Youth Student’s Corner
In the Youth program you earn different coloured belts as you learn more and pass gradings—and this is the same for many other martial arts schools—so here are some thoughts about where this system came from, why we use it, and what your belt means.
In Japanese martial arts (like Karate), belts were first used as a way to see how far students had progressed in their training, whereas in Chinese martial arts (like Kung Fu), belts were used firstly as a weapon and as an important part of the uniform, before they were used to represent your skill level.
But martial artists went a long time before that without even using belts! How senior you were depended on how long you had been training, so even if you felt more skillful, newer students would always respect those who had been training longer than them. Also, students would earn scrolls signed by their teachers (kind of like our grading certificates) as proof of learning a certain technique really well, or for defeating a certain number of enemies.
At our Kung Fu school, the colours of our belts follow the order: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown (with stripes and solid belts for each colour). Some other martial arts schools also use white, gold, purple, and black belts. At WKFA we only have belts in the Youth program, and then start using sashes for our Junior and Adult students. Also, a fun fact: we actually used to have white belts instead of red belts as the first Youth level before it was changed to match our Junior and Adult sashes.
There’s a story suggesting why most belt systems go from white to black belt: you would receive a white belt that you’d always wear when you trained and never wash it, so that after years and years of training with it on, the white would get so dirty from all your hard work that your belt eventually turned black!
So what does your belt mean? Belts are a handy way for you to set goals to achieve when you want to learn more and improve your Kung Fu, like steps along your journey, but they also mark new beginnings. Think of earning your next rank like progressing to the next grade in school. No level is the end of the line, since each one means there is more for you to learn.
Here’s one way of thinking about each level: your first belt is like planting a seed in the ground, then the life cycle starts when the sun (yellow and orange belt) shines on it, and the seed sprouts into a plant (green belt), which grows up toward the sky (blue), then your plant forms new seeds (brown), and you start planting your own seeds while you keep growing and maturing (black)—and the cycle goes on.
My white belt and my black sash both mean the start of a journey for me. What does your current belt mean to you?