The Cuong Nhu colored belts and stripes denote the level and accomplishments of the wearer. According to Cuong Nhu tradition, the progression of belt colors represents the life cycle of a tree.
CHILDREN'S RANKS are broken into smaller steps, allowing each child to experience steady progress while mastering the curriculum at a developmentally appropriate rate. Click here to learn more about children's belt ranks.
O'Sensei Ngo Dong, Founder of Cuong Nhu, whose name in Vietnamese means Tallest Tree, used to share this analogy with his students:
The white belt represents a seed; a beginner is a new seed in Cuong Nhu. Starting from nothing, the beginner trains to lay the foundation for all the growth to come, just as the seed, sending its first root down into the soil, begins to build the root system it will need to grow into a strong, healthy tree.
One Green Stripe (8th Kyu)
One green stripe on a white belt is like the first green leaf on a newly sprouted tree—a first achievement, and the means for more progress. As the seedling stretches toward the sun and continues to grow and develop, the Cuong Nhu student, through instruction, conditioning, and practice, builds new knowledge and skills, as further represented by…
Green Belt (6th Kyu)
The green belt represents a young tree in full leaf—still with a long way to go, but the essentials are in place: roots, trunk, and a crown of bright green leaves. All energy is now devoted to growth. Likewise, the Cuong Nhu student at this stage applies the discipline of mind, body and spirit, to grow and mature in the art.
One Brown Stripe (5th Kyu)
Brown, the color of earth and also of bark on a tree, signifies a period when the tree is deepening its roots and building its strength and toughness. The Cuong Nhu student, through dedicated daily practice, develops spirit, stamina, and moral character, earning first one brown stripe, then…
Two Brown Stripes (4th Kyu)
…two brown stripes on a green belt; and finally, ...
Brown Belt (3rd Kyu)
…brown belt, representing a tree that is firmly rooted and strong, with a thick coat of bark. Those who reach this milestone can take pride in the accomplishment, and in the perspective they have gained on what is required to achieve in the martial arts: patience, perseverance, and hours of dedicated practice.
One Black Stripe (2nd Kyu)
One black stripe on a brown belt is symbolic of a maturing tree, whose bark begins to weather and darken. At this stage, Cuong Nhu students draw closer to the black belts as, under the guidance of mature senior instructors, they train harder and begin to develop their teaching skills. This process continues through…
Two Black Stripes (1st Kyu)
…two black stripes on a brown belt, as the tree further weathers, strengthens and matures; and finally to…
…black belt, representing a physically mature (adult) tree. At this stage, the student earns the title of "Sensei" (teacher, one who has gone before), which signifies the responsibility of instructor and role model. Having reached adulthood, the tree, and likewise the student, must now find the way to bear fruit. Thus begins a new path of learning and growth.