We are getting a little bold here to actually touch on this topic!
Having trained under several different organisations before, I had the chance of meeting and knowing serveral respected Shifus as well as many amazing Wushu Coaches. As some of my juniors had asked me this question previously – What is the difference between a Wushu Coach and a Shifu?
For one, through observation, I realised that most Shifus are strict with how their students address then – only by the name ‘Shifu’. Any other names, at any one time, is considered rude or disrespectful.
On the other hand, most Wushu Coaches are only strict with how students address them during lessons – only by the name ‘Coach’. However, when the class is dismissed, many are not really concerned about how their students address them, by name or as how good friends call each other, although most Wushu students would normally continue calling their Wushu Coach ‘Coach’ even after class out of respect. The irony is, most Wushu Coaches scringe at being called the name ‘Shifu’.
Whether it is by the traditional way of calling or by the mordern practises of Wushu training, it was distint to me that there are differences between a Wushu Coach and a Shifu, which I am going to cover in the few points below.
1) Wushu Styles
The most distinct difference between a Wushu Coach and a Shifu would by the Wushu Style that they teach. Most teachers of the comtempary and sports Wushu prefered to be called a Wushu Coach while many teachers of the Traitional Wushu form ( Many but not all, which I will move on to explain why in my next point) prefered to be called Shifu.This is most probably due to tradition, in that since Chinese historical times, once one teaches another student Kung Fu, it becames automatically implied that the former is the ‘Shifu’ and the later is the ‘Tu Di’, which means disciple in Chinese. In the past, this is usually formalise with a joss-stick burning ritual to to Demi-Gods and ancestors. In mordern times, it is simply a greeting.
As the name of the two different Wushu Styles also implies, the Traditional Wushu form and it’s teachers are usually deeply rooted in the Chinese Tradition and the old Chinese way of teaching. They are also more well versed in the history of Wushu and its evolution. With that much skills and wisdom coupled with the traditional way of teaching, many teachers of such prefer a more formal chinese way of addressing a teacher, which is ‘Shifu’
As traditional Wushu is a broader Wushu Style covering many different Wushu forms with each having it’s own distinct form and meaning, most teachers of Traditonal Wushu typically train for many years before stepping out of learning to begin teaching. As such they are usually much older than teachers of sports Wushu.As the ‘fu’ part of Shifu translates to ‘Father’ in Chinese, teachers of traditional Wushu would be comfortable being addressed like a ‘Father’.
Comparatively, due to the fast and dynamic nature of sports Wushu, many of its teachers are still young, some of them in training and participating in competitions still. These teachers are more than often too young to be address a name akin to a ‘Father’, which sufficiently explains why many ‘cringe’ when addressed that way – It makes them look and feel much older than who they really are!
The relationship between a Wushu Coach and their students are more friendly and open, very much like how many Secondary and Tiertiary school teachers now are with their students (like adding each other on Facebook and sharing jokes over lunch together). This could be due to the point stated previously that many Wushu Coaches are younger than Shifus, contributing to a smaller age gap.
On the other hand, the relationship between a student and their Shifu is formed on the basis of full respect from the students, like the way a son would respect his father.
Form my point of view, regardless of whether you are learning under a Wushu Coach or a Shifu, the important things to take note in order to maintain good relationships is to always respect your teacher and have a good learning attitude.
With these, you will go a long way and train well =) How is your relationship with your Coach and Shifu like? OR are you a Shifu or a Coach? DO SHARE how you feel about this!