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Why make the Ranking System?

The main goal is to avoid internal fighting. We are not trying to compare with other styles and the outside world. From his years of experience, Master Yee believes we must take care of our Kung Fu family first, everybody must know where they stand in order to avoid future problems. There are commonly large disagreements after a head instructor passes away, because the rank is not set out in black and white. Like most families, we have had internal problems in the past that could have been avoided with a system like this. He hopes that in the future, all of the Martial Arts families will be peaceful internally and therefore have the energy to offer more to the Martial Arts world and the whole of society.

So why make the ranking system?

“To cultivate one's heart, to cultivate one's self and put the family in order.”

  • Dan Ranking System

  • 11th June 2016 – Sifu Frank Yee

  • Translated by Conrad Barrett-Freeman

  • Dan

    Average Time to Next Dan (Years)

    Approximate Age to Reach Level

    Title at this Level

    10 (Highest)

    Unlimited - Forever Learning

    60 and above

    Great Grandmaster

    Superior Dragon





    Flying Dragon





    Leaping Dragon





    Leaping Dragon





    Vigilant Dragon





    Vigilant Dragon





    Emerging Dragon





    Emerging Dragon





    Latent Dragon





    Latent Dragon

    Jo Gow




    Interpretation of the Ranking System

    Our Dan Ranking system is based on the philosophy of the Yi Jing. For the six ranking levels, we use the first of the 64 hexagrams from the King of Chow: the Keen Gwa (乾卦), or Heaven Hexagram (䷀). Starting from the bottom, each line represents one of the 6 Dragons given in the title of the level in the table above. The hexagram is explained by Confucius as the hexagram of his entire life, each line representing a period of roughly 10-15 years. Through his interpretation, we obtain the correspondence of the levels with age and the advice for each stage, given below.  For numerological reasons, each line is labelled as a “Nine”, so the first line is called “Nine in the Beginning”, the second is “Nine in the Second Place”, etc.

    Nine in the Beginning: Latent Dragon (1st – 2nd Dan)

    “Hidden dragon. Do not act prematurely.”

    The main message is “Do not act”, this doesn't mean that you cannot use your skills, as sometimes you may have to. It means don't use your knowledge unless you are absolutely sure you understand, try to learn deeply. If a group of higher ranked people are talking, don't show off, don't try and introduce your own ideas unless you are absolutely sure that you know what you are talking about. This stage is for preparing and waiting.

    Nine in the Second Place: Emerging Dragon (3rd – 4th Dan)

    “Dragon appearing in the field. It furthers one to see the great man”

    You are now more knowledgeable and can start to make some important decisions. You must work harder and deepen your learning. The “Great Man” has a double meaning. The first is that you must be aware of your own conduct. If you show off, people will start to take notice of you. If you are selfish, people will put you down. If you are generous, and give benefit to all around you, people will work hard for you, this is the secret of running a good business. You must be the great man, always looking at the big picture, trying to see far into the future. Otherwise people may try to hurt you. The second meaning is that it is good to have someone to give you advice. Spend more time in the school, ask questions, and seek deeper knowledge.

    If you take care of people, everybody will want to see you. If you are selfish, people will seek revenge, you will then be a small man, not a great man. Show people that you are knowledgeable, you know what you are doing, tell them what is right, and don't hurt them.

    Many people, especially young men, can be over-confident. If they then make a mistake, they give up forever. Don't fall into this trap.

    Nine in the Third Place: Vigilant Dragon (5th – 6th Dan)

    “All day long the superior man is creatively active. At nightfall his mind is still beset with cares. Danger. No blame.”

    People often think that no blame means that you make no mistakes, but this is impossible. Everybody makes mistakes, sometimes big and sometimes small. Only dead people make no more mistakes. If whatever you do is with the right intent (not selfish, not cheating), people will forgive your small mistakes, hence “no blame”.

    When people try to raise you up, you have further to fall. Don't try and climb and be a king overnight. If you take small steps, falling will not be such a big deal. Understand your place, your knowledge goes only up to your level. For example, it would be a mistake to try and open a school when only a Saam Cup. Be content with your position, do a good job, and people will respect you.

    Be careful, be prepared for anything, this is outward vigilance. Get ready for the next level. Be careful of what you say, and absolutely practice what you preach. This is inward vigilance. The first three lines are called the “Lower Heaven”, you must be ready to jump into the “Upper Heaven”.

    Nine in the Fourth Place: Leaping Dragon (7th – 8th Dan)

    “Wavering flight over the depths. No blame.”

    This is the first line of the upper Trigram and requires a leap to reach here. This is the first leap, it requires more knowledge and determination, a solid foundation. You must be ready to jump, prepared and determined, otherwise you may fall into the abyss. The second is to become a Flying Dragon, which is a completion. The Flying Dragon is the most impressive stage, when you become a king. This corresponds to forty to fifty years old, which is the most important time in a person's life.

    Nine in the Fifth Place: Flying Dragon (9th Dan)

    “Flying dragon in the heavens. It furthers one to see the great man.”

    You have become the king (in the heavens), this is different from the Second Place, which is more like a manager (in the field). You must show that you are a great man. You will require assistants, to help structure your organisation. You have to show a kind heart, people often think this stage means you can do whatever you want but this is not the case, this is a very difficult time to do things. Everybody is listening, you are responsible for the outcome of your words and decisions. You cannot be seen to change too often and must think things through carefully before divulging the plan to anyone. You must look far into the future and not only think of the immediate gains. This is why this is a difficult time, you are 100% responsible and must be ever-vigilant of the future.

    If someone questions your plan, you must be ready to answer decisively, you cannot be seen to be thinking once the decisions have been made. If someone asks for help, you should only help if you know what to do. You can say if you don't know something and ask people for advice who have more experience. A small man will simply give a response and this may lead to mistakes; a great man makes sure he knows what he is doing.

    Make sure that what you do is for the benefit of all, not just yourself. There is an expression “The ten eyes can see you”, this means that you are highly visible, everybody is watching and they can see clearly, see every detail. People will know if you lie or cheat. You need very good assistants to be your structure, they must operate in the same way as you and for the same reasons, they cannot be selfish. In this way, the whole country or organisation will grow favourably. You cannot do it on your own you need support.

    Do not fall into the trap of thinking you are at the top, there is always a higher mountain. There is still a level above you!

    Nine at the Top: Superior Dragon (10th Dan)

    “Arrogant dragon will have cause to repent.”

    Everyone must know that there is always a heaven above heaven, a higher mountain, greater people.

    At this level, don't think you can do anything, make any decision. One mistake can ruin your name, your reputation built over an entire lifetime. If you have too much ego and think you can do anything, you will be sorry and be ruined overnight. Falling at the last mile is a great shame.

    Most people want to reach the Flying Dragon, as it is the most impressive. Not everyone can make it, many will die earlier. Some people give up at the Vigilant Dragon level. Don't set your dream at the Flying Dragon, don't force yourself to achieve something that may not be possible. It all depends on ability and circumstance. Even if you only reach the Emerging Dragon stage, you should be satisfied. At that level, you are showing what you have. It is too tiring if you try and force yourself higher. How many kings can there be? When you reach the Superior Dragon, you are now old. You must start to pass down your knowledge, get your affairs in order. This is a time to enjoy life, and prepare the next generation.

    • Confucius Draws The Hexagram of His Life

    • Confucius gave us the hexagram of his life in the Analects. He drew a diagram with six levels:. He used the symbol as an example to us and explained each level as a period of time. The first line represents reaching 15 years old when we should know what we will learn. The second line is at 30, when we should have decided what our career will be. At 40, we should not be confused about what we will be in the future. At 50, the work is done and we should not try to change. At 60, we should be humble and at 70, we should do what we want but staying within the law, enjoy ourselves and pass on what we have to the world.

      1: 15 Years Old: Choose what you will learn, not what you will be

      Everyone begins to learn when they are very young. But until you reach the age of 15, don't declare what you will learn, it is too early to know. 15 is the age of looking at graduating High School, this is the time to choose what to learn in the future.

      2: 30 Years Old: Be sure of your own life's principle

      At 15, you choose what you will learn and you move towards trying to use your knowledge and gain experience over the next 15 years. At 30, you have finished learning and have some experience of real life, you may have graduated university. You should have discovered one or two principles and what you want to be in your life. When younger, you should not say definitively what you want to be. But at 30, if you still cannot say, this is scary. You must find a good path for yourself, work towards it stubbornly and insist on progress.

      3: 40 Years Old: Your life's principle can no longer waver

      For the last 10 years you have been learning and experiencing and now you begin to see results. If you have not put in the effort, and therefore have not seen the results, you cannot say whether or not your chosen path works for you. If you have, you should now know if it is a good fit. If so, persevere and do not change. Do not listen to others that may try and tempt you with false hope of riches. Do not be confused; not wavering at 40 does not mean you will never be confused, it means that your principle choices will not change. You will of course still be confused about other things and make mistakes, this is because learning never ends. Even if you live to an old age, you should still be learning. If you misunderstand this as never being wrong then you have stopped learning, you must be a Saint or a God! Sometimes, we can misunderstand the Analects and sometimes a word can be mistranslated or translated without understanding, this is highly regretful.

      Not being confused means that your dream, target, direction and principle must all be aligned, you must insist until you are no longer confused.

      4: 50 Years Old: Heavenly Life

      You understand that your life has been created by your own efforts and can no longer blame Heaven and Earth. Up to this age, when you look back you may think that there was some sort of guiding hand pushing you in one direction or another, but now you must see that everything has come from your own decisions. These are the results of all of the small events and decisions leading up to now: you must take 100% of the responsibility. The Yi Jing tells us that people on average change every 20 years, and society and politics also change every 20 years. From 30 to 50 years old, you have been responsible for your own actions and therefore are also responsible for the results. You cannot blame other people, you cannot blame Heaven and Earth.

      It is a great truth that 50 is the age to prove the result of the kind of life that you have led, the struggles that you have endured. Don't worry if you have not been entirely successful, many people don't even reach this age and not everyone can succeed. Everyone comes to this world with different circumstances, no life is the same. Confucius says that you can't expect everyone to succeed. You cannot compare yourself to others. In this world, you are entirely unique, there is no one else living the same life, so how can you be compared? Comparing to others is a waste of time, in the end you have to be yourself, as long as you have worked hard!

      5: 60 Years Old: You should be humble and turn the other cheek

      Everyone creates their own lives, you have what you have now at 60, and cannot blame anyone else. You cannot start again, so you must be humble and you must be calm. Why calm? At this age, you will face many people who don't understand you, and some that may even talk down to you or denigrate you to others. If you pay too much attention, you might get angry, so you must not listen. You can tell them: “You are not me, you do not know how I have handled my life, my situations, my experiences. How can you presume to say anything about me?”

      6: 70 Years Old: Do anything you want (within the law)

      When you turn 70, you know what you can and cannot do. Enjoy your life! If you want to travel, travel. Having reached this age, being a good person should have become a habit already, so you cannot make mistakes and you know how to handle things. If you want to do something, don't waste time, you must do it before your time is up. Try to pass on everything you have and everything you have learnt, so that nothing is lost from the world.

      Confucius divided his life into two parts: the first before 50 and the second from 50 up. He said that if you live up to the age of 40-50 and you still don't clearly know what you are going to do then your life is over. This age is one of the most important times in your life. But it is never too late to change! When you reach 70, all that you have is the result of the past.

      • Try your best, Success depends on the Heavens

      • Remember that before the age of 50, you must try to work hard. Solve all problems. No matter what people say, you should use your full conviction to follow your dream. After 50, listen to the Heavens, you know what you are. But don't compare yourself to others, if you have tried hard then that is great. If you have been given a life that is successful, then good for you, but if you haven't, don't pursue success at all costs. Why work so hard? In the end, everything is emptiness.

        Gold is not the Treasure, Knowledge is the Treasure.

        Everything is Emptiness, only Kindness is not empty.

        January 10th 2016,  written in Taishan, China – Frank Yee