Gup (급, also spelled Geup or Kup) is a junior rank in taekwondo.
Taekwondo ranks are typically separated into "junior" and "senior," or "student" and "instructor," sections. The junior section typically consists of ten ranks indicated by the Korean word geup 급 (also Romanized as gup). Geup literally meaning grade. The junior ranks are usually identified by belts of various colors, depending on the school, so these ranks are sometimes called "color belts". Geup rank may be indicated by stripes on belts rather than by colored belts. Students begin at tenth geup (often indicated by a white belt) and advance toward first geup (often indicated by a red belt with a white or black stripe). Many schools also group colored belts into tiers: beginners, intermediate and advanced. Typically advanced students will be assistants to the instructors, helping the senior belts, or Dan, teach demonstrating techniques or showing beginner students how to tie their belts for example.
The senior belt section is typically made up of nine ranks. Each rank is called a Dan 단, also referred to as "black belt" or "degree" (as in "third dan" or "third-degree black belt"). Black belts begin at 1st degree and advance to 2nd, 3rd, and so on. The degree can be indicated on the belt itself with: stripes, roman numerals, or other methods; sometimes black belts are just the name of the person and/or the name of their dojang/system but for some schools the belt may be plain and unadorned, regardless of rank.
To advance from one rank to the next, students typically complete promotion tests in which they demonstrate their proficiency in the various aspects of the art before their teacher or a panel of judges. Promotion tests vary from school to school, but may include such elements as the execution of patterns, which combine various techniques in specific sequences; the breaking of boards to demonstrate the ability to use techniques with both power and control; sparring and self-defense to demonstrate the practical application and control of techniques; physical fitness usually with push-ups and sit-ups; and answering questions on terminology, concepts, and history to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the art. For higher dan tests, students are sometimes required to take a written test or submit a research paper in addition to taking the practical test.
Promotion from one geup to the next can proceed rapidly in some schools, since schools often allow geup promotions every two, three, or four months. Students of geup rank learn the most basic techniques first, and then move on to more advanced techniques as they approach first dan. Many of the older and more traditional schools often take longer to allow students to test for higher ranks than newer, more contemporary schools. For example, some contemporary schools may not have required testing intervals and often test on a monthly basis.
In contrast, promotion from one Dan to the next can take years. The general rule is that a black belt may advance from one rank to the next only after the number of years equivalent to their current rank. For example, a newly promoted third-degree black belt may not be allowed to advance to fourth-degree until three years have passed. Some organizations also have age requirements related to dan promotions (for example in some styles you may have to be at least 21 years old to be promoted to 3rd dan), and may grant younger students poom 품 (junior black belt) ranks rather than dan ranks until they reach a certain age. However, poom ranks are typically given to those under 15 years old.
Just as different schools use different belt-color schemes, so do different schools attribute different symbolism to the different belt colors. Below are some of the symbols commonly attributed to belt colors. Note that some of these are inherently inconsistent, because we're discussing different symbols used by different schools. Nonetheless, there are some common themes:
- White symbolizes a blank page, or purity. The beginning of one's taekwondo journey.
- Tape symbolize when all lower body movements of Taekwondo are achieved.
- Yellow symbolizes the sunrise, the start of a new day, and hence a new journey.
- Orange symbolizes the sunset, the promise of new opportunities to learn tomorrow.
- Orange symbolizes the earth, from which new growth arises
- Green symbolizes the Spring, the time in which new growth occurs.
- Green symbolizes new growth, like new green plants growing.
- Purple symbolizes majesty and dignity.
- Purple symbolizes power.
- Note that In Japan, purple symbolizes death, which is why the color is rarely used in Japanese martial arts schools.
- Blue symbolizes the sky, the thing that new growth stretches toward.
- Blue symbolizes ambition and youthful energy (again, as if reaching for the sky).
- Brown symbolizes the earth (as can Yellow) or mountains, denoting a strong foundation.
- Red symbolizes danger, as the student has must learn to control their newfound power.
- Red symbolizes the sun, with all its brightness and energy.
- Dan / Poom (Black Belt)
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