It has only been in the last 100 years or so, that Martial Art Schools, have incorporated a 'coloured' belt grading system.

** I think I am right in saying that in the 'old' days of training, the seniority of a student, was only known to his/her teacher and the other students of that school.

The main reason being, 'challenges from other schools and individuals'!

'Challenges' were 'arranged' by the teachers themselves to see how good their style was against another or similar style. The selected student was proud to fight for his or her school - it was, no matter what the outcome, an honor.

Egos and pride were not spared in such 'meetings'. Severe bruising and the occasional broken rib were common place, but not death!

In China however, and it may well be true to other lands, a completely different style and culture would seek out the 'best school' and challenge all within, even the teacher! You could not refuse, as the school's name was at stake and no-one wanted to lose face.

These fights were far more serious, the aggressors were usually well versed in other martial arts and seasoned fighters, in most instances these fights meant, becoming maimed, disfigured or killed.

These so called 'Martial Artists' made a mockery of the doctrines and philosophy of the true martial artist, who usually will be humble, and not try to show how good they are to impress others!

If they won, they would take from that village/town everything they wanted. If they lost, they were left there, maimed, injured or dead, or they would leave very quickly!

With the advent of Martial Arts being introduced to the European, we wanted something to show that we were progressing, having been indoctrinated into obtaining 'certificates' showing his or her prowess.

Based on Knowledge; not on challenging another in combat! That came later!!!

In the 'old days' you were a Novice, Pupil, Student or Teacher and treated as such.

'Novices' could be children from large families and unwanted, these families knew that if these children of 5 and 6 years of age were accepted into a Martial Arts School, they would be cared for, even better was a Shaolin Temple!

Another reason why traditional martial art schools did not use a visual grading standard, was, most schools were segmented, each being a 'separate' school.

Things have changed of today, when associations/governing bodies 'run' organised schools of the same 'system' world wide.

The Japanese used to call us, the "Europeans of Many Colours" this was due to the various coloured belts, or 'grading colours' we had tied around our waists, thereby 'showing' others within the school and outsiders our 'ranking/knowledge'.

In the Martial Arts world of today, according to the 'Style or School' you attend you may find grading systems comprising 10 belts + Tags, (these represent that you are midway between belts). White is accepted as a 'no grade' up to Black Belt 1st Dan, at this level you are accepted as a very competent martial artist in his or her art.

At this level, you then may leave and start your own school or conversely again train for your various Dan Gradings, 1 - 10!

Again I believe I am right in saying, to the best of my knowledge, that the majority of 'modern' Chinese schools do not have a 'belt' grading system, they train in jogging bottoms and a 'T-Shirt' with the school's Badge on it possibly. Some Western schools run by Chinese and European Sifu's, may well have a coloured belt grading system - as we do.

**** From all the research I undertook from looking at reference books and based on 35 years of personal experience in the arts I was unable to dismiss my assumptions on this subject.

I would welcome any 'correct' information on the subject however - thank you.

Please mail me at sifu@sansao.org

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