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Tai Chi and Martial Art  
martial arts and the application of combat tai chi

The Colour grading in Martial Arts

Repetitive Practice
I do not know a single 'advanced' Tai Chi practitioner who is not most happy to study again and again what we all together call "the basics". These are the people who have come to understand the implications of 'mastering the art' and (without exception) understand that certain things, such as teaching that art to any willing to listen and learn, is expected from them.

From student to teacher, from impetuous to circumspect, from taking to giving and from war to peace, this is the objective of Martial Arts training and those that do not fully understand this follow a short path with no reward other that egotism and selfishness awaiting.

One of the golden rules/philosophical roots of Tai Chi is to 'be like water and constantly seek the lowest point via the way of least resistance'. This must be firmly understood, appreciated and accepted to permit and then encourage an attitude of first 'non-attainment' and then later 'no-mind'. This is all achieved ONLY with diligent and repetitive practice and (surely you understand by now!) never completed. Those that find fault in this system or 'culture' are those who hold on to an attitude of superiority that should not/cannot be tolerated or endorsed as Budo or True Martial Art.

Black and White
The thickest part of the white section of the yin yang symbol represents maximum yang. Let us say for now that in terms of the natural cycle of day and night, maximum yang is when the sun is at its highest in the sky and at its hottest and brightest. Furthermore this theoretical representation operates on the micro and macroscopic level and the thickest white (maximum yang) may represent mid summer and the thickest black, mid winter … and so on and up to being born (minimum yang), adolescence and maturity (maxim yang) through to middle age (medium yin), old age (retirement) and then death (maximum yin). It is worth noting now that when we are born we need to be cared for and fed and then at old age we return to that sort of condition again, just as sure as day follows night and winter follow summer (or vice versa, depending upon which way you look at it!).

When a person begins martial art they are assumed to be a white belt i.e. at least yang if not maximum yang. In other words, like a person in the mid day sun they are hot, agitated and perhaps impetuous. As training continues they graduate through coloured belts until they ultimately attain black belt status. By then they are, as a consequence of proper training considerably more yin; inward, cool and calm.

It so happens that if laid out martial arts belts in the order that they awarded - and if you could then - just like you can do with a TV or monitor screen, turn the colour down or convert to greyscale, the belts would show up as black to white with the grey in between all in the correct gradients. But of course, this is just a coincidence that today's technology may render to us. The reason for this order or sequence of colours is far more organic.

The Obi (belt)
A (Belt) is normally used to distinguish different grades in the Martial Arts. Two metres long, wrapped twice around the jacket. Five centimetres wide and made of several layers of cotton stitched closely together to make it strong and solid.
With no colour and in the 'raw' state at the completion of the production process this material is creamy white. This is the colour of the martial artist's first "GE" or uniform (the standard judo/karate type 'suit') - including the belt. This 'new' belt was, in days of old, the ONLY belt that a martial artist would ever pocess.

If the practitioner practiced a lot or for a long time he/she might treat themselves to a new white ge now and again but, at least in days of old, the same original belt would be used.

To show progression in training and to avoid a miss-match in sparing or competition the belt would be dyed with of course (days of old!) natural dyes and colour extracted from nature were used. The easiest colour to first change white too by this 'natural' or organic method is Yellow.

Today the most common grading system, using coloured belts, is called the Dankyu system. Coloured grades outside of Japan are normally in the ascending order of:
White - 6th Kyu
Yellow - 5th Kyu
Orange - 4th Kyu
Green - 3rd Kyu
Blue - 2nd Kyu
Brown - 1st Kyu
Black Belt - 1st Dan.

White Belt - signifies "innocence".
Yellow & Orange Belt - signifies "the earth from which the "plant" (meaning student) takes root".
Green Belt - signifies "growth".
Blue Belt - signifies "towards the heaven".
Brown Belt - signifies "danger".
Black Belt - signifies "the persons skill and mastery over fear".

White to Yellow - 3 months or 25 hours training.
Yellow to Orange - 6 months or 100 hours training.
Orange to Green - 9 months or 150 hours training.
Green to Blue - 12 months or 200 hours training.
Blue to Brown - 18 months or 300 hours training.
Brown to Black Belt or 1st Dan grade - 30 months or 900 hours training.

A student that has successfully progressed through the Kyu grades then may enter the Dan grades.

Whist a Black Belt signifies "the persons skill and mastery over fear" the honerable student will understand that it means only that and that he/she is now considered as simply ready to improve and perfect skills.

Essentially the awarding of a black belt signifies that the student is ready to BEGIN a wider study on through the Dan grades from 1 too 10 as follows:
1st To 2nd Dan grade - 2 years
2nd to 3rd Dan grade - 3 years.
3rd to 4th Dan grade - 4 years.
4th to 5th Dan grade - 5 years.
1st Dan - corresponds to that of the "student".
2nd Dan - corresponds to the title of "disciple".
3rd Dan - corresponds to the title of "confirmed disciple".
4th Dan - corresponds to the title of "expert".
5th and 6th Dan - corresponds to the title of "spiritual expert".
7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Dan correspond to the title of "specialized expert ".

1st. Dan to 5th. Dan would wear a plain Black Belt.
6th., 7th., 8th. Dan would wear a Red and White Belt.
9th. Dan wear a Red and Black Belt.
10th. Dan wear a plain Red Belt.

The higher the grade the longer it takes in time to reach the required level. The pattern is that it becomes the same number of years as for the next grade to be reached i.e. to reach an 8th Dan from a 7th Dan would take approximately (another) 8 years.

Only 9th & 10th Dan grades are entitled to hold the title of "Master". The highest Dan grade is usually reserved for the founder of a school or style. Some Masters wear a White Belt - indicating that they have come a full circle.

Rank structures differ from country to country. Japanese schools usually have fewer grades than European schools. According to the style, association etc. the grade colours may vary. A colored belt awarded in one school or system cannot be compared with that earned in another style or association. In some styles belts are awarded solely through competition - winners get promoted, losers are not. In other systems promotion is achieved by demonstration of technical skill or through formal examinations. Another reason why the colours of the belt follow the above order is the fact that each colour can be dyed into the next colour, hence a student can retain their original belt for many years.

the colours of the belt follow the above order is the fact that each colour can be dyed into the next colour, hence a student can retain their original belt for many years.
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