The philosophy of Tang Soo Do’s belt system ranks differently than any other martial art system in the world. The colored belts represent the four seasons of nature with each denoting its own philosophy.
- White: given to the new student, represents winter when everything is covered by a blanket of pure white snow-there is a lot of potential.
- Orange: represents early spring when the snow slowly begins to melt or thaw-thus symbolizing the awakening of knowledge.
- Green: represents late spring or early summer when seeds begin to grow and leaves turn green-potential is commencing its growth.
- Red: represents a continuance of summer’s growth much like nature experiences with its hot summer days-there is more energy, however, focus and control are still lacking.
- Midnight Blue: represents the blue skies of autumn, which is like the wise tree whose foundation you cannot see such that when the wind blows, the tree moves just enough to avoid breaking-students at this stage have attained more maturity, confidence, and discipline.
Because black is traditionally associated with death and funerals in Korea, it was designated the color for the highest ranking belt during the Japanese occupation. Black symbolized the mastering of everything in that the color cannot be changed by adding another color. After World War II, Grandmaster Hwang Kee changed the highest ranking color to midnight blue. This change was made to indicate that it is possible to continue adding more and more color to blue, rendering it darker and darker thereby implying that we must not become stagnate in our physical, mental, and spiritual ability. Also, that no matter what stage of life we are experiencing, there is always room for growth; contrary to the symbolic statement made by the color black that cannot be changed (i.e. a student could reach their full growth and potential).
There is a sub-system within our color ranking system. The following table lists the rank, belt color and uniform requirements for students as they progress below the blue belt rank:
|10th Gup||White||Plain White|
|9th Gup||Yellow (10 & under)||Plain White|
|8th Gup||Orange||Plain White|
|7th Gup||Orange-1 blue tip||Plain White|
|6th Gup||Green||Green Lapel Trim|
|5th Gup||Green-1 blue tip||Green Lapel Trim|
|4th Gup||Green-2 blue tips||Green Lapel Trim|
|3rd Gup||Red||Red Lapel Trim|
|2nd Gup||Red-1 blue tip||Red Lapel Trim|
|1st Gup||Red-2 blue tips||Red Lapel Trim|