Ranking and Rating or Raving and Ranting?

Jade Dragon Alaska

White Belt
Jul 19, 2011
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Traditionally, there were no belts.

The sifus knows his students and their relative ability.

In a traditional school, only the foolish will want to seriously cross arms with an older classmate.

Most of the TCIMA schools where I studied, did not have any ranking system at all, except one. They gave a gray sash after 10-20 years to signify a serious and committed student.

Students lived martial arts, in and out of school, being in it for the long haul. The fruits of training were the energies and consciousnesses that they enabled. There was no need for a status driven, hierchial based belt system.

I did not have any knowledge of gong fu schools using belts in the 1960s and 70s, it was not till after the publicity and money of karate hit, that some schools adopted the belt system, many using the same color of karate belts for sashes.

The best of these schools, did not have mirrors either, one would look inside to the internal for improvement. If no progress was made, the student was not taught anything new, until he got it. Many of today's commercial martial farts schools would go broke like this.

Most of the better fighters; are not the ones with the fancy uniforms.

Rather than being in an exclusive neighborhood, some of the best martial arts schools are in bad neighborhoods. One has to be a good martial artist to attend. When one comes out of a school, such as this, hustlers stay away.

There are many times when a master will come into a school, and pretend to be a student. There are others who will minimize their skill, so that no one at their newly attended school, is afraid of them. If no one is afraid of them, they will be taught everything.

This is not to say that belts are not effective commercially or for children. One must decide on their priorities.

Value can be placed on the ability to do a move, or use a new energy, rather than a superficial status difference.

One can look at the apparent, the hidden, what is hidden in the apparent, the hidden in the apparent and the apparent of the hidden.

This goes for moves, their energies, and the relationship between the moves. A belt system sets up a caste system based on superficials, with no common standard between schools or systems.

Some of the karate school’s green/blue belts would prevail in sparring over 75% of the area’s black belts. Another school I attended, the yellow belts would outdo 80% of the area’s black belts in a fight.

In issuing a belt, a school is putting a value system into a material, colored cloth.

In issuing a check, a bank places a value system into colored paper.

When there is no enforceable martial standard for belts, value is only determined by the issuer. To another school, a belt may be no more than a bad check. A school sets up its own value system in adopting a belt system, beyond awards; many unaware of its long range, subtle and unintended consequences.

To be able to read a person based on what is in their eyes and how they stand, for some, is more important than a uniform, color or a trophy.

A peacock struts his colors, an assassin hides them.

The following are some words on rank from a pioneer.

It all changed in the mid 60s when people outside the Asian communities began to learn about martial arts....then came the prostitution, phony rankings, made-up school names and everything else that makes true MA so difficult to find these days.
b (Ven. Dr. An Tzu; Thich An Tri) '
By Dr. William Upton-Knittle

(Dr. William Upton-Knittle, senior coordinator of the UCLA Office of Summer Sessions Advertising and Marketing, was invited by government officials of the People's Republic of China to help plan fund-raising for a project known as the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Victory Memorial.)

Dr William Upton-Knittle is also listed many times in Who's Who

What do others think the value of belts or sashes are? Does this apply to anyone but children?


Sr. Grandmaster
Staff member
MT Mentor
Jun 27, 2011
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We say "Kaikyuu mu imi. Bushido hitsuji." Loosely translated as "Rank has no meaning. Bushido is the one path."

That being said, most dojos need a paying student body to stay open. If they can't stay open they can't help anybody. Students need belts to gauge their progress in a rank and file system. "Martial" as in Martial Arts, means "military". The military is a rank and file system. Once belts are attained through hard work and discipline, they don't mean much to the wearer.

mook jong man

Senior Master
May 28, 2008
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Matsudo , Japan
It probably has a lot to do with the informal atmosphere in a chinese kung fu kwoon.
I remember one of my instructors relating the story of how in the eighties they all went for a trip to Hong Kong to train in Sigung's school and were quite horrified that people were smoking some even had a cigarrette dangling out of their mouth while doing chi sau.


Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Jun 15, 2004
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Metropolitan Tokyo
This depends on if one is trying to make a living with a school, or teaches for the benefit of what teaching gives back.