Don’t Play ‘Sifu Says’

These days, very few Martial Arts schools offer only a single art. Cross training is the norm. As you train in different arts under different instructors, you may run into some conflicting instructions.

Instructors may have different end-goals, such as street survival, tournament championships, or fitness. Some instructors may highlight a condition or approach for educational or practical purposes. They may intend to throw an idea out at a higher level, but feel an emphasis is necessary for early learning. These differences do not mean any of your instructors are incorrect or wrong. However, the differing foci seem to create technical conflicts. What do you do?

Politely question the authorities. Do not be belligerent. Do not force one instructor’s teachings against another, effectively pitting the instructors against each other. Simply ask why a certain technique is used, or why there is a specific focus. You may point out the considerations you have learned from other instructors in order to clarify your question, but do so respectfully and be willing to consider your instructors’ replies.

If the answer you receive makes sense, go with it. Realize you may need to switch gears as you switch classes. If you accept each instructors’ explanation, do as your teacher suggests when in their class.

If the answers you receive do not make sense to you, if they do not feel right or seem to rub your soul the wrong way, you need to quietly and personally consider your position. The conflicting instructor may not be the teacher you need. The art they teach may not be the art you thought it was. Your goals may not be in harmony with the goals of an art, instructor, or school. Make this determination and handle it politely and professionally. Most certainly, do not buck the instructor to push your point. That is disruptive to your fellow students and the class as a whole. Understand your conflict does not mean the art, instructor, or school is not doing a good job. However, that job may not be the job you need done.

It is, and is not, a game of ‘Sifu Says’. Be willing to question your instructors. If you agree with them, go with the flow in their respective classes, recognizing their instruction applies to their unique considerations.


About Sifu

I teach Wing Chun, both traditional and practical, at KDA Karate Academy. I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager. In addition to being a Martial Arts Instructor, I am an author. My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge".

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