Kung-Fu Grading

For centuries there was no belt ranking system in kung-fu, and it was purely a practice where the student trained under one master. The master would then give recognition to the student’s level of progress through signing a scroll. Things changed in the early 20th century when like many other martial art schools, Kung-fu also started using different colour belts to grade their students. These belts are representative of different levels measured in the degree of training and dedication to the art form.

The Use of Belts, a Popular Attraction

Belts were first introduced by Jigoro Kano, who was the founder of Judo. He decided to award belts to his students as a form of recognition and achievement. These belts were trendy among students and increased their willingness and devotion to improving their skills. The success of the system was soon noticed by other martial art schools, including kung-fu schools, mostly those situated outside of China. The belts which now became an attraction for achievement can be separated into three main groups: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced.

Novice Belts

Yellow, orange and blue belts indicate novice levels of training in the art. They are based on a student’s level of performance on specific necessary skills including required like blocks, stances and strikes. With a regular attendance of training sessions and diligent practising at home, students can expect to spend about one year on each of these levels before moving on to the next.

Intermediate Belts

These belts are usually allocated to students who are at a more advanced level of the required skills of strikes and stances, and they should also be able to perform self-defence combinations and more complex forms and be a mentor to a junior student. At this level, students spent roughly two years on a particular belt colour. The use of weapons is often introduced when students achieved a brown belt and therefore, they are to present the right amount of experience and competence. Schools often extend the period on a brown belt by allocating different levels into the brown belt.

Advanced Belts

Black belts are synonymous with martial arts and are the recognition students strive for. It can be achieved with three to four years of training with dedication and diligence. When students complete a black belt, it is the highest belt colour they can make but throughout their lifetime as practitioners of the martial art; there are always more opportunities to increase in the ranks with more advanced degrees of the black belt. This would require advanced skill in the handling and use of weapons, katas and constant philosophical development. A contribution to the martial art of Kung-fu would be a further requirement.

Kung-fu belts differ from most martial arts in the sense that it is usually in the form of silk sashes which is not only aesthetic but can also be used as a weapon in itself. In the last century, the belt ranking system became anonymous with most martial arts and is seen as a form of recognition and achievement.


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