Saturday, 25 April 2009

Don't call me Master

The title Shifu is often translated in English as Master. In China, it actually has two meanings. In martial terms, it conveys a person of exceptional skill. However, it has more common usage in China as a professional person or a learned scholar or teacher.

If you ask any of the top tai chi masters in China for a translation of Shifu, they will say 'teacher not master'. It is this humbleness that conveys their true skill.

However, it is hard not to notice in youtube and other forums, a form of 'master worship' in conversations. It is characterised by people arguing about how their master could beat another master (or anyone else for that matter). Such hiding behind your teachers skill is unrealistic, deeply vulgar and embarrassing for your teacher.

I have seen classes where students literally elbow each other out of the way, so they can practice next to their 'master'. While someone may receive personal validation from such behaviour, the real damage comes in their lack of skill. For when it comes to sparring and pushing hands, their selfish competitiveness is likely to result in them getting less-than-honest feedback from their fellow students. I have seen this kind of behaviour literally drive classes apart and destroy a professional teachers earnings.

So before you announce your master's greatness to the world, think for a while. Are you saying this because they are invincible, ................or is it just because you want other people to say it about you?

Don't call me master - I am merely an instructor.


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