What The Heck Is A Chodanbo Rank?

        The “Cho Dan Bo,” or “Chodanbo” rank is often heard of in Korean martial arts. I first heard it when I was a high color rank belt. I was told there is a belt rank before black belt called Chodanbo. It was a black belt with a re stripe going through the middle of it. I was told by my instructor that it means “temporary black bet.” I eventually earned this rank before I tested for full black belt.

Later when the internet was more popular and more martial arts websites were up I heard of chodanbo being a rank in Tang Soo Do. Some people said chodanbo was like the poom (or pum) rank, which the Kukkiwon considers a children’s “junior black belt” rank before receiving full dan grades as an adult. Some websites show the poom belt which is half black and half red, with black being on top and red on the bottom of the belt. I have seen it reversed as well. Other Taekwondo school’s websites would show the black belt with red stripe down the middle like I had, but others switch out a red stripe for a white stripe going down the middle. And lastly, some schools use a red belt with a black stripe going down the middle and call that chodanbo.

Various examples of “chodanbo” belts:
Image result for chodanbo

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Image result for black belt white stripe taekwondo

But typically most schools use this color scheme as the guy on the left:

Image result for rank chodanbo

I always thought this was weird as so many definitions for this rank exist such as “temporary black belt,” “pre black belt,” “probationary black belt,” and “deputy black belt.” If you try to find a Korean person who can tell you what the heck “chodanbo” actually means in Korean they won’t know. So far every Korean friend is confused and clueless except they understand that “chodan” means first degree. In Korean you can say “cho dan” or “il dan” for 1st dan. But nobody knows what the “bo” part means. Is “bo” even a Korean word? I thought it was possible it means “bu” as in how kicho forms are called “kicho il bu, kicho yi bu, kicho sam bu” etc. But no, I was told it made no sense. So it is not Cho Dan Bu. So where did this term come from and why do Taekwondo masters use it for their students? The obvious answer people will claim is “to make more money on an extra belt test” which is true in many cases, but I do not believe it exists simply for that. It is a transitional rank between the color belts and black belt. It is usually the rank of 10th keup which is right before the dan grades. Did Tang Soo Do start this fad?

As I was talking to my Korean buddy who is an MMA fighter he told me if you were going to say something like “previous or pre” you should say “yebi.” So a term that Koreans would ACTUALLY understand it “yebi chodan.” So preliminary, or reserved 1st dan is the exact translation. It makes way more sense and Koreans would understand what you are saying.

Now if you want to be suer technical you could say “yebi chodan gum eun” which means preliminary 1st degree black belt in English literally translated.

I do not think the concept of the Cho Dan Bo rank is a bad idea in itself. I had to go through it and earn it (by the way my instructor in the 1990s did not charge me a crap ton of money for the rank either) and I had to wait 6 months before testing for black belt. But from now on if I am going to promote that philosophy and concept for a belt rank before black belt I will use the term “yebi chodan.” It is a real Korean term in their language.

If anyone knows the history or where the term chodanbo came from please let me know in the comments. Personally I think the color of the belt SHOULD be a black belt with a red stripe going down the middle since you are transitioning from a red belt rank into black. A white stripe looks dumb to me, and half red and half black is reserved for the Junior Black Belt rank which is called a poom grade.

  1. Adam says:

    On page 110 of the Kukkiwon’s Taekwondo Textbook, there is a table for training subjects in both Hangeul and English. The curriculum is broken up into “courses” with ranks associated with those courses. They are as follows: basic course (mu geup/no grades), preliminary course (8th geup to 4th geup), preliminary technical course (3rd geup to probationary dan), intermediate technical course (1st dan to 3rd dan), advanced technical course (4th dan to 6th dan), and research course (7th dan to 9th dan). In the textbook, the Kukkiwon refers to probationary dan as ‘danbo’, or ‘단보’. Off topic, but of interest to me, the Kukkiwon did list the Palgwae poomsae as well as the Taegeuk poomsae for the geup levels and all of the poomsae from Pyongwon to Ilyeo for the 4th to 6th dans.

    Beyond this table I have never seen any mention of probationary dans, danbo, or bodan (that seems to be the popular usage in my area) by the Kukkiwon. As far as the belts go, I suspect that is left up to the discretion of the promoting master instructor.

    I know a black belt with a white stripe through the center is what the ITF considers a junior black belt (similar concept to the Kukkiwon’s poom) as stated in the Taekwondo Encyclopedia. I have never seen a black belt with a red stripe through the center used as a danbo as I think some people might confuse it with a Tangsudo/Subakdo/Mudeokgwan master rank (even though they use midnite blue belts, they do put a red stripe through the center starting at 4th dan). A red belt with a black stripe through the center is certainly a 1st geup in ITF, and in many dojangs elsewhere. The dojang I came up through used the red w/ black stripe belt as the 1st geup, and then had a red belt with two black stripes through the center as the belt for the “testing candidate” rank. At a dojang I coached at for a few years, the master instructor issued poom belts to his “bodans” and just had them tie them with the red on top. When they passed their black belt test, they were allowed to tie them with the black on top until their Kukkiwon certificates were processed. He issued black belts to his students regardless of whether they had a poom certificate or a dan certificate.

    As a bit of fun, I put ‘chobodan’ / ‘초단보’ into Google translate and it gives: ‘the first step’.

    • White Dragon says:

      Wow very cool information! What edition of the Kukkiwon textbook are you getting that from?

      I asked my Korean friends if “danbo” was a thing and they were confused and said no. He said bo it not something that makes sense. Who really knows!

      But none of them have heard of chodanbo. He told me “yebi chodan” actually makes sense. I typed this term into google and only 1 result came up and it was referring to a preliminary black belt rank. I think since I was in Korea I will just use what makes sense to them.

      I thought Tang Soo Do master ranks had a black belt with 2 red stripes going through it and not just 1. Or is that another kind of extra master rank?

      Well my dojang in Oregon as I was a teenager used the black belt with a red stripe as a chodabo rank. Each color belt rank had an “instructor” rank. Like yellow instructor, green instructor, etc. So the red belt with a black stripe going through it was the red instructor rank. It was the 2nd keup rank.

      For me I think Taekwondo has 10 keup ranks so just make colors match the levels. So the “chodanbo” which I am going to call “yebi chodan” is the 1st kep right before 1st dan. So for me it would be the black belt witht he red stripe going through it.

      The thing about the Kukkiwon or Taekwondo really is there is no permanent and set standard you MUST follow for color belt ranks. Just add up 10 leves for color belt (keups/gups) and that is all. I know the Kukkiwon would say there are 5 colors (white, yellow, green, blue, red, black) but no on follows that as they all have extra colors. Or they used to have 2 ranks of the same colors per belt. white 1, white 2, yellow 1, yellow 2 etc until it was 10 keups anyway.

      Yeah for me I think only people age 16 should have a solid black belt. But Kukkiwon lowered it to age 15 so whatever.

      Yeah pretty much in WTF poomsae tournaments black belt ranks will have to know every form all the way to inyeo. So it makes since 4th and up would have to know those forms. I know all of them too. Thanks to youtube and then going to Korea and double checking if I had them down right helped.

  2. Adam says:

    I was using the 2006 edition of the KKW Textbook.

    I know ITF uses 10 geup ranks with white/yellow/green/blue/red and a tag/stripe of the next color belt as you describe: white, white w/ yellow tag, yellow, yellow w/ green tag, etc. Many schools use that system and I see no reason not to if that is your preference.

    However, in the KKW instructor course book I have (took the course January 2016), KKW said there should be 9 geup ranks: mu geup, 8th geup, … , 1st geup. So basically use the same color belt scheme as the ITF but eliminate the white w/ yellow tag/stripe belt, and teach each Taegeuk/Palgwae form at the numbered geup. I would propose a probationary dan is optional, because the instructor course book did not mention it. Also, for extra fun, you could even teach Old Koryo at the danbo rank and have all of the current and deprecated KTA/KKW forms in your curriculum.

    For an even bigger twist, I attended another KKW instructor course (November 2017) and one of the instructors actually proposed a new color belt scheme with 9 geups (mu geup, 8th geup, … , 1st geup): white, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, orange, pink (yes… pink), red. There is even a company who sells belts in this sequence with Taegeuk Il Jang at yellow, up to Taegeuk Pal Jang at red.


    At the course it was only a proposal. Kukkiwon is still not dictating color belt colors, and having 9 geups is still a suggestion. Although, 9 geups in the KKW Textbook and in the Instructor/Examiner Course books is a pretty strong suggestion.

    • White Dragon says:

      Interesting. I was never able to afford a KKW textbook. When I took the FIC in 2016 in July, they gave us a very craptastic quality “instructor course book” with terrible English and grammar and it is unreadable. No one understands what it means. There are also stupid suggestions on how to run a demo too which are retarded. Including using ropes to hold people in the air for practicing flips. LOL really?!?!

      Well the only system I know that uses a Pink Belt is Gracie Jiu Jitsu. But that is an alternative belt for women only learning their women’s self defense program.

      I earned ranks with the whole stripe belts on each color belt, but when I went to another grandmaster in Kentucky when I moved he pretty much had solid rank colors only. white, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, red, black. I copy that with the added “yabi chodan” (black with a red stripe) into the curriculum I promote. I make it 10 belts for 10 keups.

      For children, as I had one kid student, I would give them a stripe with black tape on the tip of their belt when I felt they were halfway through the curriculum for each belt just to motivate them. But for adults nothing.

      I like the concept of white belt being 10th keup instead of taking it out and just saying you earn your 9th keup at yellow.

      So what I propose to do is all the colors I mentioned but then after red belt there is a second red belt, which is like the “red instructor” belt with a black stripe going through it. It would be 2nd keup. Then the danbo as 1st keup. But Mooto for some time sold a very dark red belt which was actually maroon and looked perfect. I was going to adopt it as the 2nd keup instead of the red and black stripe belt. But now they don’t sell it and it makes me mad. If I can find a maroon belt I would use that instead as the second red belt rank.

      Also I teach everything. Tae geuk, pal gwe, old koryo, even a chul gi version I adopted but sort of made my own way. I also teach kicho forms for white belt. I teach all 3 but I am not sure I am doing it the exact historical way because every stupid video online has some guy doing it different and sucking at it. Then I saw a very old Tang Soo Do video and then the punches were all face level on one of the forms so it was cofusing. Honetly I tried to find a shotokan kata version of them on youtube but have not found any. I was going to use them but for now I will just teach it the way I think I am doing is correct even though I am not sure.

      I also teach 1 etra short stance basic form for white belt so the have to learn 4 very very very easy forms to get yellow belt. The rest color belts I make them fo tae geuk ad pal gwe each belt. Then at green I add a chul gi form (so green has 3 forms). Then at yebi chodan I will have them do both versions of Koryo.

  3. Adam says:

    Oh, I totally agree about the Mooto belts! So frustrating! I was thinking of incorporating the KKW instructor’s ‘new’ color scheme, but remove pink, move red to 2nd geup, and use maroon for 1st geup.

    • White Dragon says:

      Yeah man why would be even suggest pink?

      Recently I helped my student who is a mom learn Gracie Jiu Jitsu Women Empowered program and she earned her pink belt. I totally think that is cool! But not a belt for Taekwondo lol. I swear some of these Korean KKW guys are weird.

  4. I’ve never heard this term. We had “bo dan”, which meant “black belt candidate” according to my old school Korean grandmaster. He started training in the 50s in South Korea and was pretty involved in Kukkiwon for a while. After red belt there was a stripe–just crappy electrical tape, not a new belt with a stripe through it–then black tip, and then bo dan, which was a red belt with two black stripes. We had at least six months at that rank to train for black belt. We learned a very rarely practiced form (look up “Koryo One” on my blog littleblackbelt.com and you’ll know what I mean), did some hapkido-esque hand-to-hand, and of course had to be versed in all the color belt one-steps and poomsae. That’s all I got….ew, wait, there’s a pink belt? NO.

    • White Dragon says:

      There is no pink belt in Taekwondo. That is strictly a grace women’s self defense program for Jiujitsu. One I highly recommend.

      Yeah when I got the chodanbo I had to wait 6 months as well. I think thay is a good thing. As long as there are 10 total color belt ranks you are good whether you get a new belt or not.
      So when you got crappy electrical tape did you have to pay a full price for a test as well? I bet you did.

      In my original dojang we had electrical tape to show each time we learned one steps, self defense, kick combos, and poomsae. Each one had it’s own color and then on the other side we had purple tape to represent class attendance. Like every 5 classes or something. It was crazy. I nearly had a purple belt bc of all the class attendance I had.

      I know the Koryo 1 thing. It is also known as original Koryo. Thanks to the power of youtube I can learn tons of cool things that people documented. I had no learned it before. but as a kid I had learned all of the pal gwe poomsae at my original dojang. We had to memorie them as well as taegeuk for rank. Then after I had gotten my black belt the instructor changed it to just tae geuk and left out pal gwe which I thought was dumb.

      danbo is basically chodanbo without the cho. chodan = 1st dan. Same as ildan. It is the same thing in Korean. but the bo part is hard to understand. I asked my Korean MMA teacher and he didn’t understand it and just told me the yebichodan term as more Korean and normal language.

      • Glad you’re familiar with the original Koryo. I also learned a beautiful form called Nopei (sp?? Supposedly it’s Japanese) It has a few jumps in it plus a break (or just a downward punch if there’s nothing to hit). I made my Master teach it to me before he left. 🙂 We were strictly Palgwe at my old school. Now I’m learning Taeguk at my new school. I have mixed feelings, but 7 and 8 were fun. As for electrical tape—that was to signify the change in rank. We didn’t note learning individual techniques. Interesting to see how it’s done a little differently everywhere.

      • White Dragon says:

        Nopei? Must be some Karate form. That is odd you did not learn tae geuk. Those are the standard forms. Pal hwe was only used for 3 years and then discarded for the tae geuks but many masters taught all of them anyway.

      • I do think Nopei was karate-based. It’s fun to do. I like Palgwe forms and am glad I learned them. I see purpose and usefulness for both. My new school is more hip to the politics and changes in competition requirements so of course they do Taeguk. I just look at is as more forms for me to practice. I love poomsae, so that’s a win for me.

      • White Dragon says:

        We learned Tae Geuk and Pal Gwe side by side for each belt rank back in the day.

        I find it interesting that you ONLY had to perform the pal gwe. So weird. The Tae Geuks have been implemented since 1973 I believe.

        Anyway there are a lot of other old forms too but most people know the Tang Soo Do forms which are Moo Duk Kwan and simply Shotokan forms from Japan.
        There were some other forms I think that are either lost are rare to see. I heard Jidokwan maybe had something. Would you know?

  5. Eric says:

    The pictures you have a above, specifically the ones showing a black belt with red stripe down the middle are not Cho Dan Bo belts…those are actually Sah Dan (4th degree black) belts signifying the first level of Master rank. In WTSDA Tango Soo Do, the Cho Dan Bo belt is a blue belt. It represents maturity, respect, and honor and is awarded to the black belt candidate.

    • White Dragon says:

      So Tang Soo Do uses those colors to represent those, but in the Taekwondo specific world I have seen all of those striped belts etc. represented as cho dan bo or something like that.

      So Cho dan bo was copied from Tang Soo Do. I am not surprised. I did know TSD used a “midnight” blue belt though instead of black.

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