The belt system is commonly connected to martial arts. Each level that is conquered by an individual is defined or marked by a specific belt color. While the belts all symbolize the completion of various ranks, the meaning differs between the martial arts.

Kung Fu is a class of martial arts that does not always use a belt system to designate levels. Early on, there were no belts used. However, as time went on and traditions changed the use of belts slowly filtered in.

In this article, you will learn more about how the belt system is used in Kung Fu.

Belts and Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a class of martial arts that is used as a means of self-defense. Historically, Kung Fu operated without the use of belts to designate levels of the students. A student was only evaluated by the Sifu (Instructor) and placed in a level without an outward symbol of the level that was obtained.

Part of the Kung Fu uniform consisted of a wide belt that was used for protection of the waist. Over time, the belt included the color that represented a level of accomplishment. The idea of using colors to represent proficiency was not started until the 20th century when it was instituted across other areas of martial arts.

Do All Sifus Use Belts?

Although the belts have become widely popular, there are some traditional Sifu’s who choose not to use colored belts. Instead of using belts to designate a student’s movement through the levels, the Sifu would give a signed scroll to the student. This would occur each time a level was mastered. While this provided recognition to the student, it did not provide an outward display of accomplishment.

Why Use Belts?

The idea of a signed document should be enough to determine the level a Kung Fu student should be at. Right?

While this is traditional, when the other martial arts instituted the belt system, Kung Fu began to follow suit. It was determined that belts not only showed rank but also offered other benefits.

  • Provide recognition for levels achieved.
  • Allows others to see the level of the individual they may be sparring with.
  • Increases confidence.
  • Gives the incentive to work hard to obtain the next level.

As you can see, the belts are not only an outward symbol of the individuals’ achievements, but they also provide information for others and a confidence boost.

Are Kung Fu Belts the Same as Other Martial Arts?

It is important to understand that all martial arts have their own belt system. The premise of the belts signifying levels that have been advanced through is the same, but the symbolism of each belt is vastly different, as are the requirements to progress to each level.

How Many Belts Are There?

When you begin to study Kung Fu, you will learn there are three specific categories of belts that you work to achieve. There is a total of six colored belts.

Novice: These are for beginners in the art of Kung Fu. While it is one category, there are three specific belt colors in this category (yellow, orange, and blue).

Intermediate: Once you have moved through the novice level, you will move to the intermediate level. Again, there are multiple belts to progress through in this level (green, brown).

Advanced: When you transition to the advanced level, there is only one belt (black). While you may think this is the final stop on the Kung Fu journey, there are levels of the blackbelt that can be achieved, which takes years.

While the belt system is quite straightforward, you must remember the progression through the belts is not on a set timetable. The amount of time it takes to achieve each belt depends on the amount of time devoted to practicing the art.

What Happens When You Get Your Blackbelt?

When the level of blackbelt is reached, many people choose to stop, but there is an option to continue with Kung Fu studies. Beyond the initial blackbelt, there are eight levels or degrees that be achieved, which leads you to the title of Master.

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Master Status?

If you have the goal of being a Kung Fu master, you need to prepare to devote at least eleven years to consistent and intense training. With the correct training regime, you will be able to progress to the initial blackbelt in about three years.

Once you obtain your blackbelt, you will have the opportunity to move through the degrees. This process will take around eight years to complete. Usually, you will need to spend at least one year on each degree.

Why Try to Obtain Master Status?

Most people will strive to obtain master status if they have an interest in becoming an instructor. This means they are going to devote their lives to teaching the art of Kung Fu. If they successfully do this for a total of thirty years, they may be promoted to Grandmaster. This appointment can only be made by a grandmaster that is stepping down, it is not promised to everyone.

What You Need to Know About Kung Fu

Once you understand the belt system, it is important that you also understand the premise of Kung Fu and how it differs from other martial arts. Most martial arts are very linear in their movement, while Kung Fu focuses more on circular motions. Because of these motions, you will notice Kung Fu appears to be a much more graceful category of martial arts.

Another interesting facet of Kung Fu is the animal representation that is included. Not only are Kung Fu movements graceful, but they are also attached to characteristics of specific animals. The animals used to describe Kung Fu movements are:

  • Dragon: The dragon symbolizes courage and energy in a graceful manner.
  • Snake: The snake focuses on being patient in attacking an opponent’s vulnerable areas.
  • Leopard: The leopard is related to speed and agility.
  • Tiger: The tiger symbolizes strength.
  • Crane: The crane focuses on balance and fast movements.
Chinese Martial Arts Fighter

When taking part in Kung Fu, all these animalistic movements come together to form a very graceful yet powerful form of martial arts.

Final Thoughts

The art of Kung Fu is deeply rooted in tradition and has not always utilized the belt system. However, as times changed so did the recognition of individuals’ progress through the ranks of Kung Fu.

Once you have obtained six of the colorful belts you will have the opportunity to add up to eight degrees to the black belt, earning you the title of master. As you can see, belts play a key role in designating the ranks of Kung Fu.