Martial Arts – What is a Black Sash?

“What is a black sash?” is a very philosophical argument in martial arts and you will likely get a different answer from every person you ask. So here is my two cents worth. What is a Kung Fu black sash? There are many things that go into making the type of person who is able to get their black sash. From my point of view the person who trains hard in the martial arts to achieve their blacks sash has shown that they have the commitment the will and the energy to put into a martial art, and to dedicate themselves to pursuing that art to achieve their black sash.

Every person who comes to the martial arts has a different background, different body type and different natural abilities. There are some who are awesome fighters who have never received a black sash, there are people who go from style to style who consider themselves to be accomplished martial artists yet have never committed themselves to getting a black sash in a particular art.

So from a martial art teachers point of view, who would I consider a better student?

The person who has dedicated themselves through both their time and energy to the style that I teach, or someone who may be a better fighter who has never dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to achieve that one specific goal? I feel that if a person sees themselves as a martial artist, a black sash in at least one style is a prerequisite.

So moving on to what goes into a black sash in our schools….

To me a black sash, again, a symbol of the dedication of a student to learning our art. I consider to be the end of what I would call “High School”. If you look it from that analogy, you get to the end of your time at high school, you study hard and sit your HSC to get a score or an arbitrary mark which then allows you to go on and continue your learning in an environment that allows for a deeper knowledge and a deeper understanding in the area that you wish to engage in.

So if you look at Martial Arts or Kung Fu in that sense, the black sash in our particular system is less than a third of what is available to learn. So you have really only scratched the surface of what is available to learn in the art of Jow Gar Kung Fu, and more importantly you do not have a whole picture of the complete style. If you do not know the whole picture of a particular style you cannot judge it against another. Which for most people out there who are quick to compare one style to another, renders there opinion void. You can’t do a book review on a book you haven’t read.

This may sound like I am taking away from the achievement of earning a black sash, but I am not. There are 12 levels on the path to black sash in our particular curriculum, moving through these levels and then training for the black sash grading takes a lot of commitment, dedication and time on the mat. Although the black sash is a stepping stone into the complete system, it is an achievement that only 10 percent of our student body are able to reach.

So, that separates those 10 percent of students out to me as those who are ready and committed to learning  our martial art.

As a teacher the martial art is my responsibility to pass on to my students. From Jow Gar Kung Fu’s founders and down through the teachers in our lineage, it is up to me to pass on this art as I have learnt it, and then one day select disciples who I feel are ready to do the same.

The Black Sash is the first moment in time when a student is able to show me that they are ready to continue learning the art of Jow Gar Kung Fu.

Then the student is able to put that black sash around their waste knowing that they have expended a lot of time and energy into earning it. More than they would have done so in the course of normal training.

When a student of Kung Fu puts that sash around their waste it’s only value is the amount of blood sweat and tears that went into achieving it. Literally, without the effort the black sash means nothing. It is only through the struggle and the effort to get the black sash, that the piece of material around that students waist means anything.