Or even this:
Traditional versus Contemporary Associate Master Tony Gray
Recently while "surfing" through a message board I ran across a posting questioning why the students in Lexington continue to wear gi's.
The answer is a simple one. It is to honor the tradition that was started by Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming. Grandmaster Ie used the Japanese gi's and belt system to disguise Shao-Lin away from the government officials in Indonesia. The government had outlawed all Chinese martial arts.
Grandmaster Ie was a man of great foresight; he realized that if the art was to continue to survive it needed to be "hidden" from the authorities, while still practicing right under their noses. So he made the decision to go away from the normal practice attire and started using the Japanese gi. To further more confuse the authorities he also implemented a belt system, again along the lines of the Japanese martial arts. The name was changed to Shao-Lin Do. When the authorities came by the school to visit, they saw a Chinese art being practiced, but using a Japanese name, uniform and belt system which left them with the impression that it was a Japanese art form.
When Grandmaster Sin The' came to the United States he carried on this tradition of wearing a gi and using the belt system for ranking purposes and to give those students some type of gauge as to where they had progressed to. Again, though it was mainly done to honor his teacher, whom he had gained all of his knowledge and skills from.
For those who want to use the Sams and say that if Shao Lin is a traditional Chinese art all the students need to wear them, I have a question. Have you done your research? If you have, you will know that those who practiced martial arts in the monasteries wore a gi like uniform and those that practiced outside of the monasteries wore their every day clothing. They did not have a special uniform to go out and practice in. Sams are a creation of the movie industry and what it wants to present as a traditional uniform.
As for the ranking system within Chinese Martial Arts, there are only four traditional levels.
1st Student, 2nd Disciple, 3rd Master, 4th Grandmaster. That was all; there were no belts, no sashes.
Everyone knew who was who and respected their elders and those who outranked them. This was practiced throughout all aspects of their lives from sleeping quarters to the eating halls, to the daily chores that needed to be done. Only when your master thought you worthy to move to the next room did you move into that room.
There have been statements made that some traditions need to be done away with or changed. My reply to that is. "If you forget about the traditions of the past, you have no compass for the future."
When I normally practice my material away from a formal class, I personally wear just a pair of gi pants and a t shirt.
When I first started Shoa Lin Do, Master Leonard made a statement to several of us who had just failed our first test. "It does not matter what belt you have around your waist, it only matters what you can do." His next statement still rings in my ears to this day.
"You can take my belt, my certificate and burn them; however you can not take my knowledge and skills away from me." I have always remembered that statement and when a student has not passed their pre-test I use it.
So the next time you want to say that you want to be a "traditional Chinese martial artist", just remember. The traditional Chinese martial artists wore their daily clothing or a gi like clothing and had no outward appearance of any rank.