Kung fu is the term used to refer collectively to the Chinese martial arts of wushu and quan-fa. While it is easy to learn the basics of kung fu, it is one of the most challenging martial arts in which to achieve mastery.

On average, getting a black belt in kung fu can take between three to ten years. A black belt indicates achieving an advanced skill level in this martial art and can require an arduous journey. While getting the black belt is a significant milestone, it is not the pinnacle of the learning process.

If you’re interested in studying the art of kung fu, read on to find out more about the timeline for getting a black belt.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Black Belt in Kung Fu?

Kung fu is a term used when speaking of wushu and quan-fa, the principal Chinese martial arts that have been in practice for hundreds of years. The principles of kung fu highlight how it is meant to be practiced: with patience, taking enough time, and spending plenty of energy. While starting to learn kung fu is an easy process, getting to be a master of it is on another level.

Generally, getting a black belt in kung fu will take as little as three years or as much as ten. Achieving the necessary technical skills to receive the belt that demonstrates it will take a lot of time and effort. Once a black belt is awarded, the study continues. Mastery of kung fu is possible, but it can take a lifetime to achieve, as demonstrated by Shaolin monks.

Getting a black belt in kung fu can take only a few years with hard work and dedication. Nevertheless, the critical part of this martial art is the journey. The time and energy spent studying kung fu are an integral part of its importance.

How Do Belts Work in Kung Fu?

Kung fu belts differ from what you might have in mind when thinking about martial arts. Kung fu originated in China and uses belts differently from karate, which originated in Japan. With kung fu, the belts are colorful sashes, usually made from silk. They also tend to be much wider than their karate counterparts.

There was originally no ranking system for kung fu. Skills were based on years of experience and training, and the hierarchy was usually determined by age. This system started changing with the increasing popularity of belts in other martial arts. Now, kung fu belts are commonly encountered, but they continue to differ from others.

Some of the main differences between kung fu belts and those found in other martial arts are centered on the potential use of belts as weapons in kung fu. They are also an important element of kung fu ceremonies.

Which Belts Do I Have to Earn First?

While this belt ranking system is a relatively new addition to the martial art of kung fu, it has become a popular element. However, not all schools will practice using the belt system, so you should make inquiries before committing to a school.

In total, there are ten belts involved in kung fu, and nine of them are trainee levels. They will be awarded based on successfully passing tests. Below you’ll find a rundown of the  trainee belts:

  1. White: This is the first belt you’ll use in kung fu as a novice. You may have to wait until learning the basics to receive one.
  2. Yellow: As you continue to learn kung fu, your evolving skills will be rewarded with this next belt.
  3. Orange: This belt shows that the student is starting to commit to the process.
  4. Gold: The gold belt shows the increasing determination of the student.
  5. Green: This is the first of the intermediate belts and signals a usual period of two years spent learning the intricacies of this stage.
  6. Blue: This belt will show that you have developed an understanding of the complexity involved in kung fu. You may also begin training with weapons.
  7. Purple: Featuring the color of ambition, this belt will show that you are starting to become well-versed in basic and intermediate techniques. You will be practicing plenty of self-defense moves.
  8. Brown: The brown belt is the first in the advanced group. The focus will switch to sparring with opponents and advanced weapon techniques.
  9. Red: The red belt shows that the student is becoming a leader. It is the last of the trainee belts and designates that students can start practicing to teach.
  10. The Black Belt

Once you have been awarded all nine trainee belts, your training to achieve the black belt will continue. Getting a black belt is the only way to become a teacher of kung fu, and it will show that you are becoming an expert in the art.

This is only the beginning of the process of mastering kung fu. Once you have the black belt, you will continue learning advanced stages. Each of these stages usually takes a year, and there are eight of them in total.

Once you have achieved your eighth black belt, you will be considered a kung fu master, but only if you also meet the criteria of having 11 years of kung fu training in total.

The final and most difficult rank to achieve in kung fu is that of grandmaster. This can only be awarded if you meet a host of criteria, including training other masters, teaching kung fu for more than 30 years, teaching a child or a grandchild through all levels up to the black belt, and staying true to the philosophy behind kung fu.

If those conditions are met, a master can become a grandmaster only if appointed by another grandmaster who is retiring.

While the road to the black belt will take at most ten years, that achievement only marks the beginning of your study to master kung fu. This journey can take your whole life because kung fu is mainly about what the study teaches than about the titles waiting at the end.


Getting a black belt in kung fu can take between three and ten years. Achieving it is arduous because the philosophy influencing this martial art is all about taking time and exercising patience to learn.