What is Bai Si Discipleship?
Updated: May 19
By Vanessa Brown Park (易群)
The Bai Si ceremony, which facilitates the transition from student to disciple of one’s Sifu, represents a momentous step in one’s kung fu journey. This dual commitment between Sifu and student is a binding union wherein a student accepts their Sifu as their primary teacher and dedicates themself not only to serious martial arts training but also to living the full kung fu lifestyle.
When a student begins training under a Sifu, their interest or commitment to the art may be casual. While first learning forms and developing techniques, they are focused largely on their individual progress. The more they train, however, the more they begin to place importance on practicing consistency and discipline, working hard alongside their peers, and treasuring the teachings they have received. This shift from the individual to the communal mindset prepares a student to receive even more from their Sifu.
It is when a student demonstrates the values most important to a deeper understanding of the art—loyalty, patience, morals, and a heart for helping others in the kung fu family—that they prove their candidacy for becoming a disciple.
Through the Bai Si ceremony the Sifu takes on the student as their own family, promising to nurture their growth, while the student pledges to carry on the teachings of the Sifu. Once accepted as a disciple, the rest of their kung fu journey stretches far ahead of them. A Sifu gives their disciple everything, including the full breadth of their knowledge, insights, and experiences. This necessitates that the disciple no longer prioritizes their progress alone, but thinks about the fate and well-being of the kung family, as well as the legacy of their Sifu’s instruction. Upon becoming a disciple, a students receives both important responsibilities and also incredible privileges.
Disciples are afforded a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of their art. They are trained in techniques and styles not available to general students. All of this is given in addition to a Sifu’s personalized gift and kung fu family name.
The differences between a student and a disciple include loyalty and commitment to the kung fu family, the promise to care for their Sifu and their school to the greatest extent possible, the responsibility of looking after the students that come after them, and the full riches of their Sifu’s accumulated knowledge. As a student develops the qualities of a good disciple, they will find that besides their own kung fu, they also value living a kung fu lifestyle, in which these responsibilities are fulfilled and these privileges enjoyed for the entirety of their kung fu journey.