Changing My Title

Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
January 2005 Issue

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I am considering taking a humble title to replace the term ?grandmaster.? Of course, all students and instructors in my Federation will still address me as grandmaster, because this title was awarded to me by my late and retired teachers.

What made me qualified to earn this title? Why me and not their other students? People outside my Federation have asked me this question from time to time. I was promoted to the title of grandmaster because I passed all the tests and met all the requirements in terms of martial arts skill, knowledge, ability and leadership. Some other students may have been good in kung-fu, but they were not interested in teaching and passing on ther knowledge through schools or seminars.

I e-mailed my instructors in the Federation and asked them to suggest a good title that would be humble, yet strong enough to represent them as the leader of the Plum Blossom International Federation. I wanted to make sure the title would not make my students and members look bad and would not be intimidating to people outside the Federation. Some suggested that I drop the ?grandmaster? title and replace it with ?mister? or ?doctor? in public.

However, if I dropped the title and then went to a martial arts event such as an exhibition or big open tournament, where maybe ten grandmasters and 100 masters were in attendance, the subdued title would do a disservice to my students. It doesn?t matter to me, but I cannot be selfish in my humility and make all the students look or sound like their grandmaster is a nobody at public events.

Some students have suggested I use a Chinese title. However, in ancient China, there was no international martial arts organization and even today there are only a few ? including ours. The term ?si-jo? or ?jo-si? is for past masters. However, I have noticed that some non-Chinese kung fu teachers are using the si-jo title nowadays. It's okay for your students to call you si-gung or tai-sifu. All you need is one student who also has one student and you will become the si-gung of your student?s student. Gung means grandfather or old man. I do not want to act so old yet.

In this case, I have to take tai-sifu. The problem is that I have students who are instructors down to the fifth generation. My second-generation students call me tai-sifu; third-generation students call me tai-tai-sifu; fourth-generation students call me tai-tai-tai-sifu; and fifth-generation students call me tai-tai-tai-tai-sifu. Guess what? Upcoming sixth-generation students will just have to call me tai to the fifth power. These kinds of Chinese terms are not good for professional titles, only family titles.

Some of my students have asked that I keep the title grandmaster. A few students would like me to change to the title of chief master or chief teaching master, I think the word master alone can he intimidating to someone. Besides, some Korean martial arts already designate the title chief master to the person directly under the grandmaster. Choosing chief master would be delegating me to second-class status.

Other suggested titles include: founding director, federation president, chief director instructor, executive director instructor, chief executive instructor, professor in chief, chief scholar, principal scholar, chief coach, and keeper of the Hu Yuen Chou System. Is there a specific tide you like? Do you have a better suggestion? If you have something that sounds good, is suitable for my position, and will also appear humble to the public, send it to

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

January 2005 ? Inside Kung-Fu