Shi-Han Allen Bentley uses the following belts system as based on the system outlined by Shi-Han Allan Horton. Color is used to denote the advancement of a student. The progression is to symbolize the darkening of the belt from white to black, showing the amount of time and dedication that a student has put into their studies.
With each level of advancement come new responsibilities. The student is taught new technique and application of the art, all the while spending time to polish what they have already learned.
The Kyu (pronounced "Q") system was developed by Sensei Michael Revell and has been continued by Sensei Brian Nell. All students wear a white belt until they are ready to test for their black belt. If the student decides, they can use black stripes to mark each Kyu, but this not required. The stripe represents the Kyu that the student has completed, not the Kyu they are working on. For example, a student on the First Kyu has no stripes; a student on Second Kyu completed work on the First Kyu and has one stripe. And so on.
When a student is deemed ready, they go through a personalized test for the next Kyu. The test can be administered with or without the student being aware that they are being tested. Most students don't know that the test is being conducted, so as to see them function without undue stress, and to witness the student training and practicing as they would any normal class. The test includes their progress and understanding of the Katas they are working on and the history. This can be in the form of oral questions and answers about the art or in a written report.
After ample time has been spent at 10th Kyu, including a minimum of 6 months actively teaching, then the Sensei will administer a test to see if the student is ready to be awarded a certificate of proficiency, and have bestowed upon them the rank of Sho-Dan (First degree) and the title of Sensei (or whatever title is felt to be applicable: Sefu, teacher, instructor, etc).
After a student has met the basic requirements of study under an instructor, they are then deemed ready to explore the art for themselves. This means that they have gained just enough knowledge to begin self-study and exploration of Pangai-Noon.
A good analogy is that studying Pangai-Noon is like a mountain. The student starts at the summit and begins to dig straight down. By the time they dig just below the snowcap, they have reached the point of being a Sho-Dan. But think how much further an individual has to dig to get to the base of the mountain. For this reason, a student must become an instructor to really dig further into Pangai-Noon.
The rank of Sho-Dan carries with it the responsibility of continual teaching and studying. As the Sensei continues to teach, they are adding to their knowledge of the art, and in time will be asked to display what they have learned to their Sensei. Each rank from Ni-Dan on can be marked on the belt with a white strip if the Sensei desires to do so.
Ni-Dan: 2nd degree after a minimum of 2 years of teaching from date of Sho-Dan
San-Dan: 3rd degree after a minimum of 3 years of teaching from date of Ni-Dan
And so on...