The meaning of 'Si-Fu'
'Si-Fu' is the Cantonese spelling of the Mandarin term 'Shi-Fu'; which translates to 'father, teacher' in English. Unique to Chinese culture, it is a traditional term of respect used to address the head of a ‘moon pai’ - ‘the Kung Fu family’.
In this 'family' a group of people develop a sense of community and strength through training together, whilst also developing individual skills and wisdom. In modern times, this idea of a Kung Fu family has been attributed to the concepts of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479BC), but significantly predates this. Unrelated families first came about in the Western Zhou dynasty (122-771BC) where nobles created the practical solution of adopting sons to avoid conflicts over inheritance. That a successor should not be by blood, but determined on merit strongly influenced Chinese culture. Similarly, whilst lineage is an important part in the Chinese martial arts, ensuring the survival and authenticity, it is also rarely based on birth. In Kung Fu styles a dedicated disciple is adopted as a ‘to-dai’ or ‘son’ in a special tea ceremony.
The concept of Si-Fu in Wing Tsun is balanced between the formality of Confucian etiquette, with the flow of the Daoists, and practicality of the Buddhists. This unique amalgamation reflects the unusual history of the art. Whereas the Confucian rules were aimed at achieving universal respect and harmony between people, the Daoist principles taught how to achieve harmony with the natural world. This was then strongly influenced by the Chan (Zen) Buddhists who taught how to achieve internal harmony.
Becoming a Si-Fu is not for the faint-hearted, as it involves significant responsibility - both personal and for his students. For it is not enough to teach, but according to the Confucian principles, a Si-Fu has to physically lead by example in every aspect of his art. So, aside from many hard years of physical training, it involves studying the philosophy, history, concepts and culture of the art.
Due to the diverse nature of teaching, a Si-Fu then has to develop an unusually varied skill set. A Si-Fu has to become an expert in communication, understanding conflict and psychology. He needs to be able to apply different methods of development - from instructional, training and coaching methods to leadership. Adaptability to circumstance and person is key. A Si-Fu needs the ability to change the way teaching is delivered according to how each student learns, and influence the energy of the room, to ensure the result is achieved.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, a Si-Fu then has to be able to create a culture where the students feel safe to learn. He needs to provide them with the discipline to be able to learn effectively, but the freedom and creativity to develop as an empowered individual. This is embodied in the Daoist and Zen principles of being able to nurture and care.
In this context, 'Si-Fu' implies a duty of care, involving advice, mentoring and support in life beyond the training hall. Through his process of retraining with Grandmaster Máday Norbert, and his commitment to his position, Si-Fu Julian has experienced first hand the transformative effect of Wing Tsun in every aspect of his students lives.
What our students say...
“I have studied Wing Tsun under the tutelage of Si-Fu Julian Hitch for about two years now and it has been an incredible journey. The supportive family atmosphere the school provides makes me feel I can really be myself and learn at the same time; indeed it has helped me to define what my "self" actually is. The experience has been more than the practical martial arts skills taught. I have developed skills that have allowed me to make positive lifestyle changes and advance in my career. Truly more than just a martial arts class!”
- Gordon, Teacher
"The teaching is always excellent and stimulating. Having been to other classes I joined these schools because of the etiquette, manners, non-judgmental and disciplined feeling to the classes - very supportive. From the moment I walked in I felt I was in safe hands."
The decision to take up Wing Tsun two years ago was indeed the best decision I ever made. As a proud students of Si-Fu, and knowing Si-Fu’s attention to Chinese culture and its etiquette, let us share a Chinese saying ‘ Si-Fu for one day, a teacher for a lifetime’”
- Kit, Legal Executive