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The Belt System

The dee (belt) is one of three parts of the do bohk (uniform). The belt system consists of seven colors, with each color designating the degree of proficiency possessed by the one wearing the belt. As a practitioner progresses, a color belt is worn which represents not only their degree of achievement, but exhibits their authority and dignity as well.

Our Tang Soo Do belt system, in its progress from white to black, represents the cycle of the seasons. Each color stands for a specific stage of achievement. In this way we realize an essential concept of oriental philosophy: that which is born must grow, reach maturity, die, and leave behind the seeds of a new birth.

Yu Gup Ja (Gup Student)

Gup levels consist of ten grades, plus Cho Dan Bo level:


WHITE, 10th & 9th Gup

White is the color of purity and initiation. It represents a primitive stage of achievement such as the seed as it lies dormant beneath the snows of winter.


ORANGE, 8th & 7th Gup

Orange signifies hope, happiness, expectation and challenge. It represents new growth which appears in spring. Our Tang Soo Do knowledge begins to reveal itself.


GREEN, 6th & 5th Gup

Green signifies youth, excitement, prosperity, and growth. It represents the speedy development of youth as summer arrives.


BROWN, 4th & 3rd Gup

Brown represents power, stability, agility, weight, and wisdom. This is a stabilizing stage, both mentally and physically, and is analogous to the plants which curtail their growth and prepare to flower in late summer.


RED, 2nd & 1st Gup

Red represents blood, life, energy, attention, and control. The student's power and techniques begin to bloom and ripen.


DARK BLUE, Cho Dan Bo (Black Belt Candidate)

Dark blue represents maturity, respect, and honor. The student must now prepare mind and body for the final step needed to attain black belt.


Yu Dan Ja (Dan Holder)

Yu Dan Ja means Black Belt Holder, and consists of 1st Dan, 2nd Dan, and 3rd Dan.

Cho Dan E Dan Sam Dan

Black represents mastery, calmness, dignity, and sincerity. The first degree of black belt is the final stage of one life cycle and the beginning of the next. Thus, we see that it is not only the end of one stage but, more importantly, the beginning of a path which leads up through the ranks of the higher black belts to true mastery.

Ko Dan Ja (Senior Dan Holder & Master)

Traditionally, full professorship of teaching the Art of Tang Soo Do was given to an individual who reached this level. The title in Korean is Sah Bum Nim. "Sah" literally translated means teacher, "Bum" means example, and "Nim" is a title of honor. This recognition is given to a profound and respected teacher. These high-ranking achievers train diligently and are dedicated to developing inner power (Nae Kong), meditation, and spiritual growth. A Masters belt consists of a red line through a black belt, which designates mastery of the requirements of every previous belt level and, most importantly, the mastery of Nae Kong (inner strength).


Sah Dan, 4th Dan Instructor & 4th Dan Master Instructor

Title: Sah Bum (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 4 years after 3rd Dan

There are two categories of 4th Dan ranking in the WTSDA: Sah Dan Instructor and Sah Dan Master. The distinction between the two is that a Sah Dan Master is a professional who has registered studio ownership. Sah Dan Masters are distinguished by a black belt with a red stripe through the middle. Sah Dan Instructors are distinguished by a black belt with four stripes at the end.


Oh Dan, 5th Dan, Senior Master Instructor

Title: Sah Bum (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 5 years after 4th Dan
Belt: Black Belt with one central red line


Yuk Dan, 6th Dan, International Master Instructor

Title: Sah Bum (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 6 years after 5th Dan
Belt: Black Belt with two central red lines


Chil Dan, 7th Dan, Senior International Master Instructor

Title: Sah Bum (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 7 years after 6th Dan
Belt: Black Belt with two central red lines


Pal Dan, 8th Dan, Assistant Grandmaster

Title: Boo Kwan Chang (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 8 years after 7th Dan
Belt: White belt with alternating red blocks, worn with plain white do bohk


Ku Dan, 9th Dan, Grandmaster

Title: Kwan Chang (Nim)
Minimum Required Time: 9 years after 8th Dan
Belt: Red belt with alternating black blocks, worn with plain white do bohk

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