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The Belt Ranking System of Soo Bahk Do

There are five different color belts in the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan (手搏道武德館) belt ranking system. The colors were selected based on O Haeng, the five elements of Korean philosophy.

Gup Belts


Associated with the Winter season. White snow hides the hidden potential of the seeds beneath. In Korean philosophy, white represents emptiness and inactivity, with the potential for anything to happen.


Associated with early Spring. The days get longer and the sun shines warmer, promoting growth. The orange belt was added in 1975 as an extra step between white and green belts. It did not affect the number of Gup ranks between white belt and midnight blue belt.


Associated with Spring. The snow has melted away, revealing the promise of what's to come.


Associated with Summer. Ripening fruits cultivated from dedicated effort. Red represents Yang, the active force.

In Soo Bahk Do the beginner student passes through ten Gup grades, numbered in descending order from tenth to first. After achieving first gup, the Soo Bahk Do student begins to focus on earning their first Dan level.

In addition to solid color belts, intermediate ranks are indicated by the presence of one or two blue stripes at the left end of a student's belt.

Dan Belts

Midnight Blue

Associated with Autumn season and the Harvest. The Dan member has a perceptible maturity. Blue represents Um, the passive force.

Midnight Blue w/ Red Stripe

The combined colors 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.

In Soo Bahk Do we do not have black belts. Korean philosophy describes the color black as representing perfection. One of our beliefs as Soo Bahk Do practitioners is that we must always work harder and try to learn something new. As such, the color black does not fit with our philosophy and we do not use it, though for practical purposes our Midnight Blue belt is rank equivalent with black belts of other martial arts styles.

When a student earns their Dan belt, they are assigned a Dan Bon, or Dan Number, which is recorded in the Kwan Jok Bu, the official book of certified Dan members under the Moo Duk Kwan. That number will be with the student for the rest of their lives.

In addition to solid midnight blue belts for yu dan ja, intermediate ranks are indicated by the presence of two or three white stripes at the left end of a student's belt.

Our Ko Dan Ja (master) belts feature a red stripe running parallel through the center of the blue belt, which indicates that the wearer has obtained the rank of 4th Dan or higher. This is the last visual rank change indicated by our belt system, although masters continue their training to advance as high as 10th Dan.

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