Various levels of “student” are present in the Wing Chun family hierarchy. Here is a brief overview of what they are and their meanings.
一代宗師 Jat Doi Zung Si
The great scholar of this generation who is respected for his learning and integrity, who has a most thorough understanding of the system. This is not a term that is easily given and is not one that a person can bestow upon themselves.
入室弟子 – Yap Sut Dai Zi
Closed door disciple (see the following article on Bai Si)
關門弟子- Guaan Mun Dai Zi
The master is closing his doors of teaching permanently and this is his last student.
關門- guaan mun means to close a door or to lock a door (of a shop etc) to close (for the night, or permanently).
弟子- Dai Zi – disciple or follower
徒弟 Tou Dai is also disciple or apprentice
Bai Si – Becoming a Disciple
The accepting of a “closed door disciple” in traditional kung fu was a very big deal. You not only represented the sifu but also the particular style. Thus, there was a great deal of responsibility placed on the individual.
If you are accepted as a disciple, you were basically closer than the sifu’s son/daughter and family member in many respects. There would be no holding back of information & special attention was given to the student. The sifu would take great pains to see that you got the information, then see if you understood it and could put it to use. Any of the styles so called “secrets” such as herbal medicine, dim mak, forms, hit points or kung fu techniques were revealed.
The disciple gets an understanding of how to live the art, “when you can no longer tell where your Kung Fu ends and Life begins”, of bonding, fellowship with other disciples, of a commitment to the system, style and school, and to the sifu.
The sifu has now taken on a son or daughter, and must do everything in his power to be there for them, guide them, mould them and set a good martial and moral example for them. The sifu is their Martial Arts father and Kung Fu role model. (We can use a famous saying and alter it a bit -With great responsibility, comes the potential for great power.)
Sihing 師兄 translates as “elder brother” & SiJe 師姐 which translates as elder sister. They are the senior-most students of the class (including kids classes) who have earned this designation. The Sihing/SiJe also often acts as the “assistant instructor” in class and leads several portions of the class. It is very important to note that a Sihing/SiJe will not always be the oldest person in the classroom, only the student who has been training the longest.
The responsibilities of a Sihing/SiJe are just like an assistant instructor: to assist the Sifu in teaching. A Sihing/SiJe can be considered an authority in the Wing Chun classrooms, who answers in place of a Sifu, should the Sifu be preoccupied.
It should also be noted that 入室弟子 – Yap Sut Dai Zi speak on behalf of Sifu in all matters of the school when Sifu is not available and the same respect should be shown to these senior class mates for they are in that position for a reason and it has been hard earned.
In Ip Man’s school in Hong Kong, the Sihing/SiJe was responsible for leading the class. They would work directly with the other students. Ip Man would come around from time to time and make adjustments.
Ip Man’s senior-most student (Sihing) in Hong Kong was Leung Sheung. This means Leung Sheung was the senior over all the other Hong Kong students of Yip Man. However, as time passed, different students became sihings such as Lok Yiu, Chu Shong Tin, Wong Shun Leung, Choi Siu Kwong and others after.
In our school we have a number of 入室弟子 – Yap Sut Dai Zi (closed door students)
- Sihing Steve Hart.
- SiJe Kamini Pillay
- Sihing Chris Burrow
- Sihing Lee Folbigg
- Sihing Allan Briggs
We also have assistant instructors that are yet to become closed door students but require the same level of respect from junior club members.
- Sihing Drew Wilson
- Sihing Michael Lees
- SiJe Shantelle Bartlett
If you want clarification on any wing chun techniques or principles or anything else that you want help with, then they are easily identified by black/red shirts for Disciples or black yellow for assistant instructors. And you can rest assured that what they are telling you is correct as it was taught to them by Sifu. If you rudely contradict or directly challenge them, then know that you are showing great disrespect not only to them, but you are therefore indirectly questioning or challenging your Sifu and the club. More importantly though, you will impede your progress as nobody will be willing to share with a know-it-all.
By all means, ask questions of your seniors, in fact I strongly encourage it, because this is how you learn, and it also helps them to learn as well.
And together we all continue with forward momentum and intent in our training and also in our lives as one big Wing Chun family.