Ultimately the success of a student is not determined by his or her external abilities, (strength, speed, flexibility, etc.,) but rather by the student’s morality and character. This is known as Muduk. The Chinese have a saying “A student will spend years looking for a good teacher, and a teacher will test a student for years .”
 The wise student knows that it is better to seek out a good teacher for several years rather than study under a mediocre teacher for any amount of time. A good teacher will lead you to the right path and will help you build a strong foundation for your future training.  A teacher who is not qualified will not help you build a strong foundation but will give you bad habits. Good teachers will always set a good example for students in spiritual and moral virtue.  Good martial art teachers teach not only martial techniques, but also a way of life. From the point of a teacher, it is very hard to find good students.  When people first start studying they are usually enthusiastic and sincere, willing to accept discipline.  However, as time passes, the teacher begins to see what that person is really like and many times, this is quite different from when they started. Because of this, an observant teacher will spend years watching and testing students before they decide to trust them with the “inner secrets” of Shaolin.  This was especially so in ancient times when martial arts were used in wars. Martial morality is called “Muduk.”  Teachers have long considered Wude to be the most important criterion for judging students, and therefore have placed an emphasis on it as part of the training.
Wude includes two aspects:
Morality of Deed
Morality of Mind
Morality of Deed includes five elements:
Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust and Loyalty
Morality of Mind also consists of five elements:
Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience and Courage
Traditionally, only those students who had cultivated these standards of morality or Wude, were considered to be “worthy” of being taught Shaolin.
Morality of deed is most important to the teacher as it concerns the student’s relationship with the Master, their fellow students, other martial artists and the general public.  Students who are not moral in their actions are not worthy of being taught since they cannot be trusted nor respected.  Furthermore, without morality of deed they may abuse the art and use their fighting ability to harm innocent people.  Therefore Masters will watch their students carefully for a long time until they are sure that the student meets their standards of morality of deed before allowing them to start any serious training.
Morality of mind is for self-cultivation, which is required for reaching the final goal.  The Chinese consider that we have two minds – an emotional mind and a wisdom mind.  Usually when a person fails in anything it is because the emotional mind has dominated his or her thinking. The five elements, within the morality of mind, are the keys to training and they lead the student to the stage where the wisdom mind can dominate.
Respect – Respect is the foundation of Wude.   Respect makes harmonious relationships possible; your teacher, your fellow students, other martial artists, your family and even in business. However, the most important respect is self-respect; the relationship you have with yourself.  If you can’t respect yourself, how can you respect others or expect them to respect you?  Respect must be earned, as you cannot ask for it nor demand it.
Humility – Humility comes from controlling your feelings of pride. In China it is said: “Satisfaction looses, humility earns benefits.”  When you are satisfied with yourself, you will not think deeply, you will not be willing to learn and growth is stunted.  However, if you remain humble, you will always be looking for ways to better yourself, and you will continue learning.  Remember, there is no limitation to knowledge.  It doesn’t matter the depth you have reached, there is always a deeper level. Confucius said, “If three people walk by, there must be one of them who can be my teacher.” There is always someone who is more talented or more knowledgeable than you in some field.
Righteousness – Righteousness is a way of life. Righteousness means that if there is something you should do, you don’t hesitate to take care of it. And if there is something that you should not do, you don’t get involved with it. Do what is right. Your wisdom mind should be the leader, not your emotional mind.  If you can do this, then you will feel clear spiritually and will avoid being plagued by feelings of guilt.  If you can demonstrate this element, you will be able to avoid negative influences and naturally earn the trust of others.
Trust – Trust includes being trust worthy, and also trusting yourself.  You must develop a personality that other people can trust. For example, you should not make promises lightly – but if you do make a promise, you should fulfill it.  Trust is the key to friendship.  The trust of a friend is hard to gain, but easy to lose. Self-trust is the root of confidence. You must learn to build up your confidence and demonstrate it externally. Only then can you earn the trust and respect of others. In China it is said: “Those who respect themselves will also be respected, and those who trust themselves will also be trusted.”
Loyalty – Loyalty is the root of trust.  You should be loyal to your Sifu and to your friends, and they should also be loyal to you.  Loyalty lets mutual trust grow. Shaolin tradition have long understood the importance of loyalty between the student and the teacher.  Their loyalty is built upon a foundation of obedience to the Masters.  Obedience is the prerequisite for learning. If you sincerely desire to learn, you must relinquish yourself to your Sifu. When you bow to your Sifu, do so both mentally and spiritually, only then will the gates of trust open.  A Sifu will not teach someone who is always concerned about their own pride.
Kung Fu Ettiquette
There are certain protocols which should be observed in Kung Fu whether in the school (gwoon) or upon meeting others. The first is how to address your instructor/ teacher/ fellow classmates.
Sijo Chan Heung.
The Founder of a system is usually referred to as the “Sijo” and is also known as the first Generation of that style or “Mun Pai”.

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Sifu Lane                                                                                   Sifu Jeremy
“Sifu” is a term that is usually used to address the head of a school or teacher who has attained that rank. In bygone eras, especially in China, children were bought to a reputable and honourable “Sifu” not only to learn “Kung Fu” but also to be taught respect and good morals. In other words the Sifu was not only responsible for the persons physical well being but also his mental and character development. It was also up to the Sifu to teach the traditions and culture to his students to enable them to be good citizens and serve their communities and country. This is why the term, “Sifu”, is commonly referred to as a “fatherly figure”. This term in times gone by was only used by students or disciples who had participated in a “Bai Si” ceremony. In modern times it is used as a mark of respect to a teacher from another school or style. This term in modern context is also used in non martial arts circles to denote a person who has mastered a skill or craft. All students are often referred to as “To Dai”.
If your Sifu has a wife, she should be addressed as “Simu”, even if she does not practice martial arts. Your Sifu’s teacher should be addressed as “Sigung”. People who are the same generation as your Sifu e.g your Sifu’s kung fu brothers should be addressed as “Sisuk” or if he is older than your Sifu , “Sibak”. A person of the opposite gender from your Sifu’s generation should be addressed as “Sisum”, the equivalent of “Aunty”.

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Sihing John

When you are in the Gwoon, older/senior kung fu brothers should be addressed as “Sihing”, older/senior kung fu sisters “Sijie”, younger classmates “Sidai” (males), younger kung fu sisters “Simoi”.
Note that these terms are using the Cantonese pronunciation!

Other formalities that should be observed upon meeting and  greeting a person from an older generation is to shake hands with both hands. In times when you couldn’t discern who was friendly or foe, this was important as an unknown person who greeted you with one hand could easily have a concealed a knife hidden in his other hand behind his back. Also during the “Qing Dynasty” there were secret signs devised which would readily identify if one was  friendly or otherwise. In Choy Lee Fut, the Founder Chan Heung, devised certain actions which immediately enabled fellow stylists “Hung Mourn” to be recognised even if you were from a different school. These “secret signs” were using sounds uttered orally when performing specific techniques. The aim of these secret signs would ensure that you were not in conflict with persons from the same “Mun Pai”(similar organisation). For example when executing a kick the sound “dek” was made, using a tiger claw, “wak”. Another sign when greeting a fellow martial artist was to use the left hand in form of a buddha palm and the right hand to from a panther fist. This sign was often used by the “Ming revolutionaries or resistance fighters” during the Qing Dynasty, as being a revolutionary was punishable by death, the most common  of which was beheading.
Upon entering a school or Gwoon, one should always pay respect to the Founder and previous generations by bowing towards the altar, if there is one – usually there are photos of previous members from past generation instructors who are deceased. Or in some schools “sun pai” or spiritual tablets of the deceased are place on the altar.
Teachers /disciples of that school should pay respect by lighting incense, performing 3 bows at the altar and then placing the incense in the incense bowl. The incense should be placed vertically in one movement into the urn using one hand with the other hand placed on the wrist guiding the first hand. Never place incense one at a time into the urn. The incense should never be placed in the incense bowl or urn if it is extinguished, re-light the incense prior to performing the bows.
Prior to beginning a class, pay respect to the Founder, and then the teacher in charge of the class by saluting. This is especially relevant when you are late, await the teacher in charge of the class for  permission before joining the class. If you are leaving the class always observe the above etiquette before removing oneself from “the floor”. This will also allow the teacher in charge to be aware of any potential problems that may arise after you leave the floor.

Traditionally, Kung Fu students are classified into three groups or circles. The outermost group of students are often referred to as “lay students”. These are often transient students who may come and go over a period of time. This group is commonly referred to as “Pu Tung Dai Ji”or “ordinary students”.
The second group/circle of followers are usually known as “Yup Mourn Dai Ji” This group of followers have a more serious attitude toward their training in wanting to learn more about the system and are usually invited to participate in the “Bai Si” ceremony. This group usually comprises most of the “family” members.
The third and innermost circle are usually comprised of loyal and faithful and dedicated long term disciples who promise to promote and continue on with the family traditions and teachings. These are commonly referred to as Inner Chamber Disciples or “Yup Sut Dai Ji”. Most of these disciples have been followers for more than 10 years and have access to the highest levels of training and knowledge about the system.

“Bai Sun” – paying Homage to the Ancestors
In most cultures whether ancient or modern , there is always a method or ritual dedicated to paying respect to the ancestors/spirts or “God(s)”  In Christian societies this ritual may be in the form of the “token”consumption of the “biscuit” and the drinking of the “wine” at Church on Sunday.
This is especially important in the Chinese culture and the way this is done is by the placing incense as well as “offerings” of food and drink in the form of tea and “wine” at an altar. Many traditional Schools or Gwoons usually have a “Sun Toi” or “spiritual altar” located at the front of the school where an incense bowl/urn is placed. Also you may find placed above the “altar” pictures or photos of  people who may have contributed to the “style” or school and have now “departed” from our world. Again in “older” schools if there are no photos or portraits of these people, you may find “spiritual tablets with the names of the person written upon them.

In traditional “Kung Fu” schools, apart from the ancestors altar, you will also find an altar dedicated to “Gwan Gung” or “Gwan Dai”, who is  known in Chinese culture as being a “Hero” as well as an honourable and righteous person. Gwan Gung’s altar is always located in a position that is “higher” than all other altars as he is also recognised as being the patron “saint” in “Kung Fu” folklore.
Prior to the commencement of class, first one must pay respect to “Gwan Gung” and then pay respect to the “Sijo” or Founder of the style and previous ancestors. This is usually done by the “lighting” of incense sticks “kowtowing” or bowing three times at each altar and then placing the incense into the bowl or urn provided. The process I have described above. Offerings placed on the altar may consist of fruit usually apples, oranges placed on a plate.

On “special” occasions such as the Founders birthday, the altar may be decorated in a special way. This may consist of draping a red coloured table cloth over the altar and then placing the offerings upon the table. Offerings may be in the form of poultry, fish, pork and buns and even bowls of fruit. Also placed on the altar are three cups for tea and three cups for wine, three chopsticks and 2 large red wax coloured joss sticks.
Some altars may even have “olden type” Chinese coins placed upon the table to bring prosperity to both the “spirits” as well the living. It is also important that the bottle of wine and the teapot that used for the “offerings” is not placed on the altar.
It is also important in Chinese culture that if you are using poultry and fish as an offering, the chicken must be whole i.e. it must still retain its head, feet and be placed “belly “down with the head facing towards the ancestors. The fish must also be placed with the head facing the rear of the altar. If fruit is used as an offering it is important that there are no multiples of 4 as this is considered “bad luck” in Chinese culture. Another important “offering” is in the form of “symbolic money”. This is usually consists of brown and gold coloured paper.


Each school’s ceremony may differ according to regional and geographical influences. Formal ceremonies may even include members from the Chinese Masonic societies performing rituals and citing special incantations for that ceremony. For example when performing the “Hoi Kong”or awakening or blessing of a new lion, there are protocols in place which must be observed. A school must NEVER use a lion to demonstrate if it has not been officially “awakened or blessed” as this is considered bad luck. A lion must be infused with the energy and spirit of the school prior to its first outing in public. Even at a “hoi kong” ceremony, it is important that after the awakening of the lion, it must first pay homage top the altar of “Gwan Gung” before returning to pay homage to the Founder.

As far as the act of performing the actual movements of the Bai Sun, this may differ again according to the school or ceremony. On the occasion of the Founders birthday, it is not uncommon for the participant to bow down while “sitting” on their knees. As they “prostrate” themselves forward in performing the bows, the hands are placed down with the back of the hands on the floor and the open palms facing upwards toward the heavens. The significance of this act is to offer respect/recognition to the heaven and the earth.
Even the way the incense sticks are held have significance. For example when paying respect to the “spirits” at an altar, the “normal” way is to hold the incense vertically with 2 hands and bring them to the centre of your forehead before bowing.
In certain Kung Fu circles, i.e when performed by Inner Chamber disciples, the incense sticks are placed horizontally between the 2 thumbs and index fingers with the 2 palms held in what is commonly known as a “Buddha palm” position.