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Meaning of Sifu

The first lesson to learn when embarking on your kung fu journey is the meaning of Sifu (師父). In modern times, the word "Sifu" is synonymous with the title of a kung fu master. The Sifu has mastered a kung fu style and passes down his skills and knowledge not only of the art form, but also cultural etiquette to his students. The Sifu also teaches his student to respect others and to be respected.

Literally translated as “teaching father,” the Sifu not only teaches but nurtures his/her disciples in a close family relationship. Sifu technically should only be addressed as “Sifu” by disciples signifying the close relationship. Other students should technically address the Sifu as Lō Si (老師). However nowadays, Sifu is used generally for the kung fu master you learn from. Students are the ones who address their teacher as Sifu. Those who are not students of Sifu will add the Sifu’s name after the title (or before the title in Chinese).

In Chinese, Sifu is not an exclusive term for kung fu, but can also be used with any teacher-disciple relationship. Not to make it more confusing, those in the profession with a technical skill set can also be addressed as Sifu (師傅). Please note that it’s a different Chinese character, where it means teacher/instructor.

Stay tuned for the second lesson in kung fu: the meaning of kung fu.

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