In Taekwon-Do, character development,
fortitude, tenacity, and technique are graded as well as individual capacity. The
promotional scale is divided into nineteen ranks - 10 grades (Gups) and nine degrees
(Dans.) The former begins with 10th grade (Gup) the lowest and ends at first grade.
Degrees begin with the first degree (Dan) and end with the ultimate ninth degree.
There is, of course, a certain significance in the numbering system. With
degree, the number 9 is not only the highest one among one digit numbers but also is the
number of 3 multiplied by 3. In the Orient, three is the most esteemed of all the numbers.
The Chinese character '3' contains three lines: the upper line symbolizes the heaven; the
middle line, mortals; and the bottom line, earth.
It was believed that the individual who was successful in
promoting his country, fellowmen and God, and able to reach an accord with all three would
aspire to become King. The Chinese character for three and King are nearly synonymous.
When the number three is multiplied by itself, the equation is nine, the highest of the
high; therefore, ninth degree is the highest of the high ranking belts.
It is also interesting to note that when the numeral 9 is
multiplied by any other single digit number and the resultant figures are added together,
the answer always equals 9, i.e. 9x1=9; 9x2=18, 1+8=9 and so on up to 9x9=81, 8+1=9. Since
this is the only single digit number having this property, it again points to the number 9
as being the most positive of figures.
Taking the use of the number three one step further, the
degrees are further divided into three distinct classes. First through third degree is
considered the novice stages of black belt. Students are still merely beginners in
comparison to the higher degrees. At fourth degree, the student crosses the threshold of
puberty and enters the expert class. Seventh through ninth is composed of Taekwon-Do
masters -- the elite who fully understand all the particulars of Taekwon-Do, mental and
There is perhaps one question that remains; why begin with
the lowest of the two digit numbers, '10' why not begin with the lowest one digit number
and proceed from first grade to ninth grade, and then begin again for degrees? Though it
would certainly be more logical, the 10 to 1 and 1 to 10 numerical system in the Orient is
ageless. It would be impossible, if not even a bit impertinent, to attempt to change a
practice that is even carried into childrens games.
Perhaps there was an initial logical reason for it; however,
it seems to have been lost in antiquity. Anyhow, the number '10' is the lowest existing
two digit number; consequently, a beginner must start at this number rather than 11 or 12
which is numerically higher.
CRITERIA FOR GRADE AND DEGREE
This criteria is based on the total number of hours and days
required for the student to obtain first degree black belt, and years for the further
black belt degrees.
There are actually three programs a beginner may follow:
- An 18 month course; an hour and a half per day, six days per
week for a total of 702 hours.
- A 30 month course; an hour and a half per day, three days per
week for a total of 585 hours.
- A 12 month course; four hours per day, six days per week for a
total of 1248 hours.
Significance of first degree
First Degree---Expert or Novice
One of the greatest misconceptions within the martial arts is
the notion that all black belt holders are experts. It is understandable that those
unacquainted with the martial arts might make this equation. However, students should
certainly recognize that this is not always the case. Too often, novice black belt holders
advertise themselves as experts and eventually even convince themselves.
The first degree black belt holder has usually learned enough
technique to defend himself against a single opponent. He can be compared to a fledging
who has acquired enough feathers to leave the nest and fend for himself. The first degree
is a starting point. The student has merely built a foundation. The job of building the
house lies ahead.
The novice black belt holder will now really begin to learn
technique. Now that he has mastered the alphabet, he can begin to read. Years of hard work
and study await him before he can even begin to consider himself an instructor or expert.
A perceptive student will, at this stage, suddenly realize
how very little he knows. The black belt holder also enters a new era of responsibility.
Though a freshman, he has entered a strong honorable fraternity of the black belt holders
of the world; and his actions inside and outside the training hall will be carefully
scrutinized. His conduct will reflect on all black belt holders and he must constantly
strive to set an example for all grade holders.
Some will certainly advance into the expert stages. However,
far too many will believe the misconception and will remain novice, mentally and