Historically, the Chinese martial arts have not had a formal belt ranking system. The belt ranking systems, used in martial arts today, have only been around for approximately 100 years. They were instituted to signify advancement through the arts. However, an accomplished practitioner of Kung Fu San Soo is not concerned with the color of his belt, but with the advancement of his learning. Whatever rank you hold be proud of it. Self-improvement in the Art of San Soo, not belt advancement, should be the student’s goal. Lo Si Fu, Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo, taught, “Remember that the strong green tree that stops growing withers and gradually dies.” In other words, the student that does not continually strive to learn will gradually lose the skills they have acquired.
The following information is a guideline for advancement in the art of Kung Fu San Soo (散手功夫):
White to Yellow Belt
You enroll as a white belt. From the day you enroll, it takes the average person, who continues training and progressing, about 4-6 months to qualify for their yellow belt.
Yellow to Green Belt
From the yellow to the green belt, it takes the average student approximately 8-10 months or a minimum of 1 year from white belt.
Green to Brown Belt
From green to brown belt requires 12 months minimum, for the average student who keeps up with techniques and forms or, a minimum of 2 years from white belt.
Brown to Black Belt
Black belt is achieved within 12-18 months of brown belt, providing the student is 18 years of age and has passed the various requirements. From white to black belt, it takes between 3 to 4 years.
Degrees of Black Belt
Degrees of black belt are achieved within 12 months of receiving your black belt, providing the student continues training and progressing. Every additional year of training after your black belt earns you a degree. There are seven degrees of black belt leading up to your 8th degree or the rank of Master.
The rank, Master of Kung Fu San Soo, is achieved after 8 years of training from receiving your black belt, with a minimum of 11 years of San Soo training.
The rank, Grandmaster of Kung Fu San Soo, has historically, been attained by only one person. To become a Grandmaster, one must attain each of the following accomplishments:
1. Hold the rank of Master in Kung Fu San Soo.
2. Have instructed the art of San Soo for over 30 years.
3. Have taught a son or daughter of 18 years of age to the level of black belt.
4. Have taught a grandchild of 18 years of age to the level of black belt.
5. Have remained true to the teaching and philosophies of Lo Sifu Chin Siu Dek (老師傅陳壽爵)
Grandmaster Jimmy H. Woo.
More importantly than attaining these goals, one must have truly achieved the level of dedication, training, and commitment to the art that Lo Sifu possessed. To be less than that would diminish the title he earned and what it signifies.
According to Lo Sifu, “Some people have belts, and some people have knowledge.” Rather than rank or belt color, what will determine an individual’s skill is how long and how intensely they have studied, the quality of instruction they have received, and to a lesser extent their “natural ability.”
All advancement is dependent on consistent training and practice of all techniques and forms. In addition to regular attendance, you must maintain your lesson manual. Remember, some individuals may advance quicker than others, each person is unique.
The Belt Ranking System
In Terms of Standard Education
White Belt _ _ _ _Kindergarten through 2nd Grade – Elementary school
Yellow Belt _ _ _ _3rd through 5th Grade – Elementary school
Green Belt _ _ _ _6th through 8th Grade – Middle school
Brown Belt _ _ _ _9th through 12th Grade – High School
Black Belt _ _ _ _Undergraduate – University or College
Degrees of Black _ _ _ _Graduate study towards MA & Ph.D.
This is not an exact comparison, but a rough model to give one an idea of their level of advancement based on our familiar educational system. White belt through Yellow belt is similar to a grammar school education. Here the student learns the rudimentary basics. From junior high through high school or Green belt through Brown belt, the student works to develop proficiency in the basic techniques. Black belt represents one’s introduction to higher learning, for example: undergraduate study leading to a Bachelor’s Degree. Progressing through the various degrees is representative of graduate study leading to a Master’s Degree or further yet, to a Ph.D.