Respect for the Class, Respect for the School
By Tony Bujas
"Respect for the Class, Respect for the School, Respect for the Students, Respect for the Instructors, Respect for the Sifu." Plain, simple, straight-forward and to the point, right? However, I've noticed it can easily get overlooked, not necessarily intentionally, but easily enough just the same.
In this day and age martial arts classes world-wide are run in a variety of ways. Some find a hard traditional approach appropriate and for some a more modern day casual style works. Particular classes within the same school may use varied approaches, for example, a children's class may be stricter than a seniors class, and other adult classes may fall somewhere in between. No matter the teaching style, there are guidelines to follow: written club rules, using common sense and being in synch with unwritten rules and protocols. If the correct message is not getting through properly then education, directly spelling it out so to speak is necessary. This is a good thing!
When "Sifu" is conducting a class, students typically bow in, follow along, listen to Sifu of course, practice and bow out. If any issues come up where they could no longer participate in the class they would tell sifu and bow out. During the class, there are times when sifu is busy and the students, generally instructors, would assist in taking care of any particulars that arise. Of course this also gives time for the students to brush up and practice on their own. Plain, simple, straight-forward and to the point, maintaining: "Respect for the Sifu, Respect for the Instructors, Respect for the Students, Respect for the Class, and Respect for the School."
When Sifu is absent or taking care of other necessities, he will generally leave an instructor in charge of a particular class and perhaps a different instructor in charge of another class. This is standard procedure. The leader left in charge should be granted the same respect by the class as afforded to the Sifu, also other instructors partaking of that class need to offer the same respect as well. If an ego issue is present then quite simply the student or instructor not wanting to follow the assigned leader should not bow in at the start of class. They can then either leave, wait for the next class or practice quietly on their own in the back if there is room. If they have already bowed in or the Sifu had to leave part way through starting the class and assigned a instructor to replace him, then, simply, the affected person should come up to the new leader and bow out. They can then either leave, wait for the next class or practice quietly on their own in the back if there is room.
With Sifu absent, you do not want anyone taking advantage of the fact that he/she is not there. Students and Instructors need to follow the assigned leader just as if Sifu was there. There is no need to slack off. There is no need to congregate in little groups and chat it up for prolonged periods of time, taking up practice floor space better utilized by those more diligent. There is no need to selectively take part in only those portions of the class you like. There is no need to find other things to attend to and flit in and out of class, being a disturbance. There is no need to show disrespect to the assigned leader by not bowing to them at the end of the class. There is no need for ego to be in the way. There is a need for protocol, compliance, understanding and compassion. There is a need for "Respect for the Class, Respect for the School, Respect for the Students, Respect for the Instructors, Respect for the Sifu."
Another thing to understand is that "testing" can be going on anytime. Sifu will test your response to certain situations, questions and issues. Sifu will test your leadership ability and see how you do when left in charge of a class, or project. He will see if you will ask for help if it is needed. He will also allow you to make your mistakes and see if you learn from them. He will test instructors in a similar fashion, do they give new assigned leaders freedom to learn and try "their" way, or will they butt in and try to take over? Will they give unasked for help or provide guidance and feedback when it is asked for? Will they do it discreetly? Will they timely step in if a breach of conduct or major calamity occurs? Sifu will also guide you towards the right direction, watching you grow and handle the new responsibilities placed on your shoulders, observing your self-confidence improve, fostering your self-respect. You still need to see clearly, and to do that, remember: "Respect for the Class, Respect for the School, Respect for the Students, Respect for the Instructors, Respect for the Sifu."