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How Many Belts Are There In Taekwondo? Solved!

Taekwondo is a fairly popular martial art that is most well-known for its diverse range of kicks. And the fact that it is one of the only well-known martial arts from Korea. In this article, I will explain how many belts there are in Taekwondo.

There are 12 belts in Taekwondo for academies that are part of the most popular Taekwondo affiliation the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). There are two other main Taekwondo affiliations, the ITF, which has 11 belts, and the ATA, which has 10 belts.

The belt order at Taekwondo academies under the WTF goes:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Blue senior (blue belt with a black stripe down the middle)
  • Brown
  • Brown senior (brown and black belt)
  • Red
  • Junior black belt (black and red stripe)
  • Black

Below, I will cover:

  • How Taekwondo belts are awarded and how long it takes to go from one belt to the next
  • The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) belt system and how many belts
  • The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) – how many belts and belt system
  • The American Taekwondo Association(ATA) – how many belts and how the system works
  • What is the highest belt in Taekwondo
  • Is Taekwondo hard to learn
Taekwondo sparring

How Are Taekwondo Belts Awarded + How Long For Each Belt

Some martial arts award a belt when a student does very well in a competition, while others are based on time, or a student’s ability to perform certain moves. But what about Taekwondo?

Taekwondo belts are awarded at a grading ceremony. These are held every 3 to 6 months. At a grading ceremony, a person doing Taekwondo can test for their next belt by demonstrating the new techniques they have learned.

If they can competently perform them they will be awarded their next belt.

At most Taekwondo academies (called ‘dojangs’), students can not attend a grading ceremony more than once every 3 months. In very rare cases a person can be awarded 2 belts at one grading ceremony.

However, this hardly ever happens.

The reason it might happen occasionally would be if a person missed a previous grading session, or if they trained much more frequently somehow. 

However, getting promoted to the final belt which is a black belt or a black and red belt, only happens twice per year. This is instead of 3 times per year for the belts before the final 2 belts.

One student who does Taekwondo reported on a Reddit thread I interacted with that:

“My dojang holds a belt test every month, but no individual student is eligible to test more frequently than approximately every 3 months as a color belt.”

And they go on to say:

“On average, a student can progress from white belt to black belt in 3 years or so, assuming they never miss a belt test opportunity and their dates line up with the black belt testing.”

How Many Belts In The Three Different Taekwondo Organizations?

There are three main Taekwondo organizations:

  • The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) which has 12 belts
  • The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) which has 11 belts
  • The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) which has 10 belts

The WTF is the largest and is part of the Olympic committee.

The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) is the second largest, and the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) is the largest in the USA, but smaller compared to the other two. 

If you want to find out more about the specific taekwondo organizations, then here is great Youtube video that talks through this:

How Belts Are Named In Taekwondo

The belt ranks at all Taekwondo academies are called ‘gups’. The ITF spells it  ‘geup’.

The way they are ordered is the same as in karate, where the lowest rank is 10th gup, and then the next belt is a 9th gup. 

It proceeds in descending order until the last colored belt rank – a red and black belt – is the 1st gup.

A black belt is called a dan, and there are up to 9 additional dan ranks after black belt.

Coming up are 3 tables that show the belt order, and how long it takes to go from one belt to the next for each of the 3 main Taekwondo affiliations.

World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Belt System – Most Common

How Many Belts In The WTF System?

There are 12 belts in the WTF system.

WTF Belt System

Getting to the final belt under the WTF takes the longest out of the 3 main Taekwondo affiliations. However, this is only by half a year (6 months).

This is the belt order for 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 senior (blue belt with a black stripe down the middle)3 months1.5 years
Brown3 months1 year 9 months
Brown senior (brown belt with a black stripe down the middle)3 months2 years
Red3 months2 years 3 months
Jnr Black belt (half black half red lengthwise)3 months2.5 years
Black3 months2 years 9 months

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) – How Many Belts And Belt System

How Many Belts In ITF?

There are 11 belts in the ITF system.

Belt System In ITF

The international Taekwondo Federation (ITF) has more of a focus on Taekwondo for self-defense. On the other hand, the WTF is mainly involved with sporting Taekwondo competitions.

The ITF belt system is quite different from the WTF belt system.

However, the color order shares some similarities.

Here’s a table that shows the order of the ITF belt ranking system:

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

For the full list (with videos) of all the techniques required at each belt level refer to this page on the official ITF website

For each belt rank there is typically also a minimum amount of hours required before a person can be eligible to grade for the next belt.

For example, at yellow and white stripe a person needs to train for a minimum of 25 hours.

Given that each class is 1 to 2 hours, it would take 13 to 25 classes. That means this would take 3 to 6 months if a person attends 3 to 4 classes per week.

A guideline for the minimum hours required at each belt can be found on this page of a reputable Taekwondo Academy in Canada – Gajok Taekwondo.

American Taekwondo Association (ATA) – How Many Belts And Belt System

How Many Belts In ATA?

There are 10 belts in the ATA belt system.

ATA Belt System

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) is not as big as the other organizations around the world.

That said, in the USA it is one of the biggest.

They have a unique belt that the other Taekwondo organizations don’t have – which is a camouflage belt. The other main difference is they don’t make use of stripes, or belts with more than one color.

Belt colorTime required before testing for the next beltCumulative time
Orange3 months3 months
Yellow3 months6 months
Camouflage3 months9 months
Green3 months1 year
Purple3 months1 year 3 months
Blue3 months1.5 years
Brown3 months1 year 9 months
Red3 months2 years
Black3 months2 years 3 months

Taekwondo Schools That Are Independent

The history of Taekwondo in Korea is quite long. Eventually Taekwondo became quite formalized. When this happened various high-level Taekwondo practitioners traveled abroad and opened up dojangs (academies).

For this reason, there are Taekwondo schools that are not under either the WTF, ITF, and ATA.

These schools vary in how they award belts, and how long a person will train before they can grade for the next belt.

However, it’s fair to assume they will take about the same amount of time to go from one belt to the next.

Here’s a video that shows what generally happens at a Taekwondo grading:

Interestingly, the use of belts with two colors is only found in Taekwondo, Judo, and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). More about this below.

Belts With 2 Colors Are Only Found In Taekwondo, Judo, And BJJ

The black and red belt in Taekwondo is red on one half and black on the other half. Each color goes down the entire length of the belt. 

This is very different from belts in judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). In judo, if a belt has two colors it alternates and each color is about 4 inches (10 cm long), before it changes to the other color.

What Is the Highest Belt in Taekwondo?

Some martial arts have a red belt, or a white and red belt as the highest belt. Typically, this is only awarded after more than 30 years of training.

Some martial arts have a very similar belt system to other, whereas some are more distinct.

Taekwondo is a martial art that is quite different from others where belts are concerned.

But what’s the highest belt in Taekwondo?

The highest belt in Taekwondo is a black belt. There are also dan rankings after a Taekwondo black belt. The color of the belt does not change. Sometimes, yellow stripes are put on the end of the belt to signify dan ranks. The highest rank is a 9th dan black belt. 

Dan ranks only apply to World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) academies. Other Taekwondo schools can differ.

Once a person becomes a black belt they are an assistant instructor until they reach a 4th degree (dan) black belt. After that, they can be an instructor.

Each dan rank also has a name. Here’s what they are called:

Dan rank (after black belt)Korean name and English name
1st Degree to 3rd DegreeBoo Sabum (Assistant instructor)
4th Degree to 6th DegreeSabum (Instructor)
7th Degree – 8th DegreeSaHyun (Master)
9th DegreeSaSung (Grandmaster)


Is Taekwondo Hard To Learn

There are a range of different martial arts and I have found that some martial arts are far harder to learn than others. On the surface, Taekwondo doesn’t look overly difficult, but is this true?

Taekwondo is not hard to learn. Taekwondo is a striking martial art. A survey of over 425 people that I performed found that striking martial arts are the easiest to learn. To achieve a black belt in Taekwondo also takes less time than grappling martial arts such as judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The closest martial arts to Taekwondo are karate and kickboxing.

As you may know, there are two broad types of martial arts: striking martial arts and grappling martial arts. 

The overwhelming consensus is that striking martial arts are easier than grappling martial arts.

I did a survey of 425 people that asked the question: which martial art is the hardest? Below is a table that shows the results.

Martial ArtNumber of votesPercentage of total votes
Muay Thai or kickboxing5212.2%
Brazilian jiu jitsu19144.9%

As you can see, the martial arts that were voted as the hardest martial arts are all grappling martial arts. On the other hand, those that received far fewer votes are striking martial arts.

I explained a full list of the reasons why grappling martial arts are harder than striking martial arts in this article that covers the 6 hardest martial arts to learn and why.

Is Taekwondo the Best Martial Art To Learn?

Martial arts differ, and Taekwondo is unique because it is the only well-known martial art from Korea.

Taekwondo is well known for its many different kicks. But is it the best to learn?

Taekwondo has many benefits, but may not be the best for you if you want to deploy it for real self-defense, or use it in MMA.

Taekwondo is very good for developing a person’s ability to execute kicks. It also has the benefits other martial arts have such as teaching students discipline and being a great way to make friends.

The disadvantage of Taekwondo is it has no grappling.

It’s a widely known fact that a real fight involves striking and grappling, such as in mixed martial arts (MMA). Typically, a fighter will be very good in either striking or grappling. 

For example, Israel Adesanya who is the previous UFC champion was a specialist in kickboxing. And to be as successful as he is, he simply learned takedown defense so that it was very difficult to take him to the ground.

On the other hand, arguably one of the best MMA fighters of all time – Khabib Nourganamedov is a grappling specialist. He was a specialist in the grappling martial art, sambo.

MMA is arguably one of the closest things there is to a real fight. And therefore, what has been found to be effective in MMA is also what is effective in a real fight.