What is a Kung Fu Grandmaster?

Thanks to the rise in popularity during the 70s and 80s, especially in the west, Kung Fu is one of the most talked-about martial arts. With that, the word grandmaster gets thrown around quite often by the older generation. So, what does it mean when you call someone a kung fu grandmaster? Well, let’s take a look.

The Kung Fu Grandmaster is the highest possible rank. However, the Rank is honorary, and there is usually only one grandmaster alive at a time. The grandmaster is a teacher of teachers. To understand that, they are so skilled at martial arts and have been practicing it for such a long time that once their students become teachers, they still teach that teacher.

Kung Fu is not the only sport that has grandmasters. However, it is one of the most popular martial arts in the west, thanks to grandmasters like Bruce Lee, William Cheung, and IP Man. In today’s article, we are going to answer, in-depth, what a grandmaster is, and then we will take a look at how someone can achieve this rank. So, for everything that you need to know, keep reading.

What is a Kung Fu Grandmaster?

When you talk about a grandmaster of Kung Fu, it is vital to note that there are approximately 400 to 450 disciplines of Kung-Fu, each with its stipulations and criteria. However, as a whole, there are a lot of similarities between all of these disciplines.  Today though, we will mainly be talking about Wing Chun Kung Fu.

A Grandmaster of Kung Fu is someone who has a certain amount of experience while meeting specific requirements. For example, you cannot become a Grandmaster if you have not had your black belt for at least eight years. At the same time, you cannot become a Grandmaster if you were not a teacher. Let me explain.

A kung fu grandmaster is considered to be the teacher of teachers. In other words, a kung fu teacher will still be taught by a Grandmaster. It is important to remember that you are constantly learning within martial arts, but once you have the rank of grandmaster, you no longer spend much time learning; instead, you teach.

The highest rank in any martial art is grandmaster, so if your goal is to accomplish that rank, your best bet is to do as much research as possible by speaking to teachers. However, it is essential to note that there are not many grandmasters in any martial arts globally, but we will discuss that later.

Also, we must note that the title of grandmaster is honorary. So, for example, in Taekwondo, you can become a Grandmaster once you have achieved 9th dan and meet specific criteria. Suppose a person becomes a Grandmaster of Taekwondo; they would still be a 9th Dan black belt.

Just because the title is honorary does not mean it is pointless. It still separates the master from anyone else. Having the title also helps to push a person’s career forward.

How long does it take to become a Kung-Fu Black belt?

We can give you an estimated time for how long it will take you to obtain a Kung Fu black belt. However, providing an accurate answer to this question is near impossible. Remember, everyone has their own journey, and because we all have commitments outside of Martial Arts, it is best not to rush into getting to a particular rank.

In general, it takes approximately ten years to become a black belt of kung fu regardless of the specific discipline you are in. That time could vary. You could do it in this little eight years if you are fully committed to Kung Fu, but at the same time, it could take you a lot longer depending on how many classes per week you take and how fast do you learn new skills.

If you want to set yourself a goal of becoming a Grandmaster, it is best to familiarise yourself with how long it will take to get your black belt. See, if it takes you ten years to get the black belt and another nine years of compulsory time as a black belt, you are looking at at least 19 years.

You also have to instruct a student for a certain length of time. In total, it can take up to thirty years to become a Kung Fu Grandmaster. Even then, you will have to satisfy the Kung Fu Federations. Remember, the art of Kung Fu is more than a sport. It is a community of people who follow guidelines. These guidelines date back centuries.

When you practice Kung Fu, you become part of its history and community. This also means that you should stick to guidelines if you wish to become a grandmaster.

Also, grandmasters are known for having good character. While that is important, I believe that anyone who practices kung fu for nine years after achieving the black belt will already be good simply for having the discipline to do so and because Kung Fu teaches you along the way.

Why does it Take so Long t Become a Grandmaster of Kung Fu?

I think you will find many different answers to this question. However, there are some fundamental concepts that we need to understand when thinking about grandmasters and why it takes so long to become one. The time it takes means that not many people can achieve this rank because they might not be able to practice martial arts anymore by the time they are eligible.

All martial arts take time to master. When you are just starting out, you learn a few basics, but you never master those basics right until you are a black belt. Now, apply that same logic to advanced techniques that you learn at more advanced stages of kung fu.

To achieve the honorary rank of grandmaster, you need to prove that kung fu is your life and that you have ultimately adopted the lifestyle. It cannot be faked by any stretch of the imagination. Every master that has been given the rank has proved that they are worthy.

Who is the Number One Kung Fu Master?

So, we cannot do this article without talking about the number one kung fu master in the world at the moment. In this section, we want to discuss a little bit about who he is and what made him so good that he is considered the greatest of the current era.

William Cheung is the current Kung-Fu Master. He lives in Australia but was born in Hong Kong, and at 81 years old, as of writing this article, he is the most senior grandmaster. William Cheung received a black belt Hall of Fame award in 1983 and the Inside Kung Fu Hall of Fame award as the instructor of the Year in 1989.

He has also been on numerous magazine covers

William Cheung is the head of the traditional wing Chun Association, meaning he can oversee what is happening in the professional martial arts world.

An interesting fact about William Cheung is that he was personal friends with Bruce Lee, and it is said that he was the mentor and instructor of the great late Bruce Lee.

Who is The Greatest Kung Fu Master of All Time?

You won’t be surprised that the greatest kung fu master of all time, well, at least considered to be the greatest of all time, was the teacher of William Cheung. Now, this is subjective, but we think it is safe to say that IP Man, born Ip Kai-man, is the most outstanding grandmaster of all time.

Ip man was born in China, and he started learning Wing Chun Kung Fu at the age of 9. Because he was born into a wealthy family, he moved to Hong Kong, where he was able to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the region. It was there where he took his martial arts to another level.

IP Man’s instructor passed away early on in Man’s career, and because of this, he was instructed primarily by his mentor’s most senior student.

Man has been portrayed in countless Bruce Lee movies. He has even been portrayed by his eldest son, IP Chun. Not many people know that most of the masters in Bruce Lee movies are based on real people, such as IP Man.

What is a Female Kung Fu Teacher Called?

Because we have written a few articles that are aimed specifically at female martial artists, we get a lot of female readers, and we want to create a section talking about what female Kung Fu teachers are called. Yes, there are female Kung Fu instructors.

There is a little bit of a debate as to what a female kung fu instructor is called. Many of the most skilled martial artists simply refer to them as Sifu, as you would a male instructor. However, some also call them Lady-Sifu, which is ok because it is not a disrespectful term.

Another word that is used to describe a female kung fu instructor is Shifu. Again, it is not disrespectful to the instructor.

It is important to note that for a female to become a Kung Fu instructor, they have to meet the exact requirements that a male does. Remember, there are not any restrictions placed on females in Kung Fu.

Females are influential in the sport of Kung Fu. You have legends like:

  • Yuenu was the greatest sword fighter of her time.
  • Mulan, the movie, is based on a real person.
  • Wu Mei (Ng Mui) is part of the five elders. She developed different styles, including the Dragon Style.

Can anyone become a Kung-Fu Grandmaster?

I would love to be the guy that says anything is possible, and theoretically, it is. However, I believe that not everyone can become a kung fu Grandmaster simply because of the amount of time, discipline, and training it takes. Thirty years is a long time.

It is hard to imagine what your life will be like in 30 years from now. You cannot account for any of the hurdles you might have to overcome or commitments that might pop up which could take you away from kung fu.

Don’t let my previous statement discourage you if you really want to become a Kung Fu Grandmaster. After all, if you can keep your discipline, stay focused, and not let any external factors influence your destiny, then you can most definitely become Kung Fu Grandmaster. But, for most of the population, it is hard, even without external factors.

What Martial arts have Grandmasters?

Not many people know that other martial arts have grandmasters. Take Taekwondo, for example. Once you have become a 9th Dan black belt in Taekwondo, you can start working on becoming a Taekwondo Grandmaster.

When you become a Grandmaster of Taekwondo, it is similar to Kung Fu. The rank or title is merely honorary. However, it does give you particular advantages when you try and further your career, even if your goal is Hollywood because Hollywood loves to hire grandmasters. Remember, Bruce Lee, IP Chun, and William Cheung.

As we mentioned in this article, there are not many grandmasters even when you combine all martial arts grandmasters. However, Taekwondo seems to have a large portion with approximately 300 Grandmaster while karate only has 49 and kung fu has the lowest.

If you are wondering how long it takes to become a 9th Dan black belt in Taekwondo, here is a table from a previous article. The table is taken from the international Taekwondo association. It shows how much time must be spent in each rank before you can advance to the next one.

10th Gup White Belt2 Months (36 Hours)
9th Gup White Belt With Yellow Stripe2 Months (36 Hours)
8th Gup Yellow Belt2 Months (36 Hours)
7th Gup Yellow Belt With Green Stripe2 Months (36 Hours)
6th Gup Green Belt2 Months (36 Hours)
5th Gup Green Belt With Blue Stripe3 Months (54 Hours)
4th Gup Blue Belt6 Months (108 Hours)
3rd Gup Blue Belt With Red Stripe6 Months (108 Hours)
2nd Gup Red Belt6 Months (108 Hours)
1st Gup Red Belt With Black Stripe9 Months (162 Hours)
1st Dan (Il Dan) Black Belt2 Years
2nd Dan (Ee Dan) Black Belt2 Years
3rd Dan (Sam Dan) Black Belt4 Years
4th Dan (Sa Dan) Black Belt4 Years
5th Dan (Oh Dan) Black Belt6 Years
6th Dan (Yook Dan) Black Belt6 Years
7th Dan (Chil Dan) Black Belt8 Years
8th Dan (Pal Dan) Black BeltN/A
9th Dan (Koo Dan) Black BeltN/A

Final Thoughts

If you are interested in becoming more familiar with kung fu, I highly recommend that you look at a few movies made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, like Dragon and Bruce Lee movies. These movies had real martial arts grandmasters. In some cases, they also portrayed greats like Ip Man.

If you are interested in doing kung fu, that is a great choice. However, you might want to look at some of our other articles where we discuss other martial arts that you might be interested in, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Judo, Krav Maga, and more.

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