Shifu’s Corner excerpt from Kingdom Kronicles, 1st Ed. Oct. ’13

Hello all, (nimen hao)

Shifu’s Corner:
I just wanted to send out this quick email to everyone to kind of talk about teachers real quick. Specifically, I wanted to go over how teaching works in our school.

There are three basic titles for teachers
1. Laoshi (teacher)
2. Shifu (father-teacher/master)
3. Shiye (grandfather-teacher/grandmaster)

Laoshi is a generic teachers title used for all kinds of disciplines. Basically, any kind of teacher is a laoshi. The way we use it in our school is for the junior teacher. It is generally awarded about a year after the black sash has began teaching and recognizes the role he/she has been playing. Most of the time, the laoshi is still working under the auspices and supervision of his/her shifu. This doesn’t have to be the case however, as a laoshi can run their own school and have their own students if they have been awarded their teachers license.

A Shifu, is a teacher who has demonstrated the ability to run their own school either by doing so as a laoshi or by assisting in the running of someone elses school. A Shifu title is intrinsically a teachers license so they are always able to have their own students and school, but whether a student belongs to his/her lineage depends on whether he/she chooses to run their own school, or function within someone else’s school.  Remember, it isn’t necessary to have your own school in order to demonstrate that you have the ability to run it.

A Shiye, is a teacher who has students who are teachers. Generally, the title is awarded because the person has been functioning in this role for a period of time, not just assumed because of qualification.

Now, alongside of this understanding of title is an understood process of becoming a fully independant teacher. This means that the students you teach fall under you in the lineage instead of your teacher. At this point you are teaching under your own auspices and authority. I like to think of it as an apprenticeship process.

When a student reaches the point in their training that they begin training students and teaching classes on their own, they begin as novice teachers, or apprentice instructors. They still have to learn how to teach. The best way to do that is to teach and let your instructor be there as a resource if needed. The main instructor can evaluate the quality of instruction and give tips and counsel as needed. After a sufficient period of time has passed and the apprentice has demonstrated the ability to effectively teach they are given the title of teacher. Before this, they were simply operating under the title of older brother (Shi Xiong). Now they teach as a teacher, but still under the supervision and authority of their teacher, they have entered the journeyman stage. After they have been teaching as a laoshi for a while (journeyman stage) they are finally granted full independence and issued a teachers license.

Note that while these stages of teaching and titles of teaching may accompany each other, they do not have to. One can reach full Shifu and never be teaching his/her own students, or reach full independence while still a Laoshi.

Teaching titles and licenses are independent from rank.  Rank (sash) is a statement of progression as a student, while titles are a statement of progression as a teacher.  While you may have to have a certain rank to attain a certain title, possession of a rank does not in any way mean a person has earned a title nor does possession of a title indicate that a person deserves a certain rank.


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About Shifu Read

Primary instructor of the school. Training in martial arts since he was 5. He started in kickboxing, then moved to XingYi at 18. At 32 he began training in BaGua. At 36 he began training in TaiJi. At 40, he began in BJJ. He loves to share his knowledge with his students and help them along in their own martial journey.
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