martial arts take far longer. For example, in Judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) it takes around 10 years to get a black belt.

However, karate is quite similar and takes around 2.5 to 3 years provided a person trains a minimum of 3 times per week.

Taekwondo is not very physically demanding, and after a week or two of classes a person will be in shape enough to do Taekwondo.

It is also not as mentally tough as other martial arts such as BJJ, and wrestling. 

Sparring in these grappling martial arts can only be done at full intensity for 3 to 5 minutes. That is unless a person has significant experience. On the other hand, in Taekwondo people can spar for much longer. 

The reason is there are very few situations in Taekwondo where a person uses all of their muscular strength.

On the other hand, in grappling martial arts it’s common for people to be exerting 100% of their muscle strength in a similar way to a weight training workout.

Is Taekwondo better than other striking martial arts

Taekwondo is not typically a background professional fighters have.

For example, there are next to no fighters in the UFC that started in Taekwondo. But, there are many that had backgrounds in wrestling, boxing, or kickboxing.

Is Taekwondo the Best Striking Martial Arts [Is It Worth Learning]?

All martial arts fall into one of two categories – namely they are a striking martial art or a grappling martial art.

There is only a small handful of striking martial arts, so here is whether Taekwondo is the best striking martial art, and how it compares to other striking martial arts.

Overall, Taekwondo is not the best striking martial art. Kickboxing and Boxing are the best striking martial arts, as well as the striking techniques taught in combat Sambo. All of these striking martial arts are the most effective in a real fight. But, many techniques in Taekwondo are effective.

And most martial arts have a bunch of positives such as:

  • A good place to make friends
  • Good for getting in shape
  • Good for developing discipline

Some martial arts are objectively more effective than other martial arts.

Clear evidence of this is when two people from separate martial arts compete in a MMA style fight or in real MMA. The martial arts that consistently outperform are:

  • Muay Thai
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Brazilian jiu jitsu
  • Judo
  • Sambo
  • Combat sambo

The top UFC competitors almost always have a long history in kickboxing, BJJ, wrestling, or Muay Thai.

For example, Israel Adesanya is a well-known MMA fighter from New Zealand. He has over 100 fights in kickboxing prior to competing in MMA.

Also, Joel Romero had extensive experience in wrestling and competed in the Olympics. He was also one of the best MMA fighters of all time and was consistently in the top 3 for a very long time.