Traditional Chinese martial arts like kung fu and wushu have a way of ranking their practitioners based on their skill level and training. This is done with a system of color-coded belts or sashes.
Different schools of kung fu may use different belt systems. Keep in mind that kung fu has more than 400 different styles.
There is some room for schools to make their own standards and belt systems, but most still use the standard 10-degree system, which goes from white to black.
Before we get into what each belt color means in kung fu, let’s quickly go over what kung fu is to make sure there aren’t any misunderstandings.
Kung Fu – Many Types. One Belt System.
Even martial artists don’t all agree on what “kung-fu” means.
First of all, kung fu (or gongfu) is more than just a term for martial arts. Even though the literal meaning of the word “kung fu” is “a high level of skill gained through time and hard work,” the word is usually associated with Chinese martial arts. This simplification keeps going on.
Even though there are different kinds of kung fu, most people still think of it as a very specific martial art based on the movements of a certain group of animals.
Shaolin Kung Fu is what we’re talking about. It can be put into the traditional Five Animals styles: Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake, and Dragon.
Some other styles are the Praying Mantis, the Monkey, and the Eagle. But these are just some examples of one style of kung fu.
Wushu is the name for all Chinese martial arts, including the most well-known ones like Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Baguazhang, and Wing Chun.
What’s all the fuss about? If you want to get a black belt in kung fu, you need to focus on just one style. Most styles of kung fu also used the same belt system as Japanese martial arts like karate and judo, which are not kung fu.
Kung Fu Belt Order
Different styles of kung fu have different numbers of belts, but there are usually three main levels.
The kung fu belt order may vary depending on the specific type, but it’s usually divided into three stages, each divided in degrees.
- 1st Degree – White Belt
- 2nd Degree – Yellow
- 3rd Degree – Gold
- 4th Degree – Orange
- 5th Degree – Green
- 6th Degree – Blue
- 7th Degree – Purple
- 8th Degree – Brown
- 9th Degree – Red
- Black Belt
You may already know that the black belt is the highest belt rank and that only the best martial artists can get there. But you have to earn a total of nine lower belts before you can wear the coveted black sash.
Even though students have to teach what they’ve learned, the main thing they have to do to become official teachers is get their black belt, which usually takes 4–5 years to complete all nine levels.
In the first four levels, you learn how to stand, block, and strike. Some of the more philosophical and esoteric parts of a certain style of kung fu are more likely to be explained in detail at an indoor school, but this is not always the case.
You’ll find that each level and color have a value or principle that goes with them.
White Belt – 1st Degree
A New Beginning
Students in their first year of kung fu get a white belt.
The last belt, which is black, is called that because belts used to get darker as a person moved up the ranks. No longer is dying the belt necessary, but the practice of giving different colors to different jobs still goes on.
As a student moves through the rankings, each color shows not only their academic standing but also an abstract idea like progress or aspiration. The white ribbon stands for the new student’s innocence. It also stands for a fresh start, like a blank sheet of paper.
The beginner level has nothing to do with the white belt. The yellow belt is the first sign that your skills and development are starting to get better. It’s seen as a rite of passage into a life of enlightenment, self-control, and swagger.
Yellow Belt – 2nd Degree
When a student first starts learning karate, they get a yellow belt. After a few years of practice, they get a gold belt.
Yellow is the color of a brand-new day that has just begun. The video shows the first time a student tries out a new skill. It also stands for a spirit that wants to know more and has many questions.
Even though a yellow belt may already know the basics, they will need to spend a lot of time getting their technique right.
Gold Belt – 3rd Degree
Having a high level of energy
At this point, students are no longer just paying attention on the surface. They have reached what is often called “gold” level engagement. The basic taolu (shape) is still the same, but now the focus is on the Sanda (fighting) movements.
Not all schools that teach martial arts give out the Gold Belt.
It’s a halfway point for students who have already shown they know the basics but could use more practice with the beginner moves that come with the orange belt.
Orange Belt – 4th Degree
The orange belt is a sign of perseverance, which students will need to get through the more difficult practice of everything they have learned so far. Students with an orange belt have been training for a while and have gotten better at what they do.
Beginners’ training gets a little bit harder at the green belt level. At this level, students can start to train with weapons and may even be asked to help a new student. After all, kung-fu practitioners who train hard are expected to become teachers at some point.
If your style of kung fu already includes training with weapons, like Tao Te Kung Fu, this level will take you from using one weapon in each hand to using two weapons in each hand.
Green Belt – 5th Degree
The color green is a sign of growth and new life. The student has grown because of the work he or she did as a beginner.
This is like a seed that grows into a plant. At this level, students can learn how to use nunchucks, jo staffs, and other intermediate weapons, depending on the style of kung fu they’ve chosen.
Blue Belt – 6th Degree
A blue belt shows that someone is calm and patient.
When a student gets this belt, it means they are ready to learn more about self-control and slowing down.
Purple Belt- 7th Degree
Just as the sky at twilight before dawn is a perfect metaphor for the last stage of intermediate training before moving on to advanced degrees, the purple belt is a beautiful picture of the sky at that time.
At this level, students have gained a healthy amount of self-confidence, which shows in their growing levels of skill and ambition.
Having learned and practiced the rules. It’s time to teach the students more advanced skills and ideas.
Leaving the basics behind, we move on to more difficult exercises that use stronger and more accurate strikes, blocks, and other techniques.
To get to this top level, you have to know a lot about how kung fu works on a mental level.
Brown Belt – 8th Degree
To get a brown belt, a student must show that he or she has mastered basic skills and is committed to getting better through hard training.
Red Belt – 9th Degree
To get the red belt, a student must show leadership by teaching other people. The color red is also linked to energy and courage.
Students work hard for four to five years to earn the coveted black belt, which is a sign that they have mastered the art. But don’t worry, it won’t always be like this.
Even if you have enough experience and credibility to become a teacher yourself, you still need to pass many more levels before you can call yourself a teacher
When you get your black belt, you’ve reached the top. Before you can call yourself a master of kung fu, you have to pass eight more levels.
Most of these levels involve making important academic contributions to the art, learning and mastering philosophical theories, and putting in a lot of physical training (taolu and sanda).
Getting a black belt is more than just a badge of honor; as you move up the ranks, it gives you access to more and more detailed information.
People who have reached the level of “black belt” can teach others.
People tell them to learn more kinds of kung fu and keep getting better until they reach the grandmaster level.
Brief History Of The Kung Fu Belt System
The strange thing is that the kung fu belt system started in Japan. In the past, there was no clear way to rank people who practiced Chinese martial arts.
It was a “first-come, first-serve” system, which meant that the student who had been there the longest was at the top of the list. This made it a little hard to show respect to the older students.
It’s possible that the senior student was older than the new student. By the 1970s, they were using colored sashes to tell the difference between beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.
The Japanese had been doing this since at least the early 1900s, and the famous Judo master Jigoro Kano made it popular.
Granting Belts – Kung Fu Governing Body
The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) is the best when it comes to kung fu. They work with 155 other federations, including the Wushu Federation of Asia, the Wushu Federation of Europe, the Wushu Federation of the Americas, the Wushu Federation of Africa, and the Wushu Federation of Oceania.
They are also known by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In short, they set the rules that all wushu competitions around the world must follow.
Now, kung fu schools can choose their own goals and belt system for moving students up to the next level. This may or may not include the gold, blue, and purple belts.
The kung fu belt system may have been taken from Japanese karate, but it does a great job of showing how kung fu is based on principles and self-control.
To review, the first belt is white. It’s both scary and exciting, like the first time you look at a blank canvas. You’ve decided to wear a yellow belt because you’re starting to bring light into the world, but you still want to learn more.
If you work hard, you’ll know it’s time to move up to the orange belt when your curiosity turns into determination. As you move up to the next level, you’ve earned the right to wear a green belt.
When you get the blue belt, you learn to calm down and pay attention. Congratulations on getting the purple belt, which is a sign of distinction and success.
When you’re ready to move on, the first advanced-level belt is brown, and it’s waiting for you. This means that your beliefs are as strong as the ground you’re standing on. The red belt comes next, which stands for leadership and flexibility.
At last, the black belt has been earned. You have earned the right to teach others, but you still need 8 more ranks before you can call yourself a master. After that, you can do anything you want.