Twice in the last month this topic has arisen again; the black sash. I know this is hard for some folks to fathom but having a black sash does not mean anything in Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu and, in fact, most styles of kung fu. I know there are teachers out there proclaiming that they were the first to receive this in their style or the youngest or whatever but it has never been an indicator of rank in this and most styles. That first day decades ago that I joined the kung fu school I bought my uniform which included a black sash. It’s the equivalent of a belt, just a belt. Black meant ignorance and nothing more; you were a beginner. If you finally made it through the style and completed the training you were allowed to wear a purple sash. Quite honestly I do not remember the significance of purple but if you were instructing you were allowed to wear it. In the karate system my Shotokan Sensei explained a black belt was supposed to symbolize the white belt turning black after years of training. He explained that in Japan a black belt was generally achieved in just a few years and that obtaining one meant that you were just beginning on your path not ending it. He lamented that Americans get it and stop training feeling they’ve accomplished something.
So please understand when you tell me you have a black sash I don’t know what the means or who created this. I know that many kung fu schools have adopted this from the Japanese systems but it is not a traditional part of kung fu. Even in the old kung fu movies you don’t see different colored sashes. It’s also a money maker as you can charge for testing. Besides what other physical forms require this contrivance? Is Pacquiao a black belt? Is Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky or Babe Ruth a black sash?
You might be a wonderful martial artist or not, the sash doesn’t matter friends.
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