The beginner’s belt color. White represents a primitive stage of development. White also symbolizes purity. Thus, a seed as it lies dormant beneath the snows of winter.
The tiger is a fast, aggressive, intelligent animal. They are hunters who attack swiftly and with great force. When White Belts begin their training, they are eager to learn and absorb information quickly. Like the tiger, their movements are quick and hard. When sparring, new students often fight offensively, with hard, stiff techniques. Similar to the way a tiger hunts, the White Belt relies on a few techniques he/she feels comfortable with attacks in along a linear path, and uses strength and force to execute moves.
The symbolic element of White Belts metal. Metal is hard and rigid, like the movements of a White Belt. White Belts tend to move stiffly as they continue to develop their technique and increase their level of comfort executing punches, kicks and blocks.
Yellow is the first real stage of growth and development, like the new growth that appears in spring. At this level, a student first begins to reveal their newfound knowledge.
At orange belt, students should have a basic understanding of beginning techniques. Orange represents the knowledge that begins to emerge like the budding of a young plant in spring.
Green represents the speedy development of youth as summer arrives. Students at this level are still continuing to grow in their knowledge and understanding of the art.
The Dragon is believed to have been a ferocious animal. Dragons were bigger and stronger than tigers, yet not as quick or as graceful as birds (the animal of the red belt). Symbolically, Green Belts are just beginning to learn jumping and flying kicks. They are still most comfortable performing techniques on the ground.
Wood is less rigid and hard than metal. Green Belts continue to develop good stretching techniques and gain greater flexibility of their muscles. As Green Belts begin to develop their inner spirit and confidence, their technique softens. Green Belt’s forms are smoother, their sparring is more relaxed, and their blocks and kicks are becoming more focused. This growth comes as the green belt begins to understand the theory behind each technique, and is able to learn through ‘feeling” the movement.
Red represents blood, life, energy, attention, and control. The student’s power and techniques begin to bloom and ripen, as they begin to mature as martial artists. Now the student begins the preparation of mind and body for the final step needed to attain the rank of chodan.
Red Belt is associated with the bird. Young birds must take many risks as they prepare to leave their nests and fly on their own, while mature birds soar confidently through the sky. The Red Belt is a combination of the two. On one level they are confident, they are training hard, and they are gaining a level of respect among the gup members. They are comfortable in the air; easily performing flying and jumping techniques. On the other hand, they are preparing to leave the comfort and security of their rank as they progress to Black Belt. In order to successfully make this transition, the Red Belt must be willing to take risks and look to their instructor for guidance and support.
The element of Red Belt is fire. Fire is moving, growing, flexible element. It can both burn wood and melt metal. This is symbolic of the Red Belt’s progression in rank and seniority among gup students. They pave put a lot of time and energy into their Tang Soo Do training, and have developed the knowledge and ability to help teach white and green belts.
Black is the last change of color in the Tang Soo Do belt system. It is the most significant rank advancement as is reflected in the full trim of the uniform top. Traditionally, Tang Soo Do Black Belts wear a navy blue belt and trim. This is because the color black symbolizes death and finality. It is the only color which does not change when more color is added to it. Black is always black, it cannot be altered. On the other hand, one can add more color to navy blue to make it darker. This is significant because the training of a Tang Soo Do Black Belt is never final. A true Black Belt never stops learning, training or improving their technique.
The turtle is an animal which moves slowly, steadily and, most importantly, purposefully. Turtle are strong yet humble. They live longer than any other animal on earth. Turtles retreat when threatened, however, they can attack fiercely when necessary. These are all qualities reflected in the life and training of a true Tang Soo Do Black Belt.
Water is the element of the Black Belt. It is the most powerful element there is. Water rusts metal, rots wood and douses fire. It can take any shape or form. It is powerful, peaceful, flowing and inviting. Water is essential to all life, just as Black Belts are essential to the life of Tang Soo Do. Like water, those who hold the rank of Black Belt must be respected. They are strong and powerful, yet have so much they are willing to share with others peacefully.Each rank of the belt system is one to be respected and understood. Each and every student of Tang Soo Do must work hard to achieve their rank. Take the time to feel proud of the belt you wear and all the traditions that come with it.
Many traditional Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do schools use a dark midnight blue colored belt for dan ranks, rather than the more common black belt. There are several reasons for this.
Historically, it is thought that the Hwa Rang Dan warriors of ancient Korean wore a very similar outfit to the uniform that we wear today, which was trimmed in a dark blue. We wear midnight blue to reflect the traditional Korean heritage of our art. Philosophically, black is the darkest color possible, symbolizing death or an ending. Midnight blue symbolizes the knowledge which has been absorbed, but it is not so dark that it cannot absorb more color (knowledge). Thus, the midnight blue belt is seen only as a new beginning, where a student may continue to learn and refine their technique, and begin to gain greater insight into their art.
The solid midnight blue belt is worn for 1st thru 3rd dans, with white or gold stripes on the left end of the belt to indicate rank. For 4th dan (master level) and above, a midnight blue belt with a red stripe all the way through the center is worn.