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The Ko Dan Ja (Master) belt is Midnight Blue with a red stripe in the middle. This is to show the harmony of Um and Yang and that the Master should be calm on the outside but ready for action should the circumstances demand. This is reflective of the Neh Khang Weh Yu (Inside Hard, Outside Soft) philosophy of Soo Bahk Do .
The Red Belt reflects Summer time. In the Summer season, growth slows as the plant reaches maturity and the ripening of the fruit begins. For the Red Belt, the growth of learning new techniques slows and the student begins to work more on deepening their understanding of current techniques and of their art, just as a plant deepens it's roots. Red also represents Yang (the active side of nature), Fire and Danger. The Red Belt is a very intense period of development, full of activity and passion, and the practitioner must be cautious in how they use their new found abilities.
There are 10 belts from the beginning White Belt stage to the 1st degree Red Belt. Intermediate ranks are designated with one or two blue stripes on the end of the belt. These 10 ranks are the preparation for the student to acquire a Midnight Blue belt.
The Green Belt is associated with Spring and the rapid growth associated with the warming weather. As the soil warms and sunlight increases, plants are able to take advantage of the nutrients in the soil and growth occurs rapidly. So the Green Belt, now comfortable with the basic movements of Soo Bahk Do, can grow rapidly nourished by the knowledge and insight of their instructors. It is at this stage that the student adds to the quantity of their techniques and movements and they begin to grow in the understanding of the philosophies that make Soo Bahk Do a unique martial art
The Orange Belt represents early Spring season where the ground is warming and growth slowly begins. Through your training, some of your abilities improve and begin to appear like a sprout peaking through the snow. The original belt ranking system did not have an Orange Belt. It was added in 1975 to reduce the time between promotions to keep students motivated through recognition of their beginning achievements.
The White Belt is associated with the Winter season. White snow covers the hidden potential of the seeds beneath. In Korean philosophy, white represents emptiness and inactivity, with the potential for anything to happen. It is in this regard that we view the White Belt - empty of martial arts knowledge but full of potential to develop into a skilled practitioner.
The Belt Ranking System of Soo Bahk Do
There are five different color belts in the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan belt ranking system. The colors were selected based on O Haeng, the five elements of Korean philosophy.
The Midnight Blue Belt represents the Fall Season. Plants that survived the Winter, grew with the nourishing rain and sunlight of Spring, produced fruit and ripened to maturity in the Summer are now ready to harvest. The culmination of immense effort resulting from years of watchful guidance by qualified, competent instructors has produced a mature martial artist ready to enter the Midnight Blue ranks. Blue represents Um which is the calm, passive side of nature.
Soo Bahk Do has a Midnight Blue belt, not a Black Belt as in other styles. In Eastern philosophy the color black is associated with completeness or perfection and Soo Bahk Do philosophy teaches that we are always learning. Western philosophy associates black with Death. The Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan teaches us how to improve our lives and those of all humanity.
The first Midnight Blue belt is Cho Dan meaning Beginning Level. Attaining the Midnight Blue rank means that the practitioner has demonstrated a basic level of proficiency in the fundamentals of Soo Bahk Do and is ready to expand and deepen their understanding of this art.
When a student earns their Midnight Blue (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.