Belt System for Korean Traditional Archery

Korean Traditional Archery has a belt system of ranking an individual's achievements. However, the color of a belt in KTA is not particularly relevant, as is the case in Taekwondo, for example. Instead, the belt worn by an archer in Korean archery has the achievement embroidered on it. In addition to these belts - which show individual achievements - belts are often made to celebrate special competitions, and in this case are made for an entire team of archers.

- Click here to learn how to tie the belt -

A beginning archer may wear any belt. A belt is necessary for archery practice, since the archer's five arrows are wound into it for temporary storage. Bows are traditionally sold with a bow cover, which is the same length and design as all belts. It will come unmarked, and in a variety of colors or patterns. The photo on the left shows a group of students learning how to fasten their new practice belts. At a typical Korean archery competition you may encounter archers wearing all conceivable colors of belts, but must look closely to discern the meaning of each. For example, two otherwise identically colored belts may belong in one case to a student archer without any special accomplishment or belt marking, and in another case, the same color belt may be embroidered with the marking of a 5th dahn master! Quite the difference, but again, the color itself will give little to no indication of an archer's ranking.

To achieve 1st dahn, and to be awarded an official belt from the Korean National Archery Association, an individual archer must register in an officially judged event for earning a higher ranking. These special competitions are held at various archery pavillions around the country, and are generally divided into two groups. Archers who are challenging the lower dahn rankings are invited to a seperate event from those more experienced archers who are challengin the 5th dahn or higher. Here is a list of the target requirements for the nine levels of Korean Traditional Archery. In all categories and for all competitors, a maximum of 45 arrows are allowed to be loosed.


1st dahn     25 hits 4th dahn     30 hits 7th dahn     35 hits
2nd dahn    28 hits 5th dahn     31 hits 8th dahn     37 hits
3rd dahn    29 hits 6th dahn     33 hits 9th dahn     39 hits


In short, the goal of an archer is to hit the target the specified number of times. Because these competitions can be high stress, even the lowest dahn categories can be very difficult, and many archers must challenge the same level year after year. Towards the end of each challenge, the archer is only forced to stop when either: 1) he or she has hit the target the required number of times, or 2) he or she no longer has enough remaining arrows to possibly meet the required number of hits.

If and when an archer succeeds in his or her chosen dahn category, they are awarded a belt signifying the correct new dahn level. This is done by giving the archer a new belt with the same number of Rose of Sharon flowers as the dahn level achieved. The Rose of Sharon, ( Moogoonghwa in Korean ) is the national flower of Korea, and is used in archery for this specific purpose.

Within recent history, the belts awarded by the Korean National Archery Association are a dark blue color, but one must remember, as mentioned earlier, that it is possible to still find belts of a similar color which may not represent any dahn level at all. Only the Rose of Sharon flowers embroidered on the belt will accurately tell you an individual's true rank. This also assumes that a given archer is wearing his or her highest achieved belt. ( Which is not necessarily the case! )