Friday, 14 December 2012

Words and Deeds - Part 2

T'ai Tsung Sifu McQueen
Even with my dislike of labels, I make an exception for the title of Sifu, because it is my opinion that ‘Sifu’ carries considerable value in the modern world as a hallmark of self-mastery – marking out individuals capable of assisting others in attaining some self mastery of their own. When we talk about Sifu  Kru, Sensei, Guru, connotation should conjure a series of positive attributes assigned to men who built ability through hard work and accomplishment.
 I never had a bad Sifu. I know many others who were not so lucky. So in adopting this title, I attempt to embody the type of qualities and values I associate to the people who have taught me – all of them. This title, should (I hope) illustrate that after twenty two years of hard work, I am in receipt of, and practicing all aspects of the Wing Chun system from Sifu Gary Lam, with the ability to convey their importance and function to others in a practical, fight specific format.
T'ai Tsung - Sifu Devon, Sifu Derek, Sifu Kevin
I am totally conscious of the Sifus who have come before me, down the Wing Chun, Chinese Kickboxing, Thai Boxing lines. In all instances across the board, they are documented as skilful, articulate, intelligent, and powerful individuals. That leaves a lot to live up to.
Kung Fu is work hard, but I owe what I have in some part to my teacher’s personal self mastery. Based on the time and effort exerted by us all, I feel I owe it to them, myself and students to be a teacher and to do my best to instil some of those positive qualities and values in others.

I think it is fair to say that the more prevalent a qualification, the less value it seems to hold. If we went back sixty years there would only have been a handful of Black Belts in the British Isles. Now, they are ten a penny, common, purchased, and in some instances, people entirely inept in harnessing or conveying practical skill. Self proclaimed Sifus are abundant and Martial Skill still a rarity. Desire, ambition and skill are moderated by fortune and intelligence in the aptitude of individuals to find a teacher who is proficient and motivated by the production of skill and wisdom over and above fame and financial gain.
Ego is a useful tool in driving possibility, it is a motivating force that propels us to compete and work harder, but unchecked it undermines teaching for skills sake, and negates the upgrade in human potential that should be attributed to Martial training. Motivation is the underlying principle of most behaviour. If you wish to understand why somebody behaves as they do, you need only assess their motivation as a predisposition to their following actions. In this way, it is very easy to surmise where somebody is coming from and why they choose to do what they do.
Unfortunately, occidental society is currently about money and fame. It presses dissatisfaction to churn effort and energy through the cogs of the system. This in its self has been enough to ensure that in less than 100 years skill production takes a back seat in the minds of many western Masters. Reputation is no longer underpinned by ability, but more about how many students you can accrue and how many people are talking about you. This is more than a dreadful shame. It has the aptitude to dilute martial skill, it spoils relationships through greed and envy, it turns avid students into commodities, it creates politics. It is a bastardisation of the title Sifu
Sifu Gary Lam
OK, everybody needs to make a crust, but if that compromises our ability to work from first principles, then we are ethically wrong and using Martial Arts as a prostitute to line our pockets. This is not the way. There is every reason to pay good money for decent information and training from a good teacher – some things you cannot put a price on, my time with Sifu Gary Lam is one of those things.
Sifu Gary
If only all teachers shared his conviction to teaching and practical insight. Rich in the head and rich in the hand are far more important than rich in the pocket in the spectrum of contentment and development. I would not choose to disassociate myself from the title Sifu to differentiate myself from individuals using the Sifu label to amass money. It represents the time effort and sacrifice necessary in obtaining practical skill. There is a requirement to represent the real, past and present in the proper spirit
Sifu Gary Lam
  • Undefeated Champion Hong Kong Full Contact Tournament 1978 – 79
  • Founder Top Fight Wing Chun 1986
  • President Hong Kong Wing Chun Society 1991
  • Sifu of the Year World Ving Tsun Athletic Association Hall of Fame 2006
  • Life Time Honorary Advisor to Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association 2012

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Article from 2006: Wing Chun Illustrated - Proximity.