Students begin as 10th Gup (white belt), and progress through the 10 Gup levels to 1st Gup (red belt with two blue stripes). Each of the four belts (white, orange, green, red) have intermediate ranks, indicated by blue stripes. Each belt or stripe is awarded after successfully completing a Shim Sa (grading or assessment).
Korean philosophy holds that black represents perfection, and the culmination of all knowledge. As such, there are no black belts in Soo Bahk Do. In their place, when a student completes their first Dan (degree), they are awarded a midnight blue belt, to symbolise that they will always have more to learn, and will never fully master everything there is to know.
White belts / Beginners
Symbolises winter, emptiness, innocence, hidden potential and purity.
As a white belt you represent winter. Your potential and skills are hidden under the pure white snow. As you begin your journey, through training and time your skills and potential will begin to appear. New students are introduced to the fundamentals of martial arts, with classes focusing on basic hand strikes, kicks, partner work and hyung. Strengthening and conditioning is also incorporated for beginners, however the focus is on quality, not quantity, and new students are encouraged to progress at their own pace.
Represents the time between winter and spring.
The orange belt was originally added by Grandmaster Hwang Kee in 1975, this level was designed as an extra stage of encouragement and motivation. As an orange belt you represent the time between winter and spring. Through your training, some of your skills and potential are beginning to appear like the stalk of a plant pushing up through the snow.
Symbolises spring, growth, spreading and advancement.
As a green belt you represent spring. Through hard work and training your potential and skills are becoming much more visible, like the new growth of a plant in spring. Just like a new plant your skills must be nurtured through continued hard work and practice so they will continue to grow and blossom. Increased awareness and understanding of the art comes from many hours of training and studying advanced techniques.
Symbolises summer, ripening, ‘Yang‘ and being active.
As a red belt you represent summer. With much hard work, your skills and potential have blossomed and are visible like the petals of a flower. Your training has provided you with strong roots and foundation in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. You are the embodiment of yang, by being active and dynamic in your actions, coupled with a greater responsibility in and around the Do Jang. You are able to accept life’s challenges with confidence and a positive attitude.
Midnight Blue – Dan / Degree
Symbolises autumn, maturity, ‘Um‘, passive force, a time for harvest.
As a Dan you represent autumn. The time spent training has provided you with the skills and maturity to better understand and use Soo Bahk Do. You represent the um or yin, as your training becomes more internalised, with a greater focus on the philosophical aspects of the art and passive force. This knowledge allows you to continue to grow physically and mentally as well as lead a healthy and disciplined life.
Midnight Blue with Red stripe – Master
The combined colours represent Neh Khang Weh Yu (Inside Hard, Outside Soft) associated with the philosophy of Um and Yang, the harmony of finding balance between opposing forces. The Ko Dan Ja practitioner has come as close as is humanly possible to the peace of our Moo Do philosophy.