September 9, 2016 / in Wing Chun Theory / by Betsy Olay
There are all kinds of martial arts instructors out there running all types of martial arts schools. Some teachers are well intended but poorly trained. Others are very skilled martial artists, but they don’t have the knack for teaching. Still others are simply out there to push their students through the belt or sash system. Their goal is to make as much money off of those students as they can. So, is your sifu a fraud or the real deal? Read on to find out.
How exactly can you tell if your martial arts instructor is the real deal? While no one is perfect, there are characteristics you should identify in the person to whom you’re going to entrust your martial arts training. There are things you should look for and things you should avoid. I happened to find all the right qualities in Sifu (teacher, master, mentor) Justin Och and hope this article will help you find a true master for yourself.
Is Your Sifu a Fraud? Check Their Credentials!
Are they in a Hall of Fame? Great, but remember most hall of fames are businesses that you can write in what you get and pay them for the award and banquet. Sure, you dressed up, met a bunch of famous people, and took some photos. That doesn’t make you a Sifu.
Look for the certifications that your sifu has earned. Also, how did they earn it? Was it a weekend training course? How would you know? Was their main instructor from outside the country? If so, how did they truly learn the entire system from them? It could be likely they have only been to seminars with this person and done mostly DVD or distance training. How did they train with them if their instructor wasn’t accessible. It takes years of daily, hands-on attention in order to become a sifu. This is a warning sign that the certifications are less than genuine.
Remember, unlike many other systems of martial arts, Wing Chun needs one on one, personal instruction with an upper level master to become better in the finer aspects and details of the system. So what level of understanding and capability does your instructor have compared to others in the USA or other countries?
Training overseas or away from home is amazing and can improve your ability, but claiming certification from someone in another country is a red flag you should watch out for.
Instructors claiming they trained with “so and so” for years but who only have a photo of them standing next to their teacher sitting on a chair, may not be genuine sifus. Look for photos of your instructor in their youth training with the same teacher they claim, and then photos or video of them being older and doing the training. Without REAL (time-spanning) training photos or videos of them over time…well, this is possibly not a genuine instructor.
“But, Sifu is my friend and he is nice to me!” We’ve heard this before, but being nice to you or being your friend doesn’t make them a sifu or a good instructor.
Trust, But Verify
Check their claims. Stop believing things just because people have told you. If a person tells you they had cage fighting experience, look online and type in their name and check for records, photos and video. If you can’t find it, then they might not be a genuine instructor. If they told you they have a purple belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, but you can’t find any evidence online or otherwise (and the person’s name doesn’t really exist or is unreachable), they might not be a genuine instructor.
Most genuine sifus had to train for a multitude of years one on one and are going to proudly display their certifications and awards in their studio so they can be viewed by their students. Look around. Check out their website. Does he or she say she is certified at all? If so, in what are they certified? Who certified them—and is that organization reputable? Are those certifying organizations huge with hundreds of instructors under one teacher that resides in another country? If so, this could point to the fact that you are not in the presence of a genuine sifu with full training under their sash.
Remember there are some fantastic instructors out there that aren’t sifus and can give you a ton of information and make you into a fantastic Wing Chun Kung Fu practitioner. But you should look around, check out different schools, and separate the great ones from the mediocre.
A great instructor doesn’t have to be a sifu, or have a amazing lineage to show you. But how would you know the great instructors from the frauds unless you understand how to tell the difference?
Sifu Och Wing Chun Kung Fu Studio
World Ving Tsun Association Regional Director for the Southeastern USA
116 East Pine Street, Lakeland, Florida 33801