“I did NOT like where this conversation was going, and was regretting the fact I even bothered to say “hi” and ask him to sit with me…”
Fellow Wing Chun fighter — It’s Rob here at WingChunLife.com. I really hate hearing someone say, “my sifu is better than your sifu,” or “my kung fu is better than yours,” or “my martial arts style is better than Wing Chun,” or “my linage is the original Wing Chun line.”
I especially can’t stand it when the person says it to be cocky or mean.
The other day I was hanging out at a local cafe, when by coincidence, an old Wing Chun buddy dropped by the same place to get a cup of coffee, too.
We hadn’t seen each for over seven years; from when I first started learning Wing Chun. We instantly recognized each other, chatted for a bit, and the conversation quickly turned to Wing Chun.
“…are you still studying at (my school)? Is (my sifu) still teaching there?” My answers were yes and yes. He quickly went on to tell me where he’s been studying for the last few years. I recognized his sifu as one of the few prominent sifus in Los Angeles.
“Sure, I know that sifu,” I said. “When I have more time and money I would like to travel around the world and take lessons from different Wing Chun sifus…”
I didn’t realize it, but I swung the door wide open with that statement…
I should try out his school, he said. I thanked him for the offer and told him I’m interested in taking lessons from the other area sifus for background knowledge… but some day in the far off future. I’m too busy nowadays.
I explained to him that his school is over an hour away from where I live, not to mention that I don’t even make as many classes as I should at my home kwoon.
Well, he quickly followed up with a variation of: my sifu is better than your sifu; your sifu can’t teach you everything you need to learn; his sifu knows the secrets of Wing Chun and my sifu does not, etc.
At this point I was mad —
All I wanted to do that afternoon was relax and enjoy my coffee; and here was this guy, whom I didn’t know very well, basically insulting me and calling me stupid because of where I decide to train Wing Chun.
Maybe, if I was very green, he would have convinced me of my dumb-ness. But, I’ve actively trained Wing Chun for nearly five years, and martial arts most of my life. His arguments didn’t phase me one bit.
I’ve trained Wing Chun under two sifus and touched hands with about a dozen of them over the years at seminars or when they came to visit and train with us. Not to mention touching hands with Wing Chun practitioners from other lineages. I know my sifu and kwoon are good. Plus, there was a rumor this guy left our school because he had a falling out many years ago…
This guy offended me so much, that when I’m ready to make my Wing Chun pilgrimage I might skip his sifu out of spite.
Besides, the truth is training under the “God of Sifus” is NOT the most important thing for most people.
What’s more important, or just as important, than training under the worlds greatest sifu?
It is your level of commitment to your own training. How much do you want it? How much are you willing to sacrifice? How much time you are able to invest?
This is just as, if not more, important than training under the worlds most powerful, super-human, bullet-proof Wing Chun sifu.
Look at this way, all things being equal, under the same sifu you’ll often find different levels of mastery among the students of equal rank. The reason will almost always be a reflection of each student, not necessarily the sifu.
Yes, you want a competent teacher. Someone who is solid in his or her own skills. And equally important, you want a sifu with the ability to “teach” and impart knowledge.
But, in the end you have to take responsibility for your own progress. If that means finding a kwoon that better fits your personality, or doing some self-study, or cross training, so be it. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons. But beware of the “bamboo is always greener on the other side” syndrome.
This will usually lead you down blind alleys and waste your time, because you never stick around long enough to actually learn something useful or become competent in one style, lineage, or martial art.
Always remember this.
Never belittle or ridicule someone else’s sifu, school, or martial art style. It’s bad taste and bad manners. You might as well call his or her mother ugly. Besides, it does nothing to improve the art of Wing Chun around the world.
A better approach is to focus on improving yourself and your Wing Chun skill. And also, spread the art as accurately as possible, and keep the cycle of increasing perfection going. In this way, the level of Wing Chun rises for everyone.