ATA Belt Structure & Requirements

December 2004

This page is the result of combining my ATA Belt Requirements and Belt Structure pages. There was a fair amount of overlap, so this made sense. I had considered removing the pages entirely when I part ways with the ATA, but since I had put a fair amount of effort into it, and someone might find it useful, I have chosen to expend the energy to combine the pages.

Although I've updated the material a bit to make it more consistent, the vast majority is as it was written in May 2001. As in other places on my web site, I've chosen to preserve earlier writing to demonstrate the differences in my beliefs and ideology between then and the present.

May 2001

Belt Descriptions

Although every style of TKD seems to use a different system of belt colors for ranking, the ATA is still somewhat unique. Most schools that I am familiar with use approximately 5 different belt colors below black, and you test twice for each color belt -- once for the color, and again for a "stripe". In this second case a stripe of electrical tape is applied to your belt to indicate the new rank.

One school I was with actually put the stripe on the belt at the first testing, and removed it after passing the second. Seems kind of backwards, especially as the electrical tape is likely to leave a gummy residue behind. Guess the originator of that school felt the need to make his mark and differentiate his school from the others. ;-)

The ATA belt structure uses every color I've ever heard of:

Internally the various ranks are often grouped together in blocks (see the page on ATA Block Training for details):

Block

Belts

Beginner White belt
Novice 1 Orange & Yellow belts
Novice 2 Camo & Green belts
Intermediate Purple & Blue belts
Advanced Brown & Red belts

To make it more "interesting", we test twice at Purple, Blue, Brown, & Red belts. At Green belt we test for Purple Recommended, and then for Purple Decided. This pattern repeats itself for the remaining colored belts.

When I first joined Allen's TKD the system was slightly different. At each lower belt rank (Novice 1, Novice 2, Intermediate) we received our promotions as "Recommended", e.g., Orange belt Recommended. IF we scored high enough on our test the promotion was "Decided", e.g., Orange belt Decided. What difference did this make? None that I could determine. My guess is that it simply looked better, as it indicated that we did better on the test. Brown and Red belts tested twice, once each for Recommended and Decided.

After I tested for Brown belt Mr. Wegmann changed the rules a bit. We no longer had any difference between Recommended and Decided for Novice 1 & 2 students. And he started requiring two testing cycles each for Purple and Blue belts.

[Personally, this was a good idea. There is SO MUCH material at Purple and Blue belts that it was over whelming! I passed my Purple belt test, but it was NOT a good performance. The next testing cycle, when I could have tested for Brown, I declined to test 'cuz I knew I was not ready. The extra testing cycle did me a lot of good.]

The way things are now, we test at least 13 times to earn our Black belt (in the ATA, this is actually 1st Degree Black Decided).

It seems like there are more rungs in the ATA ladder to black belt than in other TKD styles I'm familiar with. But I don't think this isn't a bad thing -- if anything it makes for better black belts. I've seen ads for schools that promise a black belt in a fixed amount of time, like 1-1/2 years. As with anything else, the more time and real effort you put in, the better you'll be. So a school that enforces more time to attain black belt seems more likely to produce better black belts. There is also a commercial issue of more tests equating more testing fees, but TKD is a business that needs to make a profit. (My thoughts on TKD and profit are more fully described in my Path to Orange Belt)

Belt Stripes

At colored belt level, the ATA uses a "stripe" system to keep track of what material the students have been taught and displayed proficiency in. As a student demonstrates proficiency in the material to an instructor they are awarded stripes, e.g., strips of black electrical tape applied to the left tip of their belt. These stripes are positional and have definite requirements and meanings. Unlike testing, these demonstrations of technique are usually quite informal, although at times we may demonstrate our technique in front of the class. [Personally, I think that is good. It preps us for testing in a non-pass/fail situation.]

Stripe 1, which is closest to the end of the belt, is awarded for demonstrating proficiency in the basic for that belt, e.g., blocks, strikes, kicks, and stances. In the case of White belts, learning the ATA Creed is also a requirement.

Stripe 2 is next closest to the end, and is awarded for demonstrating proficiency in the form for the belt.

Stripe 3 is farthest away from the end, and is awarded for demonstrating proficiency in one-steps and self-defense for White through Green belts. For Purple and above the stripe is awarded for self-defense, sparring segments, and board breaks.

This system proves handy, as it gives the students clear goals during each testing cycle. It also allows the instructors to know which material to concentrate on. My understanding is that each testing cycle has an general lesson plan, so awards for stripe 1 should occur during one period, awards for stripe 2 during another period, etc. If a student is in a later period, but doesn't have stripe(s) for previous period(s), the instructor knows to concentrate on making sure the previous material has been learned.

Note: At one point I thought about listing the forms and one-steps here on my web site. However, that is all ATA copyrighted material so I'm not going to do it. My goal is to put my material on this site -- not anything proprietary.

Recommended & Decided ranks

When I started with Allen's TKD, when we passed at testing we were awarded the next rank "recommended, e.g., at White belt we would promote to Orange Belt Recommended. However, if our score at testing was high enough the promotion would be "decided", e.g. Orange Belt Decided. The difference was denoted by a black stripe on the right tip of the new belt.

What did this really mean? Not much. Regardless of whether we were promoted Recommended or Decided, we learned the same material. I guess it was more a difference on the records that were sent to National HQ.

Also, when I started with Allen's, Purple and Blue belts each took one testing cycle to complete and Brown and Red belts each required two testing cycles. Right after my testing at Blue belt Mr. Wegmann instituted block training and he started requiring that Purple and Blue belts take two testing cycles to complete.

He also did away with the "Decided" stripe for Novice 1 & 2 ranks, as it no longer meant much (not that it ever did), and it confused the issue for Intermediate and Advanced ranks. Instead, Purple, Blue, Brown, and Red have a Recommended and a Decided rank, each of which must be tested for. So at Green belt we test for Purple Recommend, at Purple Recommended we test for Purple Decided, at Purple Decided we test for Blue Recommended. You get the idea.

Most of the material we are responsible for at a given rank is the same for both Recommended and Decided. However, there area few differences. There are two self-defense techniques per rank -- we do one at each testing. Also, Mr. Wegmann has created new sparring segments so we are responsible for three sparring segments per testing, plus there are different break requirements. Finally, when testing for each Decided rank, older forms are also required. To make this easier to understand, I've listed a table for each rank that is tested for. When you get to the section for Purple belt it should be obvious.

White Belt Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks High Block, Low Block, Inner Forearm Block
Strikes Front Punch, Reverse Punch, Knifehand Strike
Kicks Front Kicks #1-4, Side Kicks #1-4
Stances Ready, Front, Middle (called Horse stance in other TKD styles)
ATA Creed Songahm Spirit of TKD
Forms Songahm 1
One-Step Sparring Three Techniques
Self-Defense Two Techniques

Orange Belt Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Outer Forearm Block, Double Outer Forearm Block, Twin Low Block
Strikes Backfist Strike
Kicks Round Kicks #1-4
Stances Back
Forms Songahm 2
One-Step Sparring Three Techniques
Self-Defense Two Techniques

Yellow Belt Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Double Knifehand Block, Knifehand Low Block, Knifehand High Block
Strikes Vertical Spearhand
Kicks Outer Crescent Kicks #1-4, Inner Crescent Kicks #1-4, Jump Front Kicks #1-4
Stances N/A
Forms Songahm 3
One-Step Sparring Three Techniques
Self-Defense Two Techniques

Camo Belt Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Twin Inner Forearm Block
Strikes N/A
Kicks Reverse Side Kick, Step Reverse Side Kick, Spin Side Kick, Step Spin Side Kick
Stances Sparring
Forms Songahm 4
One-Step Sparring Three Techniques
Self-Defense Two Techniques

Green Belt Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Twin Outer Forearm Block
Strikes Ridgehand Strike, Reverse Horizontal Spearhand
Kicks Reverse Crescent Kick, Step Reverse Crescent Kick, Spin Crescent Kick, Step Spin Crescent Kick, Jump Side Kicks #1-3
Stances N/A
Forms Songahm 5
One-Step Sparring Three Techniques
Self-Defense Two Techniques

Purple Belt Recommended Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Square Block, Front High/Low Block, Knifehand Block
Strikes Reverse Horizontal Elbow Strike, Back Elbow Strike, Vertical Punch
Kicks Hook Kicks #1-4, Reverse Hook Kick, Step Reverse Hook Kick, Spin Hook Kick, Step Spin Hook Kick, Jump Round Kicks #1-4
Stances N/A
Forms In Wha 1
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("A" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("A")
Breaks Reverse Elbow Strike

Purple Belt Decided Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, & Stances same as Purple Belt Recommended
Forms In Wha 1, Songahm 1
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("B" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("B")
Breaks Palm Heel Strike

Blue Belt Recommended Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Low X Block, Ridgehand Block, Knifehand Square Block, Side High/Low Block
Strikes Horizontal Palm Heel, Twin Upset Punch , Reverse Upward Elbow, Upset Knifehand, Head Grab-Knee Strike
Kicks Jump Crescent Kicks #1-4, Jump Reverse Crescent Kick, Step Jump Reverse Crescent Kick, Jump Spin Reverse Crescent Kick, Step Jump Spin Crescent Kick, Reverse Round Kick, Step Forward Reverse Round Kick
Stances N/A
Forms In Wha 2, Songahm 1
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("A" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("A")
Breaks Side Kick

Blue Belt Decided Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, & Stances same as Blue Belt Recommended
Forms In Wha 2, Songahm 1, Songahm 2
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("B" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("B")
Breaks Front Kick

Brown Belt Recommended Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Palm Upset Block, Double Knifehand Low Block, Side High/Low Knifehand Block, High X Block, Low Double Forearm Block
Strikes Upset Ridgehand Strike, Palm Heel Strike
Kicks Heel Kicks #1-4, Reverse Heel Kick, Step Forward Reverse Heel Kick, Spin Heel Kick, Step Forward Spin Heel Kick
Stances Rear
Forms Choong Jung 1, Songahm 1, Songahm 2
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("A" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("A")
Breaks Reverse Elbow Strike, Side Kick

Brown Belt Decided Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, & Stances same as Brown Belt Recommended
Forms Choong Jung 1, Songahm 1, Songahm 2, Songahm 3
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("B" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("B")
Breaks Reverse Elbow Strike, Front Kick

Red Belt Recommended Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks Double Inner Forearm Block, Knifehand High X Block
Strikes Horizontal Back Elbow, Long Upset Ridgehand Strike, Reverse Upset Punch, Palm Heel Strike
Kicks #3 Jump Round Kick, Reverse Hook Kick, Jump Hook Kicks #1-4, Jump Reverse Hook Kick, Step Forward Jump Reverse Hook Kick, Jump Spin Hook Kick, Step Forward Jump Spin Spin Hook Kick
Stances Rear
Forms Choong Jung 2, Songahm 1, Songahm 2, Songahm 3
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("A" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("A")
Breaks Reverse Elbow Strike, Jump Side Kick

Red Belt Decided Requirements

Area

Requirements

Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, & Stances same as Red Belt Recommended
Forms Choong Jung 2, Songahm 1, Songahm 2, Songahm 3, Songahm 4
Sparring Segments Three Techniques ("B" segments)
Self-Defense One Technique ("B")
Breaks Palm Heel Strike, Round Kick

Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas