Sifu Lloyd Fridenburg at Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

By Sifu Lloyd Fridenburg


I’ll apologize in advance for being a bit blunt in this article but sometimes a hammer is the only way to make an important point.

I remember many years ago when a senior student commented to Sifu Bob (Sigung) that they were sure that a particularly gifted student was destined to get their black sash very quickly. Sifu just looked at her and said, “It’s not as much about skill as it is about dedication, and I’ll believe that any student has the dedication necessary to pass a black sash grading when I see the sash around their waist.” That student never did test for black, and the number of times that that statement has rung true over the years is truly astonishing. Every year about this time students begin talking of plans to shoot for their black sash in the spring, and you’ll have to forgive me if I roll my eyes. Talk is cheap; don’t tell us show us!

On that note it is very important that you understand all of the requirements associated with a brown or black sash grading, not the least of which is the average number of formal classes you attend in a week. I use the word formal because things like the competition team, helping in a leadership role, demo team, and lion dance practice doesn’t count. Although these extracurricular activities are rewarding and definitely encouraged they don’t replace regular class attendance and don’t count towards the average of 3 classes per week that you must maintain for at least six months prior to the grading cut-off date. You must also attend a minimum of 40 Int/Adv classes during the same period. These aren’t suggestions, they are requirements. If the grading is scheduled for May, the clock starts ticking in September.

When you ask to have your name put on the grading list your total number of Int/Adv classes will be checked and your average class attendance for the last six months will be checked. If either one does not hit the mark you won’t be added to the list. Here’s a simple formula 6 months = 26 weeks X 3 classes per week = 78 classes, with 40 of those being Int/Adv.

Believe me when I say that 78 classes over 6 months is not very many and really is the absolute bare minimum; you should be shooting for many more. Students often say things like “I have too much school work”, “I have to go to my knitting club”, “I’m learning to play the spoons and can’t miss practice”. I understand completely, but we all had to make choices and sacrifices when we were preparing for a high sash grading. So take time to assess your priorities because your Kung Fu requirements aren’t going to change.

We have the highest quality instructors anywhere and one of the main reasons is that it takes a great deal of dedication and commitment to get your black sash at WKFA. We expect that your schoolwork or your job is a priority, as it should be, and may affect the amount of time you can commit to Kung Fu. Take this into consideration when weighing your options. Perhaps this isn’t the best time to test for an advanced rank and you should consider waiting a little longer.

A black sash isn’t a destination; it’s a journey, so give serious thought to what it will take over the next several months to test for an advanced rank, and for those of you still in school, include your parents in the discussion. It’s very important that they fully understand the demands associated with your goal. If you’re able to commit; train hard, train smart, and train often.