July 25, 2014

The Vertical Ascent

"Sifu, I know many fellow students who are extremely advanced technically, but our Sifu doesn't seem to consider them "master" material. How long does it take to become a Sifu?"

IChing: Hexagram #46: Sheng or Pushing Upward (K'un over Sun) - The receptive over the gentle: Earth over wind and wood.

Wood grows as a tree from the earth. It moves upwards with effort. From obscurity and lowliness it progresses to power and influence. It is a vertical ascent, but it is accomplished both without haste and without rest. The root stays in the earth where body skills are perfected; the branches reach skyward where spiritual insight is gained. According to The Judgment, Pushing Upwards in such a way will bring supreme success. The Image of this Hexagram is that of the superior man who, with his devoted character, heaps up small things in order to achieve something high and great.

Kung Fu has many meanings; one of them is "great skill cultivated within time and with great effort". In any system, to be an instructor demands effort and dedication. The individual who desires to progress to a position of mastery has to become a "complete" teacher. He needs to understand his martial arts' system in its core-nature. But beyond the technical aspects, he absolutely needs to acquire the virtues of a leader. It does not matter what his background is - what his economic status or education is. He must possess good character.

A Sifu of olden times and even of today, whether mastering a temple style, a clan style or a family style system, cannot give what he does not own. If he is to lead a student, to help him to transform himself from an undisciplined, uncoordinated, spiritually and physically dull person into a well disciplined, well coordinated, mature, spiritually and physically sharp individual, he has to possess those qualities himself. He has to be someone whom the community at large can respect and admire... in or out of the Training Hall. The teacher has to be able to recognize in his students which of them are ready to receive this respect and admiration without betraying it and dishonoring his profession. There is no substitute for a teacher who is knowledgeable, patient and thorough, a teacher whose understanding is deep and complete. This complete mastery, this balance between skill and virtue, is necessary for a school or system to survive.

When the Sifu sees these things in his student, he may recommended him for higher study.

The most popular ranking system of Kung Fu is divided into three sections:

Student class, Junior (Sidai/ Simui) and Senior (Sihing/ Sije).

Instructor class, Junior (Sifu), and Senior (Sibok/ Sitaigoo).

Master class Junior (Sigung/ Sipoo), and Senior (Sitaigung/ Sitaipoo). The Grandmaster. Each class or section requires that a specific degree in character development, physical skill, and leadership ability be achieved before the martial artist can progress to the next stage. Learning and following the Wushidao, which is the spiritual way or code of the warrior, is the ideal way to further development of the necessary balance. The word Sifu, itself, consists of two parts: "Si" which means monastery and "fu" which means teacher. Usually a Sifu is a person who has become a monk. But sometimes civilians would be brought into a monastery to teach. The subject could be flower arrangement or archery, ceramics or martial arts. It depended always upon the needs of the particular institution and the personnel available.

So, there is no set time in which someone can become an instructor. A practitioner should desire to posses such virtues as loyalty, honor, and respect. These are more difficult to attain than skill in boxing or kicking. And he has to find within himself the necessary confidence to lead others. Additionally, he needs to thoroughly understand the system he studies and teaches, and this includes all the protocols.

Being an instructor is not about glamour and achievements. It is about caring about the welfare of the students that are in the instructor's care. 

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