Taekwondo belt order:
Walking around the stadium on a tournament day, you might have seen a lot of different colored belts. White, yellow, orange, purple, green, blue, brown, red, black, and almost everything in between! How much do these colors matter when it comes to divisioning?
Divisioning, or bracketing (as it is sometimes known), is the area and process by which taekwondo athletes are sorted into competition order. Theoretically, the divisioning officials ensure that white and yellow belts will fight each other while the brown and red belts will play against each other. In sparring, players are also segregated by weight class to facilitate the safety of all people involved.
As a general expectation, taekwondo tournaments at the local level (also known as "locals") loosely follow these guidelines, while taekwondo tournaments at the state or national level follow these guidelines more closely.
Divisioning at the local level can be quite fuzzy, although the sport is working on standardizing this. Historically, divisioning officials have given in to coaches' demands and desires, such as "my player shouldn't be in the same division as that player" and "I want all my athletes in different divisions." By the textbook rules (ie. USAT guidelines), these should not be relevant factors in divisioning. However, because tournament directors want the coaches and schools to come back year after year, some of this ambiguity exists at the local level.
A key note is that players with color belts are not generally required to prove their current rank in order to compete at that specified level of tournament. Even players with black belts may not need to prove their rank at some locals. However, black belts should expect to demonstrate proof of certification at most state-level and national tournaments.
Taekwondo forms by belt:
In poomsae, or taekwondo forms, referees are usually segregated by one-time volunteers and regular, more experienced referees before the players even step into the ring. The referees with less experience will be assigned to the lower-ranked, color belt rings while the referees with more experience (or poomsae certification) will typically remain in the higher-ranked, black belt rings. Although the referees with less experience will usually have a supervising referee to keep them in check, this may explain the greater variance of scores seen in color belt rings. Because tournaments are often low on volunteers and referees, this keeps the tournament running smoothly and effectively. Perhaps more importantly, it helps prevent referees from finding themselves judging forms that they are unfamiliar with.
The following list should serve as a general guideline of what players with certain ranks can perform at competition. Whether it is actually followed usually depends on the quality control, size, and culture of the tournament and tournament director.
Authorized poomsae for color belts, by taekwondo belt order.
White/Yellow or equivalent -- Taegeuk 1 or 2
Green or equivalent -- Taegeuk 3 or 4
Blue or equivalent -- Taegeuk 5 or 6
Red or equivalent -- Taegeuk 7 or 8
Occasionally, a young player will perform a poomsae outside of the authorized or recommended poomsae for his or her rank. This is usually because the coach or parent was unaware that the referee was expecting to see a certain taekwondo form for this division. Unfortunately for this player, both amateur and experienced referees are likely to place the player last for doing the incorrect form. Some beginning referees, if they are unacquainted with regular tournament procedures, may let it slide. Having players perform the correct form for their levels keeps the competition grounds fair.
Do you know all the correct forms for your level? You can check out this comprehensive list.
Taekwondo black belt:
Although all forms should be performed and judged to the best of one's ability, the black belt forms have historically been held to a much higher standard than that of the color belt forms. Further, many tournaments are beginning to distinguish between traditional black belt poomsae and sports poomsae. The main difference is that the scoring is even stricter for sports poomsae, and sports poomsae requires coaches who are up to date with the most recent changes and expectations.
Authorized poomsae for black belts, in "traditional" competition.
First degree black -- Koryo
Second degree black -- Keumgang
Third degree black -- Taebeck
Fourth degree black -- Pyongwon
Fifth degree black -- Sipjin
Sixth degree black -- Jitae
Seventh degree black -- Cheonkwon
Eighth degree black -- Hansoo
Ninth degree black -- Ilyeo
Authorized poomsae for black belts, in "sports" competition, typically depends on age and gender. Although it is commonly divided by cadet, junior, senior, and masters age brackets, the actual authorized forms for taekwondo black belts may vary from event to event. The authorized poomsae is usually announced two weeks before the event, but they may be announced as late as the day before. Some events are beginning to do "quick draw," where the poomsae to perform is selected and announced immediately after the player enters the ring. Korean players have adapted to this quick draw method; however, American players still find this last-minute selection quite stressful. For this reason, it has not seen a great amount of traction in the United States.
Another aspect of taekwondo forms originating from Korea is the push for new, dynamic forms. It is driven by a desire to distinguish the taekwondo forms from the linear art of karate, and this new movement incorporates the gymnastic and freestyle movements that Koreans have been using in their demo routines for the past decade. For the most part, this has seen success in Korea but is slow to gain traction in the United States.
Once again, if you need a refresher of what your black belt taekwondo form looks like, there is a comprehensive list here. If you prefer to watch something, there are also DVDs available.
Taekwondo belt display:
With all the work put into earning these belts, some players choose to display their previous belts as a symbol of progression and achievement. Some of the most popular displays are ones that can be personalized with the student's name or ones that have a door to prevent dust. These products can generally be ordered with an oak finish, mahogany finish, or black finish.
Taekwondo belts for sale:
It is recommended that a student waits for the teacher to award a belt as a symbol of ranking, achievement, and progression. However, if you are a coach or a student who has lost a previous belt due to unforeseeable factors (ie. during a move), there are color belts and black belts readily available at a trivially low cost.
It may be worth purchasing a higher quality black belt if you are planning on getting it embroidered. Colored belts are not typically embroidered, although some schools will choose to do so.
Once tied, the ends of the belt should be even, extending about three inches past the end of a dobok, or taekwondo uniform.