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What do you do when your Sifu is wrong?

— Name and Country Withheld


As a matter of semantics, I would change the question to "What would you do when your Sifu were wrong?" because in real life I had never found my sifu wrong. It was not due to my being subservient, nor due to my having no mind of my own, but it was a fact, not an opinion.

In the first place, I took great effort to search for the right sifu to learn from. All my sifus were not just patriarchs of their arts, but exemplary in their character. It was really my honour to call them "sifu".

Suppose my sifu were wrong. The first thing I would do was to seriously reassess my judgment. I would seriously ask whether my sifu saw something that I failed to.

If it were a small "wrong", I would overlook it, considering all the "rights" he had shown and taught me. If it were a big "wrong", I would not condone the wrong action, but I would never denounce him. I would still be very grateful to him. I would not act as a hero, attempting to right the wrong. I would leave that to others who were more capable than me.

Irrespective of whether the wrong was big or small, I would remember the universal teaching that "to err is human, to forgive divine".

This aspect of respecting one's sifu is perhaps a notable difference between Eastern and Western cultures. As most of my students are from Western culture, I do not expect them to respect me the way I respected my sifu, though many actually do. But I also do not expect them, being trained in our arts where moral development and spiritual cultivation are essential aspects of our training, to repay kindness with vengeance.

The above is taken from Question 8 March 2015 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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