Taekwondo (WTF): Grading system

Taekwondo GradingBefore a person becomes a student of taekwondo, they must be willing to abide by the universal student creed. Anyone learning the WTF Taekwondo grading system should understand as follows:

‘To have the intention to develop in a positive manner and avoid anything that harms physical health or reduces mental growth.’

‘To have the intention to develop self-discipline and in doing so to bring out the best in myself as well as others.’

‘To have the intention to use what is learnt in class constructively and for the purposes of defence. The intention is to help fellow humans, myself and never be offensive or abusive.’


WTF Grading - Belts

White belt (10th kup)

White belt with yellow tag (9th kup)

Yellow belt (8th kup)

Yellow belt with green tag (7th kup)

Green belt (6th kup)

Green belt with blue tag (5th kup)

Blue belt (4th kup)

Blue belt with red tag (3rd kup)

Red belt (2nd kup)

Red belt with black tag (1st kup)

Black belt (1st dan)


WTF Grading - Belt meanings

White belt represents the beginning for the student who has no previous knowledge and is therefore innocent towards taekwondo.

Yellow belt signifies the foundation in the earth for which the roots are laid

Green belt resembles the growth of the plant as the student gains skills in this martial art

Blue belt represents the conversion from a plant into a towering tree aiming to reach the heavens

Red belt signifies danger. The student must be aware of the skills possessed and the need for self-control. It also warns the opponent to stay away.

Black belt is a display of the student’s maturity and proficiency in this style. It also represents indifference to darkness and fear.


At the WTF Grading

Each grading starts with a warm-up, basic punching and kicking technique drills. It then moves onto patterns specific for each grade. The higher the grade, the more patterns/forms that the student will have to display. The grading also includes free style sparring and set ‘one step’ sparring. These exercises allow the student to demonstrate a variety of techniques that are executed with control. Higher grades will also usually be required to break wooden boards in order to display the accuracy of their technique.

To move up from one belt to the next, students must demonstrate competency during a grading in front of a panel of judges or an instructor. Grading formats may vary between clubs, but generally include the display of patterns, which use various techniques and sequence, breaking boards or wood, which demonstrates the use of techniques with power and control, self-defense, and sparring to show the application and control of techniques. There may also be theory and questions on history and techniques. This demonstrates understanding of the art. At higher dan tests, a student may take a written test as well as taking the practical grading.

Promotion between kups can be fast in some clubs, such as promotions every two, three, or four months. Basic techniques are developed first, more advanced techniques are introduced during the approach to first dan. Older, and more traditional schools may take longer to gain gradings than more younger clubs.

However grading between dans may take years. The general rule is that a black belt may advance from one rank to the next only after the number of years equivalent to the current rank. For example, a second degree black belt may not progress to third degree until two years have passed. Some organizations also have junior black belt ranks for under 16 year olds rather than dan ranks.

The typical student needs between three and six months before moving up each kup rank. The average student who trains two or three times per week could expect to have achieved green belt rank after one year, red belt after the second year and then black belt after more than three years of regular training. In reality many students can take up to five years to achieve their 1st dan black belt but this depends on the individual.

After achieving black belt grade (1st dan), there are further gradings up to ninth dan. Once the practitioner has passed sixth dan, they may be known as a master of taekwondo.

During the student’s training as well as observing the creed, they should also follow the tenets of taekwondo (see philosophy section), never misuse taekwondo, respect instructors, seniors and juniors, promote freedom, justice and a more peaceful world.