Wearing of belt
The main purpose of the belt in this particular art of self defence is not just to distinguish the rank but also to represent the philosophical significance of the Taekwon-Do practitioner. It was decided at a special meeting on July 1st 1985 that the belt should be wrapped around the waist only once instead of twice as previously practiced.
One (as in once around the waist) symbolises:
1. Pursue one goal whatsoever, once it has been determined (Ohdoilkwan)
2. Serve one master with unshakable loyalty (Ilpyondanshim)
3. Gain a victory in one blow (Ilkyokpilsung)
The belt should be tied in a square (or reef) knot » beginning by crossing the right side over the left side then crossing the left over the right. The ends of the belt should hang at the same length.
The belt colours are a visible symbol of a students progress and development in Taekwon-Do. The wearer of a particular rank would be expected to know and be proficient in particular areas of Taekwon-Do.
The belt colours have particular significances and these refer either to the stage of development of a student, or to the plant/tree which symbolises the Taekwon-Do student and their progression. The logo on the back of the International Taekwon-Do Uniform symbolises an evergreen tree.
Coloured belts are also worn with a 5mm stripe the colour of the next belt
5cm from each end of their belt. This indicates they hold the rank between the two belts. A white belt holds the rank of 10th grade, while a white belt with a yellow strips holds the rank of 9th grade and so on.
Younger students on the kids syllabus will wear a up to 4 stripes on one side of their white belt to show their progression towards their yellow stripe grade.
Black belt ranks are distinguished by a roman numeral on one end of their belt.
White belt (10th & 9th gup)
Yellow belt (8th & 7th gup)
Green belt (6th & 5th gup)
Blue belt (4th & 3rd gup)
Red belt (2nd & 1st gup)
Black belt (I dan to IX dan)
The above colours have not been arbitarily chosen. They are in fact steeped in tradition. The colours of black, red and blue denoted the various levels of heirarchy during the Koguryo and Silla dynasties. A half black and half white belt is used for the junior black belt holder.
Division of ranks
In Taekwon-Do, character development, fortitude, tenacity, and technique are graded as well as individual capacity. The promotional scale is divided into nineteen ranks -10 grades (급) or gup and nine degrees (단) or dan. The former begins with 10th grade (gup) the lowest and ends at first grade. Degrees begin with the first degree (dan) and end with the ultimate, ninth degree.
There is, of course, a certain significance in the numbering system. With degree, the number 9 is not only the highest one among one digit numbers but also is the number of 3 multiplied by 3. In the Orient, three is the most esteemed of all the numbers. The Chinese character representing three is written as three horizontal lines. The upper line symbolizes the heaven; the middle line, mortals; and the bottom line, earth. It was believed that the individual who was successful in promoting his country, fellowmen and God, and able to reach an accord with all three would aspire to become King. The Chinese character for three and King are nearly the same. When the number three is multiplied by itself, the equation is nine, the highest of the high; therefore, ninth degree is the highest of the high ranking belts.
Taking the use of the number three one step further, the degrees are further divided into three distinct classes. First through third degree is considered the novice stages of black belt. Students are still merely beginners in comparison to the higher degrees. At fourth degree, the student crosses the threshold of puberty and enters the expert class. Seventh through ninth is composed of Taekwon-Do masters - the elite who fully understand all the particulars of Taekwon-Do, mental and physical.
There is perhaps one question that remains; why begin with the lowest of the two digit numbers, "10" why not begin with the lowest one digit number and proceed from first grade to ninth grade, and then begin again for degrees? Though it would certainly be more logical, the 10 to 1 and 1 to 10 numerical system in the Orient is ageless. It would be impossible, if not even a bit impertinent, to attempt to change a practice that is even carried into children's games.