Although there is no belt system in many martial arts such as Wing Chun , it is common knowledge that the white belt represents the beginner and the black belt, so to speak, the professional.
In a martial art , the black belt is something like the accolade that only the best get. At least that’s the public perception when it comes to the black belt. But the reality is actually different …
In Judo, for example, there are initially six different colors that represent the student grades – from white to brown. Then the black belts begin (yes, correct – plural) . The first black belt is called 1st Dan, then comes the second Dan and so on. Then they are red-white-striped to finally be completely red as ninth and tenth dan. Accordingly, the red belt represents the highest grade here.
In karate , like in judo, there are 10 dan grades, but here you stay with the black belt in Karate until the end. But it remains the same here: When you get the black belt for the first time, you have “only” the 1st dan at first.
But what does that mean exactly?
In many Japanese martial arts – such as judo and karate – it is often said that the black belt is just like the white belt for beginners.
Yes, you read that right: a beginner’s belt !!
But before you give up your training because I have totally demotivated you, I would like to put the whole thing into perspective: Of course, it does not mean that you cannot do more with the black belt than someone who is in martial arts school for the very first time or enter the dojo.
The white belt is the beginning of technology . Here you will first learn step by step the important basic techniques and the legwork of the respective martial art. You also learn all the important defenses and attacks and train both alone and with a partner.
However, when one speaks of the black belt as a second beginning, one does not mean the beginning of the technique, but the beginning of understanding .
I find this point of view very interesting, because many advanced learners often think they are much better than they actually are. From this point of view, however, the black belt just marks the BEGINNING of understanding. So you finally begin to understand the things that you are constantly training.
This in turn also means that as a black belt carrier you no longer need a trainer all the time to work effectively on yourself and your skills. On the contrary: You are now able to design most of your training yourself and you are now largely in control of your progress. You are no longer so dependent on others.
Unfortunately, many advanced students see it differently. During my time at the EWTO (a large Wing Chun organization where I was at least 10 years), I often made the experience that even high levels of technicians believe that they can only learn something from their teacher. So they went to one of his seminars at least once a month and thought that this would bring them forward most clearly. But of course almost none of them trained these things at home. And so I think the majority of the training effect has fizzled out again.
And none of them came up with the idea that you could design part of your training yourself and even learn from each other – including from your training partners.
Each of us is good at one other thing. And each of us also has our weaknesses. If I now train with someone who has training experience comparable to mine, then the probability is very high that I can learn a lot from him or her in some areas. But our ego often throws a spanner in the works and we don’t recognize it or don’t want to admit it.
What is the black belt in Wing Chun?
As I know that many Wing Chun trainees are reading along here: What is comparable to the black belt in Wing Chun?
Most would answer by now that the first engineering degree represents the black belt. But I disagree.
Because as I said: the black belt is the beginning of UNDERSTANDING. And with the first degree of technician you don’t have a real understanding of Wing Chun.
For me, the black belt in Wing Chun is the second technician grade.
There is a simple reason for this: In Wing Chun we have (at least as far as unarmed fighting is concerned), so to speak, three “subsystems” for which we also have extra sections: These are the Cham Kiu, the Biu Tze and the wooden dummy.
By completing the first technician degree, you have not even completed one of these “subsystems” (by “completed” I mean that you have gained an understanding of it and not that you have already mastered it perfectly) . The completion of the Cham Kiu is only marked by the second technician level (at least that’s how it is in most Wing Chun associations) – here you will learn the missing sections 5 to 7.
For a Wing Chun practitioner, this realization means two things:
- Be humble. With the first technician level, you haven’t even reached the second beginner level. And even with the second technician degree, you are still at the beginning (no longer of technology but of understanding) .
- If you, as a second technician degree, do not start slowly to take part in your training yourself and to take responsibility for your progress, then you are not a black belt carrier. The true black belt has nothing to do with whether you have received a certificate. It has to do with whether or not you have reached that level and attitude.
Let that act on you for a moment – and then off to training