Black Belts Rankings

What Are The Taekwondo Black Belt Levels?

TaeKwonDo Street Fight

The goal of anyone that starts to practice TaeKwonDo is get a black belt. This, at first, seemingly impossible task, took me 3 years. Once I tested and passed for my black belt, the next goal I set was to get my 2nd degree black belt. Since I had concentrated for 3 years in getting my 1st degree, I didn’t know how long or what it took to test for my 2nd degree.

This lead to my investigation on what it would take and how long it would take to get to each black belt level. This is what I found out.

To get to your first degree black belt will take a minimum of 2 to 3 years. To go from one black belt degree to the next will take as many years as the belt you are going to test for. For example, to go from your 1st degree black belt to your 2nd degree black belt will take at least 2 years.

Belt LevelYears to ObtainName
1st degreeMinimum 2 – 3 yearsCho Dan
2nd degreeMinimum 2 yearsEe Dan
3rd degreeMinimum 3 yearsSam Dan
4th degreeMinimum 4 yearsSa Dan
5th degreeMinimum 5 yearsOh Dan
6th degreeMinimum 6 yearsYuk Dan
7th degreeMinimum 7 yearsCh’il Dan
8th degreeMinimum 8 yearsP’Al Dan
9th degreeMinimum 9 yearsKoo Dan
10th degreeMinimum 10 YearsSip Dan

Just the Beginning

I still sometimes find it hard to believe the amount of students that get their black belts and then stop taking classes. I suppose they feel that they have achieved their goal and it was time to move on.

For me, however, it was just the beginning of learning Taekwondo. I felt as if I was starting over and that the real training was about to start.

Once you’ve got your 1st Dan black belt, you then need to study for a minimum of the number of stripes your going for, so 2 years for 2nd Dan, 3 years for 3rd etc.

Black Belt Levels in TaeKwonDo for Children

A black belt for children is considered to be for those under the age of 16 and their black belt ranks are called “Pooms’ and can go up to 4. The testings to get your black belt as a child can vary from that of an adult. In addition, until they turn 17 they are not allowed to teach an adult class.

At the age of 15 Poom holders are able transfer their rank to Dan

Black Belt Levels in Taekwondo for Adults

Black Belt Levels

1st Degree Black Belt

When you get your first degree you, then you are considered a “senior student” and you are able to start teaching the lower belts if your instructor allows you.

Usually you will start teaching the white belts and the younger students first and as you gain experience in teaching ( not as easy as it may look) you will be allowed to teach the older and more advanced students. You need to be at least 16 years old to test for your 1st Dan.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Koryo

2nd Degree Black Belt

When you get your 2nd Degree your title will change that to “Kyo San Nim”. A 2nd Degree black belt is naturally more experienced and skilled. At this level you will often be a certified Instructor teaching the older students and those that are more advanced under the guidance of a Master. You need to be at least 18 years old to obtain this level

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Keumgang

3rd Degree Black Belt

This is where it really start to change and your title will change to “Sam Dan”. A 3rd Degree has gained a higher proficiency of both the color belt material, and advanced Black Belt training and is qualified to be certified as a Sr. Instructor. You need to be at least 21 years old to test for this level

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Taebaek

4th Degree Black Belt

A 4th Degree is considered to be either a Master rank, or a Junior or Associate Master. They are usually qualified to lead the Black Belts, and promote color belts under their teaching up to he 1st Dan. Your title will change to “Sa Bum Nim” and you will have the ability to open your own school. You need to be at least 25 years old to test for this level.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Pyonwon

5th Degree Black Belt

From the point on it less about what you can do physically and more about what you have done for Taekwondo and the organization. Therefore, a 5th Degree is essentially an experienced 4th Degree with greater knowledge and skills in both the physical and technical side and one’s teaching ability.

At this level you have the ability to promote black belts to higher levels and teaching the Assistants to become Instructors and Masters. You need to be at least 30 years old to test for this level.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Sipjin

6th Degree Black Belt

At 6th degree one is at even more rarefied air and at this level and the main job, in addition to continuing one’s own training, is to teach other instructors. One is under direct supervision of a Grandmaster (8th and 9th Degree). You are referred to as a Senior Master.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Jitae

7th Degree Black Belt

The earliest one is able to reach this rank is the age of 36 and its very difficult to reach this rank before that regardless of one’s training schedule. As with the 6th degree, one is under the direct supervision and constant instruction of a Grandmaster 8th or 9th Dan.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Chongkwon

8th Degree Black Belt

At this stage one is referred to as a Grandmaster.  At this point one will need to get physical exam and a doctor’s note. In addition, sparring and breaking is not mandatory. One has to be at least 53 years old and one is looking at probably 40 years to get it.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Hansoo

9th Degree Black Belt

This is the last and highest active rank . Its very difficult to reach and cannot be done unless you are at least 53 years old. It takes incredible devotion to the art, hard work and consistent training for life. To get to this point one should have had to serve on a board, or acted as a referee for many years. One will also have to have overseen a significant number of black belts and/or other such accomplishments.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Ilyeo

10th Degree Black Belt

This is the highest black belt level in Taekwondo. Its really just an honorary title and given to those who have influenced or affected the growth and development of Taekwondo.

Final Notes on TaeKwonDo Black Belts

Black Belt Quote

Its important to note that the testing for the different black belt levels is separate from the teaching certificates for Instructor, Master, Senior Master and Grandmaster.

Moving up in black belt ranks is still going to based on your physical ability to perform the necessary requirements for that rank including forms, sparring, breaks etc.

Also keep in mind that the testing for each one of the black belt levels will be different depending on the TaekwonDo association or school that one is training in i.e World Taekwondo, American Taekwondo, Etc. To learn more about these indvidiual organizations, you can read this post I wrote.