Advanced Gradings: Making Kung Fu Your Priority


by Sibok Lloyd Fridenburg
Fu For You Fall 2023

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, “Skill is only one aspect; commitment and desire are the key.  I’ll believe that any student has the desire to pass a black sash grading when I see the sash around their waist.”  The number of times that that statement has rung true over the years is 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 the requirements associated with a brown or black sash grading, not the least of which is the 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 do not count.  Although these extracurricular activities are rewarding and encouraged, they don’t replace regular class attendance and don’t count towards your pre-grading class requirements that must be maintained for at least six months prior to the grading cut-off date.  Included in that number is a requirement to 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 schoolwork”, “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.  What it comes down to is priorities, so decide how important being included in the upcoming grading is to you and plan accordingly.  Your Kung Fu requirements aren’t going to change just because you have made other things a priority.

We have the highest quality instructors anywhere and one of the main reasons is that it isn’t easy to get your black sash at WKFA.  Each and every one of us made sacrifices and in some cases waited years before grading.  We expect that your schoolwork, your job, and your family are priorities, as it should be, and if you can’t commit the appropriate amount to time to Kung Fu, this may not be the best time to attempt to test for an advanced rank.

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.