Every 3 years all Wah Lum instructors take the Sifu test, even if they have previously certified. Why? Standards. In order to maintain the highest standards and quality of instruction, we are all required to test in front of Grandmaster Chan and our peers. Yes, even I have to test! This weekend, my kung fu brothers and I will be testing in front of Grandmaster Chan to ensure that we are teaching in accordance with the high standard of the Wah Lum System. In 1 week, all of the instructors from around the world will be coming to the Temple and will be doing the same. Some instructors will be testing for the first time, while for others it may be there 10th test! For those of you who are good at math, that is at least 30 years in the system as a Sifu! Why would we require someone who has been in the system for 30 years to test? Standards.
Personally, I enjoy the test experience and use it to hold myself accountable. I speak to my kung fu brothers often, and believe we all feel the same. There is no pressure from Grandmaster Chan, but rather for us to hold ourselves accountable, to continue learning, and to be a student first. Each instructor who intends to certify writes Grandmaster Chan a letter of intent. In my letter, I outlined the reasons I intend to test. Beyond being certified to teach, I strive to constantly learn and improve. It keeps me humbled, helps me be a better teacher, and reminds me that I am a student first. As many school owners will tell you, it is a treat to be a student again. As a Sifu, you spend most of your time attending to your students needs, and our own training becomes second priority. Although being a teacher is fulfilling in so many ways, it is important for me to continuously learn and be challenged. Believe me, the Sifu test is a challenge. The test lasts 3 full days, and covers everything in the Wah Lum System. We test forms, weapons, self defense, applications, philosophy, and teaching methods. It is also like a family reunion for us, and a wonderful weekend of camaraderie. I truly look forward to it every 3 years, and wish we could do it more often. Wah Lum is one of the few kung fu systems that has instructor certification every three years, and I feel we are stronger for it. Those that do not renew their certification are no longer licensed or sanctioned to teach Wah Lum. Why? Standards. If an instructor does not maintain the Wah Lum standard, we do not feel they are qualified to continue representing the style. Grandmaster Chan has set high standards, but I feel that we should strive to always improve. (see full listing of qualified instructors here)
How does a Sifu prepare for a test? The same way a student does. Practice! As the test is only every 3 years, we have 3 years to prepare. I am not certain everyone uses the 3 years for test prep, but I can tell you that one year out, they have already begun preparing. Many instructors start coming to the Temple for private training… and to get away from their students ;). Since the instructors come to the Temple to do their reviews, that means the Sifu Tu and I always have to be ready. Although we are ‘ready’ year round, we still value our own training time to
work on our personal training growth and goals. We also teach a seminar during the test weekend. Last year it was an honor for me to teach the seminar. I taught an advanced form to the group (it has my signature move: the butterfly), and although it was a lot of fun, it was exhausting after three 12 hour days of kung fu!
It is challenging for me to get ‘my time’ being a student. So I end up going on a 27 day trip to train! Sometimes it seems like literally leaving the country is the only way I am able to practice my kung fu. I will leave my test prep training tips for a future Kung Fu POD episode, if anyone is interested let me know. In the meantime, I have to go prep for my test. Wish me luck!
3 thoughts on “Test Prep”
Good luck to all. Have an enjoyable weekend. Justin
I understand the need for standards, but in the end such policies will become exclusionary to older instructors who can no longer perform the most difficult maneuvers. These teachers still possess wisdom and still have value. I believe that once such a high level as Sifu has been achieved, it should not be stripped away just because age or injury has reduced the instructor’s level of performance. Things that are possible at twenty will become impossible at fifty. That is the way of nature. Thank you for your reply.
Erik, the test is not a performance test. It is a teaching test. Therefore, those that can show they have the ability to teach the material to the standard that Grandmaster Chan sets are granted the permission to do so. Teaching and performing are not the same thing. We have several instructors who are injured or have limitations that are still teaching today. As a matter of fact, the majority are in their senior years and continue to test. The Wah Lum standard is unlike any other and one does not maintain their ‘Sifu status’ because it was achieved it once. A Sifu has to be humble enough to continue to grow and learn because kung fu is an endless journey. In order to be a good Sifu one should always be a student first.