As you know some of us have recently returned from a trip to China. During this trip we visited several different schools and major historical kung fu sites. This was my third trip to China and each time I have come back with the impression, (and I’m sure those who have gone with me on some of the trips will agree), that what we have here with Long White Cloud Kung Fu compares very favourably with the Kung Fu you find in China.
The Kung Fu we teach at Long White Cloud Kung Fu is authentic, practical, and a lot of fun to practice. It has its own distinct character which fits well in the New Zealand environment. It really is something to be proud of. One of the ways that we show our pride in our school and what we do is the way we wear our uniform, so this article is going to be about the Long White Cloud Kung Fu uniform.
Why Wear a Uniform?
When we put on a uniform it helps to put us in the mindset for the activity we will be doing, in this case kungfu. We are subconsciously sending a message to our body to prepare for what we will expect from it in the activity. This can really help us to focus and get the most out of our training sessions.
Also our uniform is designed to meet the physical requirements of the activity we will be doing. In the case of Kung Fu, this means that the uniform will let us move our legs and arms freely for kicking and punching and the fabric will be strong enough to not be damaged easily by grabbing and pulling that might be part of the kung fu class. It is much easier to wear the appropriate uniform than to try to hunt around and find other clothes that may or may not be suitable for the activity and may be damaged easily.
Finally, our uniform is in various ways different from other uniforms, so it identifies us as Long White Cloud Kung Fu students and practitioners. When we wear the uniform we represent our school and can feel pride in what we do. For this reason it is important for us to keep our uniform clean and tidy. Look Good – Feel Good.
The Basic Uniform
The basic Long White Cloud Kung Fu uniform is black pants and a black jacket with the appropriate belt for your grade (we will talk more about belts below). It is designed first and foremost to be practical, while also looking smart and presentable.
The jacket we wear is a crossover style which people sometimes think of a ‘Japanese’ due its popular use in Karate, Judo and other Japanese styles of martial art. This sometimes leads to the question of why we wear a ‘Japanese’ style uniform. Some people think that a Chinese uniform should look something like this: With ‘frog’ style fastenings in the front.
The truth is that this style of clothing has only become popular in Chinese martial arts in recent times. The ‘frog’ fastenings are not durable and will often tear when these types of jackets are pulled on. So while this style of clothing is nice for demonstrations, or when practicing without contact with an opponent, it is inherently unsuitable for regular partnered training.
If we look back to more ancient times, we see that the crossover type jacket was the more common type of clothing used for physical training. It is much more robust and able to withstand the rigours of partner training and sparring. An example of this is the crossover robes of the Shaolin Monks.
Another question often asked about the basic Long White Cloud Kung Fu uniform is why it is black. The answer is a simple practical one; stains don’t show up easily on black clothes. This makes it easier to keep your uniform looking presentable for longer.
At Long White Cloud Kung Fu we wear different coloured belts to distinguish the grade we have achieved in the Long White Cloud Kung Fu syllabus. This system of using coloured belts was first introduced in Judo in the early 1900s. The system was so effective that it was quickly adopted by many other martial arts including Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu and many Kung Fu schools.
The system of coloured belts helps the student to see the progress they are making as they learn the martial art. It also makes it a lot easier for the teacher to focus their teaching to meet the needs of the students present in a particular class, as at a glance the teacher can see where different students are at in their progress through the syllabus. For this reason it is important that students always wear their belt to classes.
Over time the belt systems used by different martial arts have evolved to meet the needs of their particular school. For this reason, while there may be similarities between belt systems, there are also often differences in how the different colours are used.
In Long White Cloud Kung Fu the colours of the belts have a strong association with what the student learns from the syllabus at different levels. The first colour after the white which a new student wears is yellow, which is like the sun peeping over the horizon. Like the dawning of a new day at this level the student is learning the basics of the Long White Cloud Kung Fu syllabus. The next colour is orange which relates to the Tiger form students will be learning, then green for snake, blue for the blue/grey of cranes feathers, brown for leopard and red for dragon. Finally the student graduates from the coloured belt system with a good understanding of the basics of kung fu when they achieve their black belt.
Another way we distinguish grades in Long White Cloud Kung Fu is through the use of badges. The youngest students (the Little Dragons) recieve badges to mark their progress on their way to achieving their first coloured belt. The first badge they work for is the Long White Cloud Kung Fu school badge:
To achieve this badge they must show that they have learned to show respect and discipline and begun to understand the basics of kung fu through passing things off in their Little Dragons work book. This is a very significant badge to achieve as in a way it signifies your proper entry into the school by passing your first level of assessment. Older students also achieve this badge by passing their first assessment and grading to yellow tip or higher.
The Little Dragons also work through several other badges as they learn punches, kicks and basic self defence concepts before then starting the coloured belt grading system.
The next badge that students can earn is the Five Animals badge. This badge can be worn once a student has graded to orange tip or higher and signifies the start of learning the five animals system.
After this the next badges are awarded after black belt. Each badge after black belt represents specific areas of knowledge learned and skills developed that take significant effort to achieve. Each badge, or additional degree after black belt takes between eighteen months and three years to achieve. These are shown below:
Finally there is one last badge that a student may wear. This is a large badge which may be worn on the back when a student has created their own animal style. The design of this is unique to the student, as is the style they will design. We do not have any students who have achieved this yet, so I do not have an example to show you.
Receiving each of these badges is a major achievement, receiving them all represents a truly well rounded and accomplished martial artist.
Another part of the uniform which may be worn are school t-shirts. While these may not be visible under your jacket, they are great for training in warmer weather when the jacket may be removed if there is no grabbing taking place as part of the training. T-Shirts can also be worn not only in training, but when you are out doing other activities – showing your pride in Long White Cloud Kung Fu and your kung fu training. Friends and family members may also wear these t-shirts.
We currently have two t-shirt designs available. The logo design, which has a small Long White Cloud Kung Fu logo over the left chest, and the Dragon design which has a dragon in a cloud along with the school logo. Because these are printed in small quantities these are usually available only when an order is being placed for the school.
Well I hope that answers any questions you have about the Long White Cloud Kung Fu uniform, including which badges you may be eligible to wear. I hope that whenever you wear your uniform you do it with pride.