Recently, I’ve met people who’ve told me another school in Terre Haute (Indiana) has “student teachers” criticizing their Sensei in front of other students during class. While these people are sharing this with me as a reasoning for their not having their children (or themselves) attend that school (a reasoning I’m not questioning in this blog) and they use this to criticize the Master of that school, I see these “student teachers” actions differently. . . .
Before I give you my response, allow me to share something with you concerning the term Sensei and the term Sifu, as both of these terms are used of teachers in martial arts in the United States.
Sifu (sometimes Shifu):
Shi – teacher
fu – father
Here in the United States, people look at it as the equivalent of the Japanese Sensei (先生), but that wouldn’t be correct, given Sensei means “teacher”, “born first” or “one who has gone before”.
There’s a Chinese proverb that speaks very true of the experiences of those with good Sifu and those with the responsibilities of being a Sifu:
日為師，終身為父 (yī rì wéi shī, zhōng shēn wèi fù). It literally means, 日 (yī rì, a day) 為 (wéi, as) 師 (shī, teacher)，終身 (zhōng shēn, a lifetime) 為 (wèi, as) 父 (fù, father). The most common translations include:
“Once a teacher, always respected as a father.”
“Respect your teacher as you do your father.”
“A day as a teacher, a lifetime held in esteem as a father.”
I’m sure there are more. These are the ones I’m familiar.
And, for those of you interested, the English “Grandmaster” is referred to as “Shigong” (or Shi-gung) by many Chinese martial arts traditions. It literally means “teacher grandfather”. A Grandmaster is a teacher of a Master; and, a Master a teacher of a teacher. Thus, the meanings and use of terms.
Now to my response to these “student teachers” who are criticizing their Sensei:
1.) These young men and women, called “student teachers”, aren’t showing their power or exercising their authority, they’re showing their butts. And, by doing so, they are impressing upon those around them why they cannot be trusted as teachers, themselves.
2.) If their Sensei was good enough for them to spend the thousands of dollars and years of training that they invested to get to the position of “student teacher”, then that same Sensei deserves their respect. By not showing the respect to their Sensei, they prove themselves hypocrites.
3.) It doesn’t matter if their Sensei competes any more or not. Their Sensei won’t be fighting their fights for them if they have to defend themselves. Expecting him or her to do so is cowardice. Why do I bring this up? Because many schools advertise the success of a sports-competing teacher in their school as justification for you to spend your money there. The arrogance that is advertised is an arrogance that is taught to students, and one that doesn’t translate well on the street. (It might serve someone who’s proving themselves in a sporting event, but there’s a strong difference between fighting in a controlled ring or octagon and fighting on the street.) When you go to a school, it should be about you learning to be your best – not having someone else fight your fights for you or someone else’s ego. For that matter, it can’t be about your ego, either; otherwise, you won’t learn to be your best. (There’s a difference between feeding an ego and learning to be your best.)
Now, my advice to the Master of this school is simple:
Weed-out the bad-apples. If that happened in my school, those “student teachers” would be complaining from their backyard. Honestly, they’d have never made it to that position, “student teacher”, because I weed-out anyway. I don’t do this to “make a living”. I do this to honor the tradition of the martial arts I know and teach, passing it down to those who will faithfully do the same. Ask yourself why you’re teaching, and be faithful to your calling.
Empower yourself to life!™