Kajukenbo Black Belt Ranks?

blindsage

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So, this question has come up a few time recently with some of the Chinese style MAists on here recently, and I thought I just ask directly. It seems that Kajukenbo uses Chinese terms for black belt ranks (Sibak, Sifu, Sigung, Sijo). In Chinese styles these terms mean very different things than what they seem to mean in Kajukenbo. I was wondering if someone could explain why the founders of the style decided to use Chinese terms for their black belt ranks, and why they chose to use them differently than the traditional Chinese way? Asking honestly, not challenging anything.
 

John Bishop

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Actually, when the founders developed the system Japanese titles were used, Sempai, Sensei, Shihan, etc.
In the 60's Kajukenbo started to evolve more towards Chinese systems with the development of the Chuan Fa, Tum Pai, and Wun Hop Kuen Do branches. It was decided to adopt Chinese titles for brown belt thru 7th degree, and founder. Al Dacascos at the time was training with many of the San Francisco kung fu masters like Jack Man Wong, Paul Ng, Kam Yuen, and Ron Lew. Sijo Emperado at the time was also in communication with many kung fu masters thru the Chinese Physical Culture Association of Hawaii.
Their advice, along with that of Dr. Sun, a Professor of Chinese Philosophy and Science at USF was sought when adopting some Chinese
[FONT=r_ansi]traditions and titles.
"Sihing" was adopted for senior students-brown belt. "Sibak" was adopted for 1st-2nd black belts. "Sifu" was adopted for 3rd-5th degree. "Sigung" was adopted for 6th & 7th degree. "Sijo" was adopted for our main founder, Adriano Emperado. Chinese titles are not used for 8th and 9th degree.
The only criticism I have heard of our usage of Chinese titles, is our usage of "Sigung" for the master instructor level of 6th & 7th degree. Some claim the proper usage should be for a "teacher's teacher". In other words, my students should call my teacher "sigung". Sijo Emperado felt that 6 & 7th degrees were instructors who had 2-3 generations of students under them. So they were "teacher's teacher".
I teach in a city that has a population of 51% Chinese/Taiwanese. I have asked several of my Chinese students and their parents what the term "sigung" means to them. They told me the term means "elder uncle", and is not restricted to martial artists. None of them felt that the term "Sigung" was inappropriate for a master instructer level.
Kajukenbo is a American art made from techniques taken from Japanese, Korean, Chinese, American, and Filipino fighting arts. For the most part, all our techniques and forms have English names, except for the traditional Chinese forms adopted by the Chuan Fa and Wun Hop Kuen Do branches. Being a American mixed martial art, we do not strictly follow the traditions of any Asian martial tradition.

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Xue Sheng

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Nothing against Kajukenbo, actually it looks like an intersting style but the use of Sigung for anything but your teacher's teacher is not correct

If you talk to my Taijiquan sifu who was trained in Hong Kong and been in tajii for over 50 years or my Sanda sifu who was North China and has been training for over 30 years Sigung/Shigung as it applies to martial arts is your teacher's teacher and to use it for your teacher is wrong. Even my wife (who does not train CMA) from North China says the same thing it is your teacher's teacher.

My Taiji sigung is Tung Ying Chieh not my sifu who was his student.
My Wing Chun sifu's teacher is Ip Ching and if I still trained Wing Chun my Sigung would be Ip Ching.
My Sanda sifu's sifu is my sigung he is not my sigung. In CMA circles it is more like Grandfather teacher.
 

Flying Crane

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I believe the proper term for uncle is "sisuk", not sure if I'm spelling it correctly. If you wish to delineate the Senior Uncle of the group, that would be Dai Sisuk. I expect there is a term for the less senior uncles, but I'm not sure what that is.

Sihing is the term for brother, as in your classmates. The most senior of the group is Dai Sihing, and again I think there is a term for the less senior members but I don't remember what it is.

again, it's all about the relationship, in what term is used. Calling someone Sihing based on his rank, may not be appropriate, if he is not actually your classmate. Calling someone Sifu, based on his rank, may not be appropriate if he is not actually your teacher. Altho I think Sifu can be used a bit more generally, as in "He is a sifu of that system", meaning he is a recognized teacher, altho he might not be YOUR teacher.
 

John Bishop

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Nothing against Kajukenbo, actually it looks like an intersting style but the use of Sigung for anything but your teacher's teacher is not correct

If one is involved in a traditional Chinese martial art. We don't claim to be. Our art is a American art that was developed in Hawaii. We have established our own traditions. We ask no one outside of Kajukenbo to follow them.
We also use the title "Professor" and "Grandmaster". "Professor" is used pretty widely in Judo/jujitsu and Hawaiian Kenpo schools. The title "grandmaster" can be found widely used in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other arts.
In our Wun Hop Kuen Do branch they do use "Sigung" in the traditional Chinese way. Only a students teacher's teacher is addressed as "Sigung". So you have a instructor being called "Sifu" by his students, even though his actual Kajukenbo rank is "Professor". His students are calling his instructor "Sigung", even though his actual rank in Kajukenbo is "Grandmaster". I don't care for it. It's like trying to serve 2 masters equally.
In fact I don't really like all the various titles, sibak, simo, sisuk, sigung etc. If you want to use "Professor" or "Grandmaster" for the highest most senior ranks, fine. But the simple titles of "sensei" or "sifu" for teacher's is fine if you want to adopt a Asian title. I'm Japanese, raised in America, and have used a Chinese title in most of the years I've taught martial arts. Something like "sir" or "Mr." would be fine with me. Outside the classroom setting, "John" works too.
 

Xue Sheng

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If one is involved in a traditional Chinese martial art. We don't claim to be. Our art is a American art that was developed in Hawaii. We have established our own traditions. We ask no one outside of Kajukenbo to follow them.
We also use the title "Professor" and "Grandmaster". "Professor" is used pretty widely in Judo/jujitsu and Hawaiian Kenpo schools. The title "grandmaster" can be found widely used in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other arts.
In our Wun Hop Kuen Do branch they do use "Sigung" in the traditional Chinese way. Only a students teacher's teacher is addressed as "Sigung". So you have a instructor being called "Sifu" by his students, even though his actual Kajukenbo rank is "Professor". His students are calling his instructor "Sigung", even though his actual rank in Kajukenbo is "Grandmaster". I don't care for it. It's like trying to serve 2 masters equally.
In fact I don't really like all the various titles, sibak, simo, sisuk, sigung etc. If you want to use "Professor" or "Grandmaster" for the highest most senior ranks, fine. But the simple titles of "sensei" or "sifu" for teacher's is fine if you want to adopt a Asian title. I'm Japanese, raised in America, and have used a Chinese title in most of the years I've taught martial arts. Something like "sir" or "Mr." would be fine with me. Outside the classroom setting, "John" works too.

Thanks

Just as a note Da Shifu or Da Sifu is grandmaster and if you call my Taiji Sifu a grandmaster he will first say no he isn't and then say there is no such thing in China. However there are cases where masters who have died are called Grandmaster but if you see two real live Chinese sifus on mainland and one calls the other Da Shifu....duck and cover cause there is going to be a fight. It can be an insult in the North of China or it could be a way of to friends to give each other a hard time but it is not a title anyone wants. That is unless they are dealing with westerner, they know we are big on titles.

I came across a webpage of a Sifu in Beijing and he has a Chinese page and an English page. On the English page he lists himself as grandmaster but on the Chinese page he is a Sifu.

Oh and if I called my Sanda sifu a Da sifu…he will hit me… but then we were friends before he was my sifu… and I would deserve it because I would be giving him a hard time.... if I did that (and I did :D) so its all good :).
 
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blindsage

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Thanks for responding John, and in such depth. I think it will still irk Chinese stylists regardless, but at least we can reference something to understand where it's coming from now. In the context of adopting the Chinese terms, the problem for Chinese stylists is that they aren't terms of rank per se, they're terms of relationship. So calling someone sihing, that you are a direct student of, would be out of context. But whatever, I agree more with the 'Mr.' or 'Sir' comment anyway (my sifu prefers Andy).

Thanks again John.
 

Wo Fat

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If one is involved in a traditional Chinese martial art. We don't claim to be. Our art is a American art that was developed in Hawaii. We have established our own traditions. We ask no one outside of Kajukenbo to follow them.
We also use the title "Professor" and "Grandmaster". "Professor" is used pretty widely in Judo/jujitsu and Hawaiian Kenpo schools. The title "grandmaster" can be found widely used in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other arts.
In our Wun Hop Kuen Do branch they do use "Sigung" in the traditional Chinese way. Only a students teacher's teacher is addressed as "Sigung". So you have a instructor being called "Sifu" by his students, even though his actual Kajukenbo rank is "Professor". His students are calling his instructor "Sigung", even though his actual rank in Kajukenbo is "Grandmaster". I don't care for it. It's like trying to serve 2 masters equally.
In fact I don't really like all the various titles, sibak, simo, sisuk, sigung etc. If you want to use "Professor" or "Grandmaster" for the highest most senior ranks, fine. But the simple titles of "sensei" or "sifu" for teacher's is fine if you want to adopt a Asian title. I'm Japanese, raised in America, and have used a Chinese title in most of the years I've taught martial arts. Something like "sir" or "Mr." would be fine with me. Outside the classroom setting, "John" works too.
This is very well said.
 

arashikage1

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What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I like how in FMA we make things simple with our ranks of Guru, Professor, Tuhaun (Master), Apolung Tuhaun (Grandmaster/Founder). My instructors have always been content regardless of the thier rank relationship if i address them as other than sam or joe. Now, my unlce who is really my cousin but is called uncle out of respect feels no slight for not being called cousin. This same uncle who is really my cousin is a Grandmaster in his art as well as a Sijo using chinese terms. I was one of the last he taught, but unofficially since he was retired from being a active instructor. For me to call him Guru would be a slight and a lack of respect although he did accept me calling him uncle most of the time and Tuhaun the rest of the time. Sometimes a strict abherence to definition is a insult and poor manners. Especially when you are dealing with honorifics above teacher. I have another uncle who was Ed Parker's elder in Kenpo and Parker was a junior student to him, who trained Parker in the brown belt ranks of Kenpo. Would Sensei Jeff Speakman call my uncle his teacher's teacher or simply teacher to give respect. Technically even though Ed Parker is a Grandmaster he is still a student to someone such as in reference to Grandmaster Chow.
 
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Gentle Fist

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Another question regarding Kajukenbo rankings...

I see that the red belt with gold border represents the rank of 10th Dan. What does the red belt with white border represent? Is it an alternate belt for 10th Dan or does is mean something else? I saw GM Gaylord, RIP, wearing it on the episode featuring Kajukenbo on Fightquest...
 

Wo Fat

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Another question regarding Kajukenbo rankings...

I see that the red belt with gold border represents the rank of 10th Dan. What does the red belt with white border represent? Is it an alternate belt for 10th Dan or does is mean something else? I saw GM Gaylord, RIP, wearing it on the episode featuring Kajukenbo on Fightquest...

GM Gaylord wore a red/silver belt.
 

Wo Fat

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My mistake I thought he was a 10th Dan... Thanks for the clarification!

There are Kajukenbo senior-level belts that signify different ranks, ranks+titles, and maybe even another combination of the two that does seem to get a little confusing. I have seen red/silver trim belts, red/gold trim belts, silver/red trim belts -- all having a generally accepted meaning, but also having a specific (and not-so-generally accepted meaning).
 

shima

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What is the proper way to pronounce sihing and sisuk? Google doesn't have a lot for these cantonese words when I've been looking...
 

Flying Crane

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What is the proper way to pronounce sihing and sisuk? Google doesn't have a lot for these cantonese words when I've been looking...
I believe they are pronounced “see-hing” and “see-suck” but I’ve found that hearing a native speaker say them is very helpful. The actual pronunciation is often a bit nuanced from how a native English speaker might say it based on reading the above.

You do understand that these terms are not simply titles, but rather indicate a relationship between two people? The same person can be sihing to some people and sisuk to others and sigung to others and Sifu to others yet.
 

isshinryuronin

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Chinese terms, the problem for Chinese stylists is that they aren't terms of rank per se, they're terms of relationship.
What an excellent point. I know in Japanese (and I'm guessing other Oriental languages as well) the are many words to describe relationships in family, work and social situations so as to express the subtleties and shades of the relationship. Even verb forms are tailored to reflect the relationship between the speaker, listener and the person who is the topic of conversation.

The depth of this inherent cultural and linguistic trait influences (or is the cause of) how they think. This is why it's so hard to translate and still retain the exact "feeling" of the word or idea to the Western mind.

I think this also reflects on the importation of the martial arts to the West. It is sometimes difficult to grasp an Eastern art with the Western mind. Dave Lowry wrote an interesting piece on transplanting a tropical palm tree to the American Midwest and likened it to the martial arts. You can find some of his stuff on the net.

The challenge is to adopt the Eastern arts and make them usable to Western ways, without the meaning (feeling) of them being lost in the translation.
 

Buka

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What an excellent point. I know in Japanese (and I'm guessing other Oriental languages as well) the are many words to describe relationships in family, work and social situations so as to express the subtleties and shades of the relationship. Even verb forms are tailored to reflect the relationship between the speaker, listener and the person who is the topic of conversation.

The depth of this inherent cultural and linguistic trait influences (or is the cause of) how they think. This is why it's so hard to translate and still retain the exact "feeling" of the word or idea to the Western mind.

I think this also reflects on the importation of the martial arts to the West. It is sometimes difficult to grasp an Eastern art with the Western mind. Dave Lowry wrote an interesting piece on transplanting a tropical palm tree to the American Midwest and likened it to the martial arts. You can find some of his stuff on the net.

The challenge is to adopt the Eastern arts and make them usable to Western ways, without the meaning (feeling) of them being lost in the translation.
I couldn't agree with this more.

Probably sounds funny coming from someone who teaches American Karate (what ever that is), especially American Karate without kata.

Despite being a high energy, high fiving dojo, we had more Budo and more Bushido protocol than just about any school I've ever been in.

And they loved it.
 

shima

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I believe they are pronounced “see-hing” and “see-suck” but I’ve found that hearing a native speaker say them is very helpful. The actual pronunciation is often a bit nuanced from how a native English speaker might say it based on reading the above.

You do understand that these terms are not simply titles, but rather indicate a relationship between two people? The same person can be sihing to some people and sisuk to others and sigung to others and Sifu to others yet.
According to Ralph Castro's FAQ #5 on his website, Sisuk is the title for 1st/2nd degree black and Sihing often used for brown belts. But yes they are just family words in Chinese, so I understand what you are saying about them being relational to others in that regard.
 
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