How Do Kung Fu Belts Work?
How do Kung Fu belts work?
Whether you’re a Kung Fu practitioner or just a fan of martial arts, you’ve probably been curious about the belt system in kung fu.
While Kung Fu isn’t as popular or as heavily practiced as it once was when compared to more modern martial arts, it is, however, a traditional and very influential group of martial arts.
Kung Fu isn’t just what you’ve seen in old Bruce Lee movies and other martial arts movies from the 1970s, there’s a deep system of a vartiety of different martial styles all under the umbrella term of Kung Fu. Additionally, most of which use some form of the Kung Fu belt system.
It should be noted that different styles of Kung Fu should always be viewed from a modern and effectiveness stand point. Kung Fu should certainly be appreciated for all that it has given the martial arts world, but if you compare many styles of Kung Fu including Wing Chun, they often fall short when compared to MMA.
Related: How long does it take to learn bjj (and other martial arts like kung fu)
Here is a video of Xu Xiaodong a modern, Chinese MMA figther verses a Wing Chun practioner:
In martial arts, belts are a tool for measuring progress and skill development.
Belts are a key part of the training process in many kung fu schools. The system helps to motivate students, track their progress, and provide a sense of accomplishment as they move up through the ranks.
The exact requirements for each belt vary from school to school.
However, in general, students must complete a certain number of hours of training and demonstrate proficiency in various kung fu techniques before they can be eligible for testing and advancement to the next level.
Once they have successfully completed all the requirements for a particular belt, they will be awarded that belt during a special ceremony at their kung fu school.
Wearing a kung fu belt is not only a sign of progress and accomplishment. It is also a way to show respect for the art form itself. In some cases, students may even be required to wear their belts at all times when participating in class or when representing their school at competitions or other events.
Before we delve more into Kung Fug belts we will be breaking down the different types of Kung Fu since there are many with a variety of techniques, strikes, and goals.
Different Types of Kung Fu
Now let’s talk about the different types of kung fu:
There are many types of kung fu. But they can broadly be divided into two categories by geographical location:
|Northern Styles||Southern Styles|
|tend to be more linear||more circular|
|include straight punches and kicks||include roundhouse kics|
|emphasize legwork||include rotating punches|
|utilize techniques that allow for takedowns and join locks||emphasis close quarters fighting|
|Examples: Shaolin Kung Fu, Chang Quan, Xin Yi Liu He Quan||Examples: Wing Chun, Bak Mei Pai, Hung Gar|
Kung fu is not just limited to that to these two categories – It also encompasses many complex forms depending on one’s location, tradition, religion, and style.
No matter what it is that you want to study or practice, kung fu is an effective way to improve your:
- coordination, and
- self-defense skills
To give you an overview, let’s talk about seven different styles of kung fu.
Wing Chun is a Chinese martial art that was developed in the Shaolin Temples. It is a close-quarters combat system that uses
Wing Chun is divided into three levels:
- First Level: Siu Nim Tau
- Second Level: Chum Kiu
- Third Level: Biu Jee
The first level is Siu Nim Tau, which focuses on developing basic techniques and building a strong foundation.
The second level is Chum Kiu, which teaches how to use those techniques in a more practical way.
The third level is Biu Jee, which focuses on close-quarter combat and self-defense.
Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art perfected for both defense and health reasons.
It is an ancient Chinese martial art that is known for its slow, graceful movements. Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion” because it promotes relaxation and inner peace.
It should be noted that Tai Chi isn’t an effective martial arts for self defense and doesn’t quite compare to modern, effective martial arts.
Although tai chi is gentle and slow, it addresses your needs for flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser extent, aerobic conditioning.
Originating in Hebei Province in Northern China, Bajiquan is a Chinese martial art that is characterized by short and explosive techniques.
The name Bajiquan literally translates to “Eight Extremes Fist”.
This style of kung fu is known for its quick and powerful strikes, as well as its ability to take down an opponent with a single blow.
One of the most distinctive features of Bajiquan is the way in which practitioners stand and the way they attack opponents with elbow strikes.
They often adopt a low stance with their feet turned outwards which:
- gives them a wide base of support
- also allows them to generate a lot of power from their lower body.
Shaolin Kung Fu
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the most popular and well-known styles of kung fu. It also dates back to the Shaolin Templse in China, where it was developed by monks.
This style of kung fu is:
- a comprehensive martial art that includes a wide range of techniques such as
- weapon-based combat
Shaolin kung fu practitioners are known for their speed, power, and agility
Shaolin Kung Fu is known for its strong techniques and fitness requirements. It is a system that relies heavily on hard work and discipline. So, practitioners must be physically fit and able to execute techniques with precision.
Xing Yi Quan
The oldest and most explosive and aggressive of the kung fu based martial arts is Xing Yi Quan.
“Xing” means form or shape, “Yi” means mind or intent, and “Quan” means fist.
As such, Xing Yi Quan is commonly referred to as “Form-Intention Fist”.
The name depicts that the form the body carries is an external representation of the internal state of mind. In short, the mind envisions a shape and the body takes that shape.
Xing Yi Quan features aggressive shocking attacks and direct footwork. Most of the training and footwork are practiced on straight lines, but application occurs on all planes of movement.
The goal of the Xing Yi exponent is to reach the opponent quickly and drive power through him in a single burst, in order to close in and break your opponent’s structure so they can neither attack nor defend.
Baguazhang is one of the three main internal kung fu styles. It is a unique Chinese martial art that is often compared to Tai Chi.
Unlike Tai Chi, Baguazhang does not focus on linear movements or forms. Instead, practitioners use circular motions and eight different palm changes to mimic the actions of various animals.
Baguazhang is considered an internal martial art, meaning that it focuses on using chi, or life energy, to power your moves. This is in contrast to external martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo, which rely more on physical strength.
However, one should be careful when looking to study Baguazhang since it does border closely on more “no-touch” martial arts which a practitioner should always be skeptical about.
These no touch or energy based martial arts have not been proven to be effective or even measurable as a martial arts form.
If interestesd, it should be studied and appreciated, but one should know that this not an effective or realistic martial art for a real life alteraction or self defense scenario.
However, because of its unique approach to movement and chi power, Baguazhang can be a great way to improve your balance, coordination, and flexibility. It can also be helpful for developing patience and focus.
Northern Praying Mantis
The Northern Praying Mantis is a style of kung fu inspired by the movements and tactics of the insect. It was developed by a famous martial artist called Wang Lang of Long Bao village in Ji Mo county of Shan Dong province.
Named after the predatory insect, the style is characterized by its quick and agile movements, as well as its use of strikes, kicks, and throws. The Northern Praying Mantis also revolves around the best techniques from seventeen styles of boxing, including the footwork of the monkey style.
How Many Belts in Kung Fu?
Now back to the Kung Fu Belts – how many belts in Kung Fu?
The Kung Fu belt system is based on the traditional Chinese grading system for martial arts.
In general, there are 10 belts in total, each representing a different level of proficiency.
However, don’t be surprised if the number of belts and their associated colors differs, as it can vary from different styles of Kung Fu as well as changing school to school.
Some schools use a simple system of white, yellow, green, blue, and red belts. Others have more elaborate systems with multiple levels within each color belt.
History of Kung Fu Belts
What about the history of Kung Fu belts?
Traditionally, no ranking system existed in Chinese martial arts. That is, for many years, no belts were used in kung fu styles. For many centuries, a student would learn under one master, and the only way to know if the student was progressing was to use a signed scroll.
Thanks to Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern judo, the belt system was introduced in martial arts to distinguish beginners from more experienced students.
Many schools only had two colors: white and black. When Judo became popular in Europe, however, Western schools began to introduce different colors so that students could visually gauge their progress.
With these advancements, Kung Fu also adopted a belt system.
Yes, kung fu belts are a relatively recent addition to martial arts.
While other systems such as Karate and Taekwondo have always used some form of a belt to signify rank, Kung Fu did not adopt the use of belts until the 20th century.
While the belt system is not an integral part of traditional Kung Fu training, it has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to measure progress and achievements.
Many schools now offer belt testing or certification as part of their programs.
Who Grants Belts in Kung Fu?
In Kung Fu, there are several different organizations that can grant belts.
The most common is the China Wushu Association and the International Wushu Federation, but there are also other national and international organizations.
Each organization has its own requirements for belt testing and grading, so it is important to check with the organization that you plan to test with in order to find out what is required.
There are also a number of smaller, regional organizations that offer Kung Fu belt testing and grading.
These organizations often specialize in one particular style or another, so it is important to check with them to see what their requirements are.
In general, though, most of these organizations follow similar procedures to the CWA and IWUF.
The belts are thus governed by each individual school or organization to which the school belongs. This is why there are exceptions to the basic framework and schools that do not adhere to the pattern outlined in the preceding paragraphs.
What Are the Belt Levels in Kung Fu?
Kung Fu belts levels are a sign of progress and mastery in martial art. In traditional schools, students will start with a white belt and work their way up through the ranks by testing and earning new belts.
As a student advances in their Kung Fu training, they will be tested on their knowledge and skills by their instructors.
If they are able to demonstrate mastery of the techniques they have learned, they will be awarded a new belt color.
Each new belt represents a higher level of proficiency and expertise.
Kung Fu Belt Order
The kung fu belt order is a way of ranking students according to their progress in martial art.
The colors of the belts represent different levels of achievement. White is the lowest level, while black is the highest.
In Kung Fu, there are different belt colors that signify a student’s level of expertise.
The order of the belts, from lowest to highest, is as follows:
The eight trainee belts – all those after the white belts and before the black belt – are divided into three main categories:
- novice belts
- intermediate belts
- advanced belts.
If you are new to Kung Fu, or martial arts in general, then you will likely start as a Novice.
In most Kung Fu schools, the novice belt is white. As a novice, you will learn the basic techniques and principles of Kung Fu. You will also start to develop your own style and technique.
You can expect to master these belts in a year if you attend two or three times per week, combined with consistent practice at home.
1st Degree: White Belt
The white belt is the first belt in Kung Fu and represents the purity of heart, mind, and body. The white belt is the beginning of a journey. The white belt is the beginning of a new life. As you progress through your martial arts training, you will gain experience, knowledge, and self-confidence that will enable you to achieve your goals.
If you are new to Kung Fu, you will begin your journey as a white belt. As a white belt, you will learn the basic techniques and principles of Kung Fu. You will also develop a foundation of strength, flexibility, and coordination. Once you have mastered the basics, you will be ready to move on to the next level.
2nd Degree: Yellow Belt
The yellow belt level typically takes between two and three years to achieve. In order to earn a yellow belt in Kung Fu, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of basic stances, offensive moves, and defensive techniques. This means that you’ll need to practice diligently over this period so that you’re ready for your grade test at the end!
3rd Degree: Gold Belt
At this point, students have progressed from simple curiousness to authentic interest. As you know, some schools do not offer gold belts. Often, these belts are referred to as transitional belts from yellow to orange.
In this phase, the attention shifts from knowing the forms to practicing combat. The practitioner are proficient with basic techniques yet lack the ability to qualify for the orange belt.
4th Degree: Orange Belt
Now, you’re on the last belt to progress into the intermediate level. At this time, a student possesses determination by putting in the work he learned so far. As such, orange belt holders have refined their skills into cleaner and more fluid ones.
However, in this transitional stage, training becomes a little more challenging. But, you’re up to the challenge since you have the skills and determination necessary to back it up.
If you have already attained an orange belt in Kung Fu, congratulations! You have completed the beginner’s level and are now ready to progress to the intermediate level.
Intermediate-level training will teach you more advanced strikes and stances, as well as various self-defense combinations. At this stage, you will start to learn more complex techniques and principles. You will begin to train using weapons.
Moreover, you get to hone your teaching skills as you will start to take a junior student under your wing.
Though most practitioners are focused on what lies ahead, this is also an excellent time to look back and reflect on everything you’ve accomplished thus far.
The intermediate levels of kung fu training often take one to two years to complete.
5th Degree: Green Belt
At the 5th degree or green belt level, students have learned the basic forms, footwork, and techniques of Kung Fu. They can now begin to spar and apply what they have learned in a more realistic setting. Green belts have exhibited growth and should be able to demonstrate their proficiency in the various forms and techniques taught at lower levels. You are also qualified to use intermediate weapons such as nunchucks or the jo staff.
6th Degree: Blue Belt
The blue belt curriculum builds on the foundations laid in the earlier ranks, introducing new techniques and concepts that will challenge the student and help them continue to grow as a martial artist.
At this stage, you get to include your mind along with your body. You tend to see what your capabilities are and you get to learn to maneuver your fighting tempo.
7th Degree: Purple Belt
Along with the confidence you gain on this level is strength in form and combat. A purple belt holder generally has the courage and ambition to further solidify his rank among kung fu practitioners.
This level is a transition into being an advanced student of martial art. So, at this point, you should begin thinking about developing a personal philosophy of martial arts study that will guide how you approach your training going forward.
The advanced level is reserved for those who have mastered all the basic techniques and principles. At this stage, you will be able to develop your own unique style and technique.
Students are now prepared to progress to more advanced techniques and concepts. You abandon basic training in favor of more difficult drills, more powerful and precise moves, strikes, and blocks. Being at this level necessitates a thorough understanding of the philosophical foundations of kung fu.
When a student reaches these levels, he must be able to understand kung fu rather than just use its fighting techniques.
It typically takes three to four years to reach these levels.
8th Degree: Brown Belt
Brown belts, representing the color of the ground, symbolize stability. The kung fu practitioner is able to take responsibility and is level-headed. At this point, you are more disciplined and express professionalism.
Your focus on this level is to hone the physical technique you’ve worked on for years. You work on improving your weaknesses, so mental toughness is essential.
9th Degree: Red Belt
In this part of your journey, you’re probably a well-seasoned kung fu practitioner. You get to enjoy the fruit of your labor by instilling basic concepts and sharing your knowledge to others.
As they say, red represents energy and confidence. That energy translates to investing on the things you believe in by helping the community through charity works and good causes.
In short, you are basically a black belt in waiting. You are diligently cleaning your skills into perfection while helping others achieve their dreams as well.
The black belt is the highest-ranked color that can be achieved in kung fu. It is awarded to those who have mastered all of their techniques and are ready to teach others what they have learned over the course of many years.
However, this is just another start to becoming a “master” of martial art. There are higher degrees you can achieve with your black belt. To advance to the ranks of “master,” you must first complete 8 levels of hard work, the majority of which are scholastic contributions to kung fu, mastery of philosophical systems, and physical training.
Which Belt Is Highest in Kung Fu?
The black belt is the highest level that can be attained in Kung Fu. Those who have achieved this level are considered to be masters of the art form. Black belts are rare and highly respected within the Kung Fu community. Though there are different degrees associated with black belts, it’s the highest belt color you can achieve in kung fu.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Black Belt in Kung Fu?
In real life, the process of achieving the next Kung Fu belt level is not as simple as just showing up to training and receiving a new belt. It requires hard work, dedication, and focus.
The amount of time it takes to achieve a black belt in Kung Fu depends on the individual’s level of dedication and commitment to their training. Generally, it takes 5 years of consistent training to reach this level. The journey to becoming a black belt is not an easy one, but the rewards that come with this achievement are well worth the effort.
What are the Animal Styles of Kung Fu?
The animal forms of Kung Fu, specifically for Shaolin Kung Fu, is a well-known concept consisting of five creatures:
The purpose of these animal styles is not to completely imitate their movements as precisely as possible. However, the concept is to copy some of the animal’s qualities and incorporate it into Kung Fu techniques.
Dragon-style kung fu is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes linearity, fluidity of movement, and explosive power.
The dragon represents “Shen,” which refers to the spirit and its presence. Dragon technique training cultivates a clear, powerful mind and sharpens mental focus.
Today, dragon-style kung fu is practiced all over the world. It is known for its impressive acrobatic feats and lightning-fast techniques. Dragon-style practitioners strive to imitate the grace and power of the mythical creature from which their art takes its name.
The snake style of Kung Fu is one of the more unique and recognizable animal styles. It is characterized by its smooth, flowing movements and coiled stance. The snake-style practitioner uses quick, powerful strikes to disable an opponent.
Snake-style Kung Fu is an effective form of self-defense against both armed and unarmed opponents. It can be used to strike vital points on an opponent’s body, as well as to entangle and immobilize an attacker.
Tigers are one of the most popular animals in Kung Fu. They are known for their power and ferocity. Tiger styles focus on strength and aggression. Techniques often involve quick, powerful strikes aimed at vulnerable points on an opponent’s body.
Tiger styles are typically considered to be more physical and demanding than other animal styles. Students must be in good physical condition to train effectively.
Like the animal they are named after, tiger styles place a strong emphasis on forward momentum. This can make them very effective in offensive situations.
The crane style of kung fu is characterized by its fluid, graceful movements. Practitioners of this style focus on using their opponents’ momentum against them and emphasize attacks to the head and eyes.
The crane is a symbol of long life and good luck in Chinese culture, and the crane style of kung fu was traditionally seen as a way to achieve these things. In addition to its self-defense applications, the crane style was also believed to have health benefits, as its slow, controlled movements were thought to improve circulation and flexibility.
Leopards are skilled hunters who can run at fast speeds across short distances. They charge into their prey explosively after they have quietly succumbed or lurked on a tree.
The leopard style, as with the animal it represents, is known for its speed and agility. Leopard practitioners use quick, powerful strikes to take down their opponents. They are also very light on their feet, making them difficult to hit.
Kung Fu Black Belt Degrees
After you’ve earned a black belt, there are eight more degrees you have to strive for in order to hold the title of a “master”.
Each degree requires a year of consistent and hard-earned training, which means it’ll take you about eight years to finally obtain the coveted black belt 8th degree.
If you’re really serious about being at the pinnacle of all kung fu, the journey doesn’t stop at the 8th degree. Yes, once you become a master of martial art, you can progress to being a grandmaster.
Though achieving such a level is a steep journey and requires years of teaching, specifically 30 years of instructing kung fu and producing a couple of master-level instructors.
Finally, being a grandmaster means you’ve guided your descendants (child and grandchild) to becoming black belters.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
What Does Sifu Mean?
Sifu or Shifu is a Chinese term that is used to refer to a “master” of a particular martial art. It can also be used as a title for someone who is an expert in any field. In the martial arts world, sifu typically refers to the person who has taught you or who is teaching you.
No matter how it’s being used, the term sifu always conveys a great deal of respect. If you are ever unsure about how to address someone, err on the side of caution and use this term.
What Does Dojo Mean?
The word “dojo” is derived from the Japanese words “dō” meaning “way” or “path”, and “jō” meaning “place of”. Thus, a dojo is literally a “place of the way”.
Dojo was originally referred to as a place where one studied the Way of Bushido, or the martial arts. In modern Japanese, dojo generally refers to any place where instruction in martial arts takes place, regardless of the style.
In English, however, dojo typically refers specifically to a school for Japanese martial arts such as Karate, Judo, Aikido, or Kendo.
What’s the Difference Between Kung Fu and Tai Chi?
Kung fu is a more aggressive and external martial art, while tai chi is more internal and focused on health benefits. Kung fu uses quick movements and explosive power to take down an opponent, while tai chi emphasizes using an opponent’s energy against them. Tai chi is also often described as ‘meditation in motion’ due to the slow, flowing movements used.
In general, Kung Fu is an exterior martial art form whose practices stress an individual’s power and speed, whereas Tai Chi is an internal martial art form whose practices highlight an individual’s balance, steadiness, and awareness.
Both kung fu and tai chi are excellent forms of exercise and can help to improve your fitness, flexibility, and strength. Ultimately, the choice of which martial art to learn is up to you and what you hope to get out of it.
Is Tai Chi a Martial Art?
Tai chi is a martial art that originated in China. It is known for its slow, graceful movements and is considered to be both an art and a form of exercise.
But, it’s also not a typical martial art in the modern sense since it certainly is not effective for self-defense. Though, it does have some aspects of a more traditional martial art.
Tai chi also is sometimes used as a form of therapy for various health conditions, such as arthritis and heart disease.
What’s the Difference Between Kung Fu and Ninjutsu?
Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that dates back centuries. It is known for its striking techniques, which include punches, kicks, and open-hand strikes. It alludes to any learning, education, or exercise that takes patience, work, and time to complete in China.
Each type of kung fu has its unique set of concepts and techniques, although it is best recognized for its deception and rapidity, from whence the term “kung fu” derives.
On the other hand, ninjutsu is a Japanese martial art that the ninja warriors of feudal Japan developed. It emphasizes stealth and subterfuge over direct confrontation.
Ninjutsu practitioners learn how to use weapons such as swords, knives, and bludgeons, but they also focus on using everyday objects as weapons.
They also learn camouflage, escape methods, and how to incapacitate an opponent without killing them.