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The term grandmaster is an English one. These appear to denote the founder of a system or the highest practitioner of the style, such as Grandmaster Wong Jack Man, Grandmaster Joseph Greenstein, and Grandmaster Paul Eng. claiming to be the head of their styles or their equal

The nomenclature of the English language evolves with time, and is subject to Western protocols; not Chinese; these include things that are based on merit and /or popularity.

The same thing happened in Karate with black belts that used to mean something; they do not now. Many modern day Westerners who claim to practice Traditional Chinese Martial Arts use belts also.

I studied with the grandmaster Okano of Nippon Kenko Juko Shotokan's system, that only had five level of Black Belt. Okano is a 5th Degree Black Belt that is more highly revered than others with 10 degrees of Black Belts. These styles have offered Grandmaster honorary degrees in their styles of 10th Degree Black Belt, which he has refused.

Some martial artists that cannot attain a high level of skill in a style give up, and instead start a new style and myopically decree themselves a grand master.

'I must point out here that the true reason Bruce (who was my student when he lived in Culver City and I was chief instructor of martial arts at Loyola University) started Jeet Kune Do was because he was unable to achieve instructor rank in ANY form of martial he went out and took bits and pieces and created his own.

I also have the first article he ever wrote for publication (for me when I was associate editor at Black Belt magazine). It was so poor we sent it back, an act that angered him to no end at that time. But once he moved here to get into movies and TV he realized he had no power ..... speed but no results. That's what he wanted from me. ... There is an internal side to the martial arts....esp. the Chinese arts which later were streamlined by the Japanese who lost the sense of internal until ch'an came to Japan as zen and they saw it as the perfect paradox of internal skill and killing.......but it is not what most are being taught today. It all changed in the mid 60s when people outside the Asian communities began to learn about martial arts....then came the prostitution, phony rankings, made-up school names and everything else that makes true MA so difficult to find these days.’

By Dr. William Upton-Knittle (Dr. William Upton-Knittle, senior coordinator of the UCLA Office of Summer Sessions Advertising and Marketing, was invited by government officials of the People's Republic of China to help plan fund-raising for a project known as the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Victory Memorial.)

Most of the TCIMA schools do not have any ranking system at all, except one. They gave a gray sash after 10-20 years to signify a serious and committed student.

Students lived martial arts, in and out of school, being in it for the long haul. The fruits of training were the energies and consciousnesses that they enabled. There was no need for a status driven, hierchial based belt system.

I did not have any knowledge of gong fu schools using belts in the 1960s and 70s, it was not till after the publicity and money of karate hit, that some schools adopted the belt system, many using the same color of karate belts for sashes.

The best of these schools, did not have mirrors either, one would look inside to the internal for improvement. If no progress was made, the student was not taught anything new, until he got it. Many of today's commercial martial farts schools would go broke like this.

Most of the better fighters; are not the ones with the fancy uniforms.

Rather than being in an exclusive neighborhood, some of the best martial arts schools are in bad neighborhoods. One has to be a good martial artist to attend. When one comes out of a school, such as this, hustlers stay away.

There are many times when a master will come into a school, and pretend to be a student. There are others who will minimize their skill, so that no one at their newly attended school, is afraid of them. If no one is afraid of them, they will be taught everything.

This is not to say that belts are not effective commercially or for children. One must decide on their priorities.

Value can be placed on the ability to do a move, or use a new energy, rather than a superficial status difference.

One can look at the apparent, the hidden, what is hidden in the apparent, the hidden in the apparent and the apparent of the hidden. This goes for moves, their energies, and the relationship between the moves. A belt system sets up a caste system based on superficials, with no common standard between schools or systems.

Some of the karate school’s green/blue belts would prevail in sparring over 75% of the area’s black belts. Another school I attended, the yellow belts would outdo 80% of the area’s black belts in a fight.

In issuing a belt, a school is putting a value system into a material, colored cloth. In issuing a check, a bank places a value system into colored paper.

When there is no enforceable martial standard for belts, value is only determined by the issuer. To another school, a belt may be no more than a bad check. A school sets up its own value system in adopting a belt system, beyond awards; many unaware of its long range, subtle and unintended consequences.

To be able to read a person based on what is in their eyes and how they stand, for some, is more important than a uniform, color or a trophy.

A peacock struts his colors, an assassin hides them.

Grandmothers can claim he grandmaster title now, since the grandmaster flash on automatically substituted the term grandmaster for grandmother.

Now that it is more profitable to teach kung fu, you will see teachers pontificate themselves through their students hyping them as a grandmaster, when their sifu is the true Grandmaster of their style, even while their Sifu is still alive; which is very disrespectful in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. This denigrates the term grandmaster and implies that the student is at the same ability of their Sifu. When the student has distinguished themselves independently with martial feats, matches with world famous fighters or in a war campaign, this might new title is well deserved as it is with Grandmaster Paul Eng, a former student of Grandmaster Wong Jack Man. Unfortunately their are other students of Grandmaster Wong Jack Man who are deceitfully having themselves promoted as a grandmasters without merit

A dancer of kung fu sets, a historian of kung fu, or a personal friend of a Grandmaster that does not make you a Grandmaster.

Sifu means your "teacher-father"; Grandmaster has meant forbearer, founder or the leading proponent of a system: not a parrot or girl friend!


  1. This is incorrect. The term "grandmaster" is a Chinese one, and is quite old. It refers to a person whose students have students, not to the founder of a style. However, only certain people should use the term, because it is not a title--or at least not any more than "grandfather" is a title. Though it has taken on other inaccurate meanings, such as "great master," it is absolutely a traditional Chinese term.

    In the classical Chinese arts, particularly in wushu, terms are familial. The only non-familial term is "Master" which is a title, and refers to a person who has "mastered" his or her chosen art--similar to how a person obtains a "masters degree" or how Leonardo DaVinci's students called him "Maestro." The Mandarin word for it is "Shifu" (Cantonese is "Sifu") and essentially means "expert tutor."

    The traditional terms are as follows:
    1. ShiFu 师傅 = Master = "Expert Tutor"
    2. ShiYe 师爷 (yeye is 'grandfather' in Mandarin) = Grandmaster = Master grandfather. It is NOT "DaShi 大师 " which means "great master" and I've never heard that term used in China.
    3. ShiDi 师弟 (didi is 'younger brother' in Mandarin) = Master younger brother
    4. ShiXiong 师兄 OR ShiGe 师哥 (xiongdi and gege are "elder brother" in Mandarin) = Master older brother
    5. ShiShu 师叔 (shushu is 'younger uncle' in Mandarin) = Master younger uncle
    6. ShiBo 师伯 (bobo is 'elder uncle' in Mandarin) = Master elder uncle

    There are similar terms for 'sister' that follow the same pattern, but they are not used in Wudang martial arts which view the terms for 'brothers' as unisex.

    In Wudang wushu, Master Bing is "my master" because he is the master that is responsible for my martial arts education, in the same way that "my professor" in college would be responsible for, say, my science education.

    A master's familial relationship to a student is that of the father. Your master (father) has brothers--and they are brothers because they studied under the same master (like blood brothers who have the same father.) He will refer to them as such. This makes them your uncles. So a "grandmaster " is your master's master (father's father)--which would make him your "grandfather."

    There is only one person I call "grandmaster" and that is Master Zhong Yun Long, because he is Master Bing's master. To call another master "Shiye," would be like calling my friend's grandfather "grandpa." From my perspective, it's disrespectful because that person should be referred to with their title which is "Master." We'd never call someone "Mr." or Mrs." if they've earned themselves a PhD. They'd be "Doctor" to us, because they earned it.

    So the only way you "earn" the title of "grandmaster" is if you have been teaching long enough that your students now have students, in the same way that your grandfather has been around long enough that his children now have children of their own. It means nothing more than that. It is not a title and it does not mean "great master," it's simply a familial term that is used in the Chinese classical arts--and that includes painting, music, and Daoism.
    by Jen Dart

    1. Dieser Kommentar wurde vom Autor entfernt.

    2. don't know about wudang arts, but here in Taiwan, we use Shifu, 師父, teacher-father, when we are officially accepted as a so-called indoor student. The master of any craftmenship is the one you listed under 1. I call any taxi driver, any craftsmen like that, to honour their knowledge in a certain field. --- Concerning the grading, I decry most strongly the mainland Chinese duanwei system, as it does start with a 1st Duan for beginners with 2, 3 yrs of practice. People with a 5th Duan are therefore 5th grade students, but not 5th grade masters and would be handed their asses, encountering 5th grade masters of any art.They probably believe they have a high master grade, in fact never ever earned the 1st black belt. For purposes of getting funding of the arts in public schools, we have 10 student grades, Ji 級, and 10 master grades, Duan 段. My master did receive his 10th degree after 70 yrs. in the arts, teaching 20000 People and writing 3 thick books, a honorary title. His lower mastergrades, he got for fighting with his soft art amongst harder styles. The Ji and Duan System never really made it into gongfu circles, and although I got 14 of them, I never ever use any. If necessary, I would prefer to show my international coaches licence for legitimatin. Quite a different thing, though!