If there is a difference between taekwondo as a sport, and taekwondo as an art, it is that the art recognises no rules for combat while the sport of taekwondo is highly regulated for the safety of its participants.

As an art, taekwondo focuses on a combination of combat techniques and self-defense as well as being a good form of exercise and enjoyment.

In taekwondo a system of attacking and defensive movements incorporating punching, kicking and blocking techniques as well as differing stances is done in a set sequence and is referred to as Poomsae. These basic movements bring together all the martial art skills in a graceful yet powerful manner.

Poomsae forms a significant part of the promotion process in taekwondo, and practitioners must be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the arrangements before that can progress to the next rank.

Belts and promotion

Like many martial arts, taekwondo has ranks called ‘Kup’. The grading in taekwondo consists mainly of patterns, ‘poomsae’, techniques and theory. Theory is displayed verbally and expresses information on Korean words, vital information such as the rules of the sport and a general understanding and knowledge of taekwondo.

New students begin at 10th Kup (white belt) and advance down in number to 1st Kup. students then advance into an intermediate rank called meaning “black belt candidate”. After this the student takes a dan test, after which the student becomes a 1st dan black belt.

Kup ranks and belt colours

The coloured belt system represents the progression of a student from white, the innocence of a beginner to the maturity of the black belt, who is impervious to darkness and fear. The coloured belt sequence from white to black is as follows:


Black belt – Dan ranks

Dan ranks increase from 1st Dan to 10th Dan, generally a dan black belt is either a plain black belt or has a stripe across the tip for each rank usually gold. For example, a 5th dan could have five gold stripes across the end of the belt.

All British Taekwondo members receive ranks of 1st dan and above issued from the Kukkiwon. To participate in the Olympic Games all black belt must be registered this way.

Taekwondo teaches more than just physical fighting skills and defensive techniques. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind.

Please refer to the health benefits section for further information.