Why Sash or Belt Levels Don’t Matter

Let’s talk about sashes and why it doesn’t really matter what level you are.

In my Wing Chun school we have a color sash system. We have 9 sash color levels: white (no sash), green, blue, purple, brown, red, black, gold (assistant instructor), and gold (instructor). Each color represents a different level and each level represents how much you have learned in the school.

This color sash system motivated me to try to get to the next color as soon as I could because different colors meant higher level. The problem with this was I would rush through to get to my next sash without fully understanding what I learned. Yes, I knew the motions of the technique and yes, I knew the general purpose of them but I missed out on the details that make them effective.

I remember after getting my purple sash doing Chi Sao with the “juniors” (blue, green, white) and my strikes didn’t land or pass their defense. I didn’t understand, I’m suppose to be their senior but they had better technique than I did. That’s when I realized that speeding through the curriculum had a drawback, I didn’t fully develop my techniques before moving on to learning the next so my overall technique level was very low.

I ended up spending a lot of time going back to my fundamentals, the techniques I zoomed through from white to purple sash, and essentially work my way back up. I spent a long time as purple before I finally felt like that’s where I should be in terms of experience and skill.

When I finally got to brown, I realized sash colors, or level, doesn’t mean much to me anymore because I find it more important to be effective at applying my techniques than to only be motivated by getting to the “next level”.

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