What is a Sifu?

Today is my Sifu’s training anniversary. One of the things that these arts have taught me is to honor, pay respect to, and remember those who have shaped my life. To honor, decisions that people have made in the past, that were honorable, were long lasting and filled with heart.  My Sifu-student relationship has by far been the most unique and long lasting relationship in my life (Not including family, Hi Mom!). I have been profoundly lucky to have wandered into something so dense with life and fulfilling on so many levels. In our culture, in this modern age, there are no real examples of this kind of relationship. Is he my friend? Yes, though in the hierarchy of important parts of the relationship that is less important. Many times in my training if I were to hold that part in too much regard it would get in the way of my learning.

Here is the problem, looking at this relationship, from our cultural perspective. A Sifu doesn’t just teach movement skills,  meditative skills, craft or art. That is only what he is teaching.  A Sifu, by way of movement skills , meditation skills, craft and art (and  many things I am unaware of ) leads your body/mind to a place of our common humanity, a place that we could not see without the Sifu’s pointing and suggesting that we look.  Let me be clear, it is like trying to teach the difference between Taupe and Mauve to a person deprived of their sight, or teaching a student how to feel/embody the difference between Mozart and Stravinsky without using their ears. And yet, tirelessly and though emotional trauma and the student’s endless frustrations these  riddles unfold and part of themselves they would have defended with their lives saying “It IS Not There”, suddenly appears. Not only that but they could see that it was clearly in front of them all along!!!!! And the Sifu was correct! He wasn’t  just yanking their chains! He could see it all along. He could see you couldn’t see it. Whew! That is a profound relationship. It is a relationship that is based upon trust even in the face of your own ignorance and ego. If the Sifu says to stand on your head and stack greasy bb’s he probably has a reason. For me over the last 29 or so years, everything he has pointed me towards brought me to the new place of understanding. Some happen quickly, some unfold slowly.  Some are quantifiable some more abstract. There are many things I I just have not been able to see yet! It is in the trusting that he has done the work, walked the walk and continues to learn for himself, and that his only desire is that I get to see it for myself, someday, when I am ready to see it. Why? Because these parts of us are essential parts of our human nature. So he keeps pointing. Day after day , year after year.

Ask yourself what does it feel like to be wrong?  Give it a little time….

Ok? Now, I am going to answer this for you. It feels the same as being right!!!!!

It is finding out you are wrong that jars us, makes up cringe. Finding out we were wrong from the very beginning.  That is embarrassing, we fight it. It is profoundly uncomfortable. It takes honesty, and humility to admit that you didn’t understand and that you were wrong. It also takes love, patience, and kindness.  That is a Sifu’s job. To keep pointing at the Moon till you see the Moon and not the finger pointing at the Moon!  He or she only provides the circumstances to see the truth for yourself. You have to walk through the door, you have to do the work. For only you can make changes to your life and your perception. If the Sifu, is making it about himself, he is a fraud. If you are constantly reminded by the Sifu that he/she is the one making the changes in you, they are frauds. But if the Sifu leads you to places where you discover, (time and time again), hidden parts of your own life, and it feels like your own discovery. Stick around and let the unfolding of yourself happen for as long as you can.

This is why I honor this day that my teacher, my Sifu started training and eventually became mind/seal Lineage holder for the Laam Loong Pac Lineage. Sifu John Fey, who time after time has lead me to places in my training, that were only deeper places in my own body/mind.While keeping the long tradition of passing these lessons along from teacher to student. Always letting the discoveries be my own.

Oh, look! It’s the Moon! Look what I can see!

Thank you Sifu, For your Patience, Kindness, Truthfulness and Mental Fortitude. Also, thank you for your dedication to preserving ancient Arts that preserve essential parts of our human nature.

 

Beau Gustafson

Food Photographer from Denver Colorado, now living and working in Birmingham , Alabama. Food so good you will want to lick the screen.

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