Starting with Kung Fu is the traditional way to begin training in the Shaolin system. You move from harder style, focusing on self defense, to the softer, more precise arts.
The white through green belts are to learn to use your body forcefully for self-defense, discipline the body to get in better shape and withstand more pain, and create new neural pathways through the body using forceful movement.
As a Brown belt, you are to start appreciating kung fu as an art form, rather than just for self defense. You are now strong, but you need to begin focusing on control; being able to turn the power on and off at will. The movements become more complicated and the memorization-based mental training becomes more challenging.
Finally, as a black belt, you transition from being a student to a “disciple”. This is an extraordinary achievement that takes years of hard work… but it isn’t the end. It simply means that you are now a serious beginner. You have created a body and mind necessary to begin intensifying your training. You start to dig deep into certain styles you have previously only seen an introduction to, but now the focus opens up to include the softer styles of Tai Chi and other “internal” arts. The mental training switches to making movements fully conscious and efficient by slowing down and putting more focus and awareness into everything you do.
White Belt Focus
- Mind/body coordination through repetition of techniques from the material
- Knowledge of joints and vulnerabilities of another human body through the application of self defense techniques
Yellow Belt Focus
- Long Forms
- begin using your new-found body coordination to link together several of the techniques you learned as a while belt into a longer series.
- deep, strong stances
- powerful strikes – imagine every strike in the form must break a board
- intense concentration
- overwhelming spirit during the yells
- Concentrate everything on your current move, don’t move physically or mentally to the next move until the current one is completely finished.
- Tiger style
- tiger claws stay active throughout the entire form
- Strong but graceful
- Keep a powerful spirit and overwhelm your opponent with forward movement and aggression
- Staff (weapons)
- Be courteous, safe, and aware of your surroundings when using weapons
- don’t muscle a weapon around, learn to flow the way they want to flow
Blue Belt Focus
- Shaolin Bird Styles:
- move and land lightly with a playful feeling
- each strike should jab out like lightning.
- Attempt to make each attack be “instantaneous”
- Jumps are supposed to cover distance and you should land in the lowest position possible.
- Keep your hand between the nunchucks and your mouth at all times
Green Belt Focus
- Introduction to Qi Gong – learning to connect mind, body, breath, and energy
- Mantis/Monkey style in Luohan – springy but connected to the ground when you land
Congratulations! You have probably been training for a year or more now, and have graduated to the rank of brown belt. Brown and Black belts comprise our “advanced” students. Brown belt is broken into 3 levels, counting down to first degree black belt: 3rd, 2nd, and 1st (highest) brown. Each belt level takes approximately 6 months of training. At each level, you learn 5 forms for advancement.
When Grandmaster Sin first started teaching in this country, he taught much less material from brown to black than we have in the curriculum now. 3rd to 2nd brown consisted only of broadsword and sanje, but still took 6 months, so brown belts did a lot of sanje, broadsword, conditioning, and short kata. Consider that when practicing and make sure you don’t neglect the color belt material.
It is largely up to you now to set standards for yourself as to what you would like to accomplish over the next one and a half years as you train for your black belt. It’s time to do a little soul-searching and set some personal goals for yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself to zero in on some goals:
- What are the qualities, capabilities or attributes that make someone a martial arts master? (Imagine things that you would like to be able to do or attributes that you would like to possess 20-30 years from now.)
- What qualities, capabilities, or attributes would you possess 10 years from now, if you set out on this path today?
- What qualities, capabilities, or attributes would you possess 1 year from now, if you set out on this path today? Make these your one year goals, and be sure to write them down.
- How do you plan on reaching your one year goals? Break them down into 3 month increments, and keep track of your progress. You can keep revising, if necessary, as you learn whether or not your goals were realistic, or too easily attained.
Now set a few concrete goals for yourself that you will attain before you test for black belt. Some examples:
- “I will be able to do 100 push-ups in a single set.”
- “I will be able to do a full front and side split.”
- “I will be able to do fast and powerful front, side, roundhouse and hook kicks over my head.”
- “I will be at my optimal body weight of _____ lbs.”
- “I will be able to do all of my forms flawlessly, with low stances, power, snap, focus, and rhythm.”
This last one should automatically be one of your goals. The other goals will be tailored to your individual priorities, abilities and desires. Make a document somewhere to keep track of your progress and work consistently.
Feel free to contact me for advice in creating a plan to reach your goals.
Brown Belt Focus
- Gaining a more in-depth knowledge of some of the main Shaolin animal styles: white crane, Shaolin bird, and tiger. You’ve already seen a brief introduction to these, but now, by practicing 3 forms of each style, you’ll spend much more time incorporating the style into your body and mind.
- Advanced I Chin Ching to transform your energy system
- Change your relationship to pain by intensifying your conditioning training and starting Iron Palm training
Black Belt Focus
- Belly-breathing – filling up the belly on an inhale and lightly contracting on the exhale. Practice so that it becomes a natural pattern of breathing. You can’t move on to active or daoist breathing until you’ve reached this stage. Daoist breathing starts at 2nd black so this has to be learned now.
- Teaching the lower belts – we always say that you don’t understand something until you can teach it and explain it to a beginner. Help lower belts with their material to improve your own conceptual understanding of the material and to assist senior instructors.
- Tai Chi – it’s time to become serious about tai chi training. This means you need to overcome the boredom you might feel by slowing down and not focusing so much on highly yang martial arts.