STQI Scarborough School

Why don’t we have a belt system?

aka “How do I know I am improving if I don’t earn a belt?” aka “How do other people know I am good if I don’t wear a certain color belt?

Historically there was no belt system in Kung Fu. Even in old Kung Fu movies, a white belt didn’t mean you were a beginner, and conversely the experts didn’t always wear a black belt.

Of course there are certain advantages to having a belt system, which is why some schools have adopted the practice of using belts from the martial arts of other countries. For example, it helps people feel a sense of accomplishment for getting belts along the way, and also shows to others in the class what you have accomplished by looking at the colour you are wearing. Also, if people are fighting in a competition, you can match them up based on the colours of the fighters’ belts so the fight will *approximately* be fair.

However, our schools focus more on internal gratification than on belts. We train to improve our bodies, by getting active to stay fit, and doing Qi Gong to improve internal health. We also train to calm our minds, as there is a meditative aspect to the training and routines that provides inner peace. So we focus more on continuous self-improvement as a fulfillment in and of itself, and try not to focus on saying we have or have not achieved any particular ranking or colour.

Our Instructors do give constant feedback so students know they are improving and what they need to work on next. Also our students have a sense of where they stand compared to others in the class just by watching them train. In fact we have a philosophy in our school that when we watch other students, we learn to find the good aspects in their Kung Fu and learn to adopt those aspects. Conversely when observing others we find their mistakes, and we can learn to avoid those mistakes.

This kind of improvement can be done without holding a bias based on belts, because even a black belt can make mistakes, and even white belts can teach others something important. Students can inspire each other to be the best that they can be, without needing to compare colours. So, we have not felt it necessary to add a belt system.

Aside from all this, our students also don’t have to worry about paying for belt testing and belt buying, because belt testing is not free!

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