What You Say Could Have a Different Meaning to Someone Else


Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong


Back when I had the school on Noriega Street near 32nd Avenue in San Francisco, many of my new kung fu students came to me from my acupuncture practice.  When treating my patients, I would usually talk to them to help them get comfortable.  In 1974, one particular evening, I found myself talking about martial arts with a young woman patient.  At that time, kung fu did not enjoy the popularity it does today, so she did not know anything about it. She asked me if it was difficult to learn.  I offered to teach her some kung fu moves thinking that if she liked it maybe she would sign up to become a student afterward.  I spent one hour giving her a private lesson working on a few moves out of the form of Siu Mui Fa. She did very well.  Afterwards, I complemented her, saying "Nice job!"  Then I asked her, "Do you have any karate experience?"  She replied "No." and left.  The reason I used the word "karate" when asking about her marital arts background was because there were no kung fu schools outside of Chinatown at that time.  Since many martial arts schools taught various styles of karate, most of the public used the word "karate" to mean "martial arts".

The young woman didn't come back to sign up, but few years later she came into my school again.  She asked if I remembered her.  I told her "yes", because she was the only person that I had given a free introductory private lesson.  I asked her why she didn't come back to sign up for kung fu after she had done so well in the lesson.  She told me it was because I had asked her if she had karate experience.  She thought I was telling her she'd be good at karate, so she went out and signed up at a karate school! By this time she was a brown belt getting ready to test for her black.  She said she might like to come back and join our school after she received her black belt in karate, but I haven't seen her since.

So the moral of the story is; be careful what you say!