Taekwondo Black Belt (Levels, Forms, Test, Time, Age Requirements)

What Is the Highest Belt in Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a martial art that originated in South Korea and focuses on fast, powerful kicks, punches, and strikes.

A black belt in Taekwondo is considered a significant achievement and demonstrates a high level of skill and dedication to the art.

To earn a black belt in Taekwondo, a student must typically train for several years and progress through a series of belt ranks, each of which requires a certain level of proficiency in various techniques and forms.

The exact requirements for achieving a black belt can vary depending on the specific school or organization awarding it.

In general, a black belt candidate must demonstrate proficiency in a wide range of skills, including basic kicks, strikes, and blocks, as well as more advanced techniques such as sparring, board breaking, and self-defense.

They must also have a strong understanding of Taekwondo philosophy and demonstrate good sportsmanship, leadership skills, and a commitment to the community.

Taekwondo Black Belt Levels

There are 10 degrees of black belt in taekwondo with the lowest being the 1st Degree Black Belt and the highest being the 10th Degree Black Belt.

Below are the Black Belt Levels in Taekwondo.

1st Degree Black Belt

When you get your first degree, then you are considered a “senior student” and you can 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

Note that 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 tests to get a 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 can transfer their rank to Dan.

2nd Degree Black Belt

When you get your 2nd Degree your title will change 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 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 starts to change and your title will change to “Sam Dan”.

A 3rd Degree has gained a higher proficiency in 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’s 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 the 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 this point on, it is 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 teach 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 Sip Jin

6th Degree Black Belt

At 6th degree, the main job, in addition to continuing one’s own training, is to teach other instructors.

One is under the direct supervision of a Grandmaster (8th and 9th Degree), and you are referred to as a Senior Master.

The Poomsae to learn at this level is Jitae

7th Degree Black Belt

The earliest one can reach this rank is the age of 36 and it’s 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 a physical exam and a doctor’s note.

In addition, sparring and breaking are 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.

It’s 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 act 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. It is just an honorary title given to those who have influenced or affected the growth and development of Taekwondo.

Taekwondo Black Belt Forms (Poomsae)

Forms are one of the primary means by which Tae Kwon Do practitioners develop the proper techniques.

Whether the student is a white belt or a senior grandmaster, all Tae Kwon Do practitioners have forms associated with their belt level.

As practitioners rise through the ranks, their forms reflect more and more sophisticated techniques.

For black belt practitioners, forms help develop advanced skills such as multiple kicking, simultaneous techniques, and ultimately the ability to channel internal power—life force energy.

Unlike the Tae Geuk (eternal vastness) series of forms that Tae Kwon Do students learn at the color belt levels, each of the black belt forms has its own distinct meaning.

Each black belt form also follows a unique movement pattern.

There are 9 Taekwondo Black Belt Forms.

1. Koryo (Korea)

The name “Korea” is an adaptation of the name Koryo, one of the early dynasties in Korean history (A.D. 918-1392), which is famed for its cultural achievements.

In particular, it is during this dynasty that the valiant fighting spirit of its people allowed them to halt the Mongolian invasion of the Korean peninsula.

Each movement of the form should be performed with a strong conviction to reflect the indomitable spirit and moral determination of the Korean people.

This form is for the 1st Dan.

2. Keumgang (Diamond)

The original meaning of Kumkang is “too strong to be broken.”

In Buddhism, it also refers to something that can heal mental anguish through a combination of wisdom and virtue.

In Korea, the most beautiful mountain in the Taebek mountain range is called Kumkang.

The “diamond” form takes its name from Mount Kumkang and reflects all of the virtues associated with it as a symbol of solidity and permanence.

The movements of this form should be performed powerfully to represent the immovable majesty of the mountain.

This form is for the 2nd Dan.

3. Taebaek (Sacred Mountain)

Taebek is the ancient name of the modern-day Mount Paekdoo, the highest and grandest mountain in Korea.

Legends identify this as the place where the semi-divine Tan-gun founded the kingdom of Choson 4,300 years ago and established the beginning of the Korean nation. Mount Paekdoo is regarded as the symbol of Korea.

The movements of this form should be performed with precision and rigorous dexterity as a sign of respect for cultural heritage.

This form is for the 3rd Dan.

4. Pyongwon (Vast Plain)

Also called Pyung Won.

The fertile plains are where humans obtain sustenance. It is also the place where we conduct our lives.

A vast, open plain that stretches away in all directions imparts a feeling of majesty and life.

It is this feeling of abundance and boundlessness that is the foundation of this form.

The movements of this form should be done with a reserved grace to reflect this concept.

This form is for the 4th Dan.

5. Sipjin (Symmetry)

The literal meaning of ship jin is “decimal system.” It represents endless growth and development in a balanced, systematic order.

Through this form, stability and balance are strived for. The movements of this form should be performed with precision and control.

This form is for the 5th Dan.

6. Jitae (Earth)

All of the living things of the earth have their origins in the earth.

In fact, all natural phenomena on our planet originate from changes in the earth. This form reflects the cyclical changes of the earth.

The movements of this form should be done with an emphasis on solidly rooted stances to represent our connection with the earth.

This form is for the 6th Dan.

7. Cheonkwon or Chonkwon (Sky)

Since very ancient times, the open and mysterious vastness of the sky has made it a source of reverence for people because it was something that could never be reached.

Often it was worshipped as the ruler of the universe or the dwelling place of God.

This form reflects the profound impact the sky has on the imaginations of humans.

The movements of this form should be done with a sense of piety while drawing on internal, life-force energy for power as opposed to physical strength.

This form is for the 7th Dan.

8. Hansu or Hansoo (Water)

HAN SOO (WATER) The primary characteristic of water is that it is readily adaptable to any situation.

It adjusts its shape to conform to whatever environment it is presented with, and by doing so its basic nature remains unchanged and it is unharmed.

The techniques of this form should be performed in a way that reflects the fluid adaptability of water.

This form is for the 8th Dan.

9. Ilyeo (Oneness)

The ultimate objective of Buddhism is to achieve a state of oneness where the mind, body, and spirit are unified.

Thought action and will become one and the same thing.

This integration of the three human aspects is the ultimate goal of Tae Kwon Do.

The techniques of this form should be done with a complete focus of concentration so that no thoughts or distractions disturb the flow of the form.

This form is for the 9th Dan.

Taekwondo Black Belt Time

There are lots of factors that determine how long it takes to get your Taekwondo black belt, and the requirements vary from school to school.

On average, it takes about 3-5 of TaeKwonDo training to become a black belt. But it is possible to get your first-degree Taekwondo black belt in under 4 years of training if you are extremely hardworking, a fast learner, and train more than 4 days a week.

Most people won’t get their Tae Kwon Do black belt that fast.

Some schools give black belts to people when they have only been training for 2 years!

That’s absurd because there is no way someone could master the comprehensive art of kicking that quickly.

You should not focus on speed when it comes to getting your black belt. It is more important that you are a good-quality black belt that can fight.

Taekwondo is about learning. The more you focus on self-development and give your full effort, the quicker you will progress to higher ranks.

“Your belt color does not matter. It does not mean you can fight.”

Martial Arts Republic

The belt is a piece of cotton that symbolizes your achievement. However, focusing on your promotion tests and rank testing dates will be detrimental to your Taekwondo progress.

Just focus more on training for the love of the game!

Taekwondo Black Belt Age Requirements

In WT Taekwondo, for example, you cannot get a black belt until you are at least 16 years of age.

This is because if you are under the age of 15, you have not yet reached your full strength and performance potential in Taekwondo.

Instead, you will be awarded a red and black belt.

The red and black belt is used in WT Taekwondo.

WTF stands for World Taekwondo Federation, and this organization awards red and black belts to students that achieve the skill level of a black belt before the age of 15.

The reason they are not given a normal black belt is to show that the young student does not yet have the strength and performance of an adult black belt.

There are no age requirements for the other belts besides the black belt.

Taekwondo Black Belt Test

A Taekwondo black belt test consists of fitness testing, where you will do running and other aerobic exercises, followed by some technique demonstrations, combinations, semi-contact, technical sparring, a test of self-defense skills, and a theory test.

Taekwondo promotion tests have a set structure.

In the technique demonstration, you will likely have to perform your “forms” and showcase sequences of techniques.

You may also be asked to demonstrate self-defense techniques like pressure point attacks.

During the rank testing, you will do some semi-contact sparring. This may be against one or multiple attackers. The point of sparring is to showcase your skill and composure, not to beat each other up.

The rest of the test will have questions about the history of Taekwondo and will ask you about basic concepts.

You should spend time outside of class preparing for your grading.

Yes, in terms of testing requirements, every studio is different, but here at Martial Arts Republic, a first-degree black belt test has 10 stages which generally last about three hours non-stop.

Master Kun won’t even let you take the black belt test until he sees that you have mastered all the lower belt kicks and forms. Ultimately, the test is one of endurance.

At the end of the test, you’ll understand why Master Kun says that “a black belt test is a physical and mental test.”

Here are the 10 stages.

  • Warm-up (a bunch of jumping jacks) and stretching.
  • Kicking. You do each belt’s kicking combination up and down the studio.
  • Push-ups. You do a lot of push-ups during a black belt. You start with 20 push-ups at the white belt and you add 10 push-ups as you go up the belts. By the time you’re on the brown belt, you’re doing 120 push-ups. Yes, you end up doing 770 push-ups during the test.
  • Forms. You run through all the belt forms. If Master Kun doesn’t like one person’s form, you may all be asked to repeat a form.
  • Sit-ups. Same as the push-ups, you do sit-ups with each belt, starting with 20, until you do 120 at the brown belt. Yep, you end up doing 770 sit-ups during the test.
  • Squats. After the blue stripe belt, the squats start, starting with 10, adding 10 more with each successive belt.
  • After you’ve gone through all the forms, you do three rounds of sparring. The first 2 are against 1 black belt; each round lasts 1.5 – 2 minutes. During the third round, you go up against 2 black belts, also for 1.5 – 2 minutes. Yes, you will take a beating. Why sparring at the end of the test? Because any martial arts-trained person can fight fresh; the black belt test shows you can fight even when you’re exhausted.
  • Breaking. Before the test, Master Kun will work with each student to develop three kicking combinations of three kicks each. So you’ll end up breaking 9 boards (10 if you do a double kick).
  • As the Grand Finale, you do hand breaking. If you are under 8 years old, you break 5 thin boards, over 8 you break 5 thick boards, and over 18 you break a 2-inch thick slab of concrete. If you’re over 18 and you don’t succeed in breaking a slab of concrete, you’ll be presented with 5 thick boards.
  • At the end of the test, after all the kicking, forms, sparring, and breaking, you get to eat Korean Food!

What Does a Black Belt in Taekwondo Mean?

Black belts in taekwondo mean that the person who earned them has a complete understanding of the fundamental principles of the art. That person can now begin to teach other people these fundamentals. They may also go on to achieve other dan levels as well.

Having earned the black belt, the martial artist shows responsibility to not only himself or herself, but to others, and the community as well.

The student is capable of exceptional self-defense skills and emotional mastery.

A martial artist with a black belt shows respect, honor, discipline, and focus in life.

A black belt in taekwondo does not mean that you have mastered taekwondo, or that there is nothing left to learn.

Instead, it simply means that you can follow all of the movements and the principles of taekwondo.

A black belt is also a condition for participation in international competitions of World Taekwondo.

As it relates to career advancement, getting a black belt qualifies you for participation in different international competitions, such as the World Taekwondo competition.

A black belt also does not mean that you are an exceptional fighter or that you can beat anyone when sparring.

It also does not mean that you have mastered the art of taekwondo.

Earning a black belt doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end. It means you’ve seen how far the path leads and you’re willing to keep walking.

Martial Arts Republic

Earning a black belt doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end. It means you’ve seen how far the path leads and you’re willing to keep walking.

Firstly, size does not matter in taekwondo. 

Secondly, there are many more techniques and skills to learn as you add stripes to your black belt by earning dan levels.

Holding a black belt is not the final destination—it is just the beginning of a lifelong quest to learn using the tools already given.

A practitioner wearing a black belt has the responsibility to pass on knowledge, encouragement, and experience to willing students.

To become an expert, the taekwondo practitioner will have to continue their learning towards the higher Dan levels.

There are nine levels of Dan in Taekwondo as already discussed above.

Each Dan passed is the result of technical work but is also the result of a mental and personal progression.

This is why the time required to obtain the grades is much longer: one must wait as many years between a Dan and the one to be reached, at least.

More clearly, if you are a 1st Dan, you must wait two years before presenting yourself to the 2nd Dan; if you are a 2nd Dan, you must wait three years before presenting yourself to the 3rd Dan, and so on until the 9th Dan.

So, as you may have guessed, obtaining the higher Dan is a life-long project as progress is determined by the mastery of the sport and the movements, the control, and the knowledge of oneself.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Black Belt in Taekwondo?

On average, it takes between 3-5 years to earn a 1st Dan in taekwondo.

A taekwondo student can earn a black belt faster than in any other form of martial arts.

Black belts in Tae Kwon Do are achieved in degrees, with the practitioner able to earn the first-degree black belt within three to five years.

Some schools stipulate a minimum of four to five years of training before a student can earn a black belt, while others do not.

The student must first pass a test that is based on the school’s curriculum, and it is not uncommon for students to fail the test multiple times.       

Is It Hard to Get Taekwondo Black Belt?

Getting a Taekwondo black belt isn’t easy. It takes hard work, dedication, determination, and long years of practice to achieve this rank. However, when compared to other martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which takes up to 10 years, getting a black belt in taekwondo is not hard.

Taekwondo is arguably the easiest martial art to get a black belt in as it takes only between 3-5 Years.

As stated earlier, a student can earn a black belt in Tae Kwon Do faster than in most other forms of martial arts.

This is relatively easy compared to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (10 Years)

A black belt is extremely hard to achieve in BJJ. It is difficult to progress through the ranks and earning just a blue belt takes three to five years. A black belt may be earned in ten years.

What is the Highest Degree of Taekwondo Black Belt You Can Earn?

The highest degree/rank in Taekwondo is the 9th Dan Black Belt which is also known as the “Grand Master” rank.

This is also the highest rank that is awarded to the living people as the “10th dan black belt” is usually awarded posthumously.

The only exception made was when Kim Ki-Wang received a 10th dan rank while lying in a hospital bed shortly before he died of cancer in 1993.

In WT, there have been 6 “10th Dan” black belts and 45 “9th Dan” black belts, while ITF has 39 “9th Dan” black belts, and not a single person owns and 10th Dan. The people with the highest 10th Dan rank holders in WT are:

  • Choi Joon
  • Lee Moo-Yong
  • Kim Ki-whang
  • Lee Jong-soo (aka: Chong Lee)
  • Sell Edward B
  • Pan Sim-woon

Is a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do Good?

A taekwondo black belt is good as it is proof of a student’s high physical and mental skills such as self-defense, self-control, mental, awareness, respect, honesty, and leadership skills as provided in the tenets of taekwondo.

However, strength depends on how you train, how much you train, what other sports you participate in, and your diet.

For example, in my Taekwondo class, there are a lot of varied black belts.

One is large but skilled, funny, and easy to learn from. Another is post-army and strong, controlled, balanced and skilled.

One is 13 and short, but mid-key strong and has good technique.

One is the main instructor, who is a little bit large and lets his personality shine through, a little older and has to adapt some techniques to his body but is strong for his age and friendly.

So why am I telling you this?

Because there’s a lot of diversity in any group, everyone is different and so you can’t categorize black belts as one thing.

Now I’m not going to deny that there are many incredibly strong black belts! Just not all of them are. And some, are really, really good.

Final Thought

Achieving a black belt in Taekwondo is a significant accomplishment and can bring a great sense of personal satisfaction and pride.

It can also open up new opportunities for training and teaching, as well as provide a foundation for further martial arts study and competition.

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