By and large, Tang Soo Do uses the colored belt system that was instituted by Jigoro Kano and first used in Karate-Do by Gichin Funakoshi. However, minor deviations according to organization and/or individual school are commonplace. One differentiating characteristic of the Moo Duk Kwan style is that the traditional black belt, or dan rank, is frequently replaced by a Midnight Blue Belt for students who attain Dan rank. The reason for the midnight blue belt is due to the belief in Korean culture, that black symbolizes an ending or a finishing point. Many schools and organizations still opt to use the black belt. The Moo Duk Kwan lineage of Tang Soo Do incorporates a red-striped/trimmed midnight blue (or black) belt to denote individuals who have reached the rank of sah bu nhim, or 4th dan. The 7th-10th dan ranking is signified with two red stripes or a single golden stipe running along the length of a midnight blue (or black) belt to denote individuals who have reached the rank of “kwang jang nim” or (grandmaster).
The original non-dan, or gup, belt colors established by Hwang Kee were: white belt; green belt; and red belt. In the 1970s, an orange belt was added after the white belt along with either one or two stripes onto the orange, green and red belts. In the mid 1980’s a yellow belt was placed between the white and orange belt. Many variations of this ranking system are still used and typically employ other colors (e.g. yellow, brown, purple, blue, etc.). However, this is primarily a western influence.
At Cary Tang Soo Do, we adhere to the original instruction of Hwang Kee as passed down by Grand Master Jae Joon Kim.
White Belt – 10th Gup
White Belt, 1 stripe – 9th Gup
Purple Belt, 1 stripe – 8th Gup
Purple Belt, 2 stripes – 7th Gup
Green Belt, 1 stripe – 6th Gup
Green Belt, 2 stripes – 5th Gup
Green Belt, 3 stripes – 4th Gup
Red Belt, 1 stripe – 3rd Gup
Red Belt, 2 stripes – 2nd Gup
Red Belt, 3 stripes – 1st Gup
Black Belt – 1st Dan/Degree through 10th Dan/Degree