Belt and Ranking System

All Belts

Our Tang Soo Do belt system consists of ten levels prior to black belt. All students start at white belt or what we refer to as 10th gup.

From white belt the system is follows:
yellow belt, or 9th gup
orange belt, or 8th gup
orange belt with a green stripe, or 7th gup
green belt, or 6th gup
green belt with a red stripe, or 5th gup
green belt with two red stripes, or 4th gup
red belt, or 3rd gup
red belt with a navy blue stripe, or 2nd gup
red belt with two navy blue stripes, or 1st gup

Following 1st gup, students are required to attend and pass two pre-tests before they are eligible to test for black belt. Upon successful completion of a pre-test an additional navy blue stripe will be added to the red belt.

After passing a black belt test, students will be promoted to black belt.


Belts and their philosophical relationships

Traditionally the Tang Soo Do belt system has only four belts; white, green, red, and black. The yellow and orange belts were added later to give lower ranking students a greater sense of accomplishment. The philosophical relationships for the yellow and orange belts are the same as the white belt.
Each belt, white, green, red, and black are associated with an element, an animal, and a season; as well as a related philosophy.


White Belt

Element: Metal
Animal: Tiger
Season: Winter

When students begin to train in Tang Soo Do, their techniques are rigid and hard; as is a piece of metal. Like a tiger, beginners tend to strike fast and are very aggressive. The winter snow canvases the ground, hiding the ground beneath it. This is a symbol of the inherent skills the beginner possesses which have yet to be seen.


Green Belt

Element: Wood
Animal: Dragon
Season: Spring

Green belt is the first major change in belts in Tang Soo Do, signified by the first colored trim on the uniform top. The element wood is a softer material than metal but is still hard; signified by the students strong techniques which are becoming softer and more fluid; students also gain greater flexibility. The dragon was believed to be a fierce flying creature, stronger than a tiger but not quite as graceful as a bird. As a green belt students begin to learn jumping techniques but are not yet graceful with the techniques. Spring represents growth and new life, as a green belt the students spirit, confidence and techniques are starting to bloom.


Red Belt

Element: Fire
Animal: Bird
Season: Summer

The next major promotion is to red belt. The element of fire is capable of burning wood and melting metal, signifying the red belts seniority in pre black belt ranks. The bird is symbolic of the student becoming more confident and graceful with jumping and flying techniques. The summer is hot and intense, similar to a red belt who is training hard and with ferocity to prepare for black belt.


Black Belt

Element: Water
Animal: Turtle
Season: Autumn

The next and most significant promotion thus far is to black belt. Water is the most powerful element there is, capable of rusting metal, rotting wood, and dousing fire. Water is able to take any shape and adapt, just as a black belt can change and adapt to the situation. Water is also essential to all life just as black belts are essential to the teaching and continuation of Tang Soo Do. The turtle is a humble, and strong they move slow but purposefully. Capable of striking fiercely, the turtle only attacks as a last resort; choosing to use its great defensive ability first. All qualities that a black belt should strive to posses. The autumn is symbolic of the black belt beginning to take a more active role in teaching. The leave of the trees are changing and starting to fall off the trees. The leaves represent knowledge, they are falling to the ground as is the knowledge being passed to lower ranks.

"Black belt" is the term we use because it's a recognizable rank, however in Tang Soo Do we actually wear midnight blue belts. The reason we don't wear true black belts is because we relate the darkening of the belt to obtaining knowledge so if the belt was black then it is as dark as your belt could get, meaning you could not ever advance or learn anything new. So a midnight blue belt can have color added to it still and thus more knowledge can be added.