Why it Sucks to be a Sifu!

geezer

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On another post I mentioned that my si-dai and training partner is considering re-opening a public kwoon after many years of "retirement" from public instruction. Right now we train in his garage. Many years ago, we both taught publicly, and I have offered to assist him in this new endeavor, as has his most senior student as well. But the more I think about it, the more I remember the burden of being a sifu! Younger practitioners often dream about reaching the level of sifu, but there really are two sides to taking on the job.

On the positive side...

1. We'll make a lot of money. Hahahahaha. Ok, scratch that one.

2. We will be able to teach more students and have a broader base of support to bring in our association head to give seminars and further our own training.

3. As we bring students up through the ranks, we will be regularly training all the lower level drills we tend to neglect when we train with each other. Put simply, by teaching, we will reinforce our own training... particularly in the basics.

4. We will be expanding our system's "presence" in the area and be giving something back to our association and it's head... a man who has been more than generous in sharing his knowledge with us.

Now for the negatives...

1. In this economy, we (actually my si-dai, since I'm not financially involved) will be lucky not to lose a lot of money, especially since we are not willing to do the whole McDojo thing.

2. The time commitment will put stress on our families, especially since we
both have young children and "real jobs" to think of.

3. Then there's the whole "Sifu" persona. I'm in good shape and I have a decent level of skill and experience, but I really hate the whole "all-knowing" Sifu thing. And the idea that I should be able to totally beat the tar out of fighters half my age in a fair fight doesn't fly anymore. I'm in my mid fifties and I look at fighting differently now. I don't fight for fun as much... and I don't buy into "fighting fair". I tend to think of combat in survival terms, if you get my drift.

4. Lastly, I no longer buy into the crap my former Sifu (a famous Chinese "Grandmaster") fed us about how superior our system is. It is a great system. But there is so much other great stuff out there. I enjoy trying out other arts... even as a beginner. As an anonymous, private individual that's easy to do. But, as a "Sifu", representing your school and association, it's a lot harder to just be a humble student. And, in that sense, it's a lot harder to learn new things.

A lot of you are, or have been, instructors or sifus and have had to deal with these concerns. Any thoughts? Maybe you could add a few items to either list above.
 

mograph

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To avoid the all-knowing thing, don't call yourself "Sifu". Continue to be humble, referring to your Master as "Sifu". If people want to call yourself something, they can call you Laoshi, or "teacher".

(In case you didn't know, in Mandarin it's pronounced Lao-shr, with the pitch of the "shr" higher, about a major sixth if you're musical. It's like the first two notes of Brazil.)
 

Blindside

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If you aren't an all knowing "sifu" don't be one. There is nothing wrong with noting that you are also a student, just a little further down the path than they are. And if any organization prohibited me from pursuing my own path, well, I would no longer be a member of said organization.
 
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geezer

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If you aren't an all knowing "sifu" don't be one. There is nothing wrong with noting that you are also a student, just a little further down the path than they are. And if any organization prohibited me from pursuing my own path, well, I would no longer be a member of said organization.

Thanks. That's precisely why I left my former organization. The Grandmaster really, really knew his stuff, but made demands and placed restrictions that I found to be excessive, if not out and out unethical.
 

profesormental

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Greetings.

I don't know if you know this, but most martial arts teachers teach for several reasons...

the most important of them, to me, being that teaching is the most funnest way to learn new things really fast!

Many people appreciate a humble demeanor. It breeds a more relaxed, fun atmosphere.

About time... I'm sure that your schedules will be reasonable and your family will understand, specially if they somehow share your enthusiasm. If not, then you're screwed anyway, might as well enjoy it!

Also, economically, keeping overhead and costs REALLY low should be easy when starting. Invest only in things you need at the moment and things should come together nice.

In this climate of economical instability, people will want to learn to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their stuff. So motivation for training should start going up, specially for the good stuff.

So it doesn't suck to be a Si Fu. It is the best thing that a student can aspire to be, since being a Si Fu is what makes a Si Fu so skilled.

Enjoy!

Juan M. Mercado
Si Fu Since 1995
 
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