In Chinese tradition, the present and the future are directly linked to the past. In the Kung Fu school, the knowledge and skill you learn today are the result of hard work and serious training done by the ancestors of the system.
Because knowledge (once understood) can never be taken away from you, it is something which should be treated with respect. So respect is shown to those people that impart this knowledge to us. Who are these people? Our wing Chun ancestors; those that teach this knowledge to the present generation, your sifu’s; and those who assist you in furthering your skills and knowledge, your training partners both senior and junior to you.
Showing respect to other people is an integral part of Wing Chun training and the physical symbol we use to show this respect is the Wing Chun courtesy or bow. By showing respect to others at all times during your training you will find that this habit of respecting others then flows to other parts of your life. This respect of all people is also reiterated in the Wing Chun student pledge.
The titles we use in the training hall also have the value of recognising a persons effort and dedication to the art. It is a reminder that this dedication should be recognised and that they are an ally in your journey of self discovery not an advisory. Your teachers or Sifu’s are there to guide you and will be your greatest supporter as they respect your efforts and see you as the next generation to pass on the system. So as you can see the courtesy/respect flows both ways.
As knowledge is learnt in the training hall, it too should be treated with respect. Upon first entering, and or when leaving the training hall, students should courtesy towards the picture of Ip Man. This small gesture shows respect to our ancestors who have gifted us the system of Wing Chun and shows our respect to the place where this wisdom is honed.
The use of courtesy upon entering the training hall also has a secondary use. Performing a courtesy upon arrival at training is a very effective way to begin focusing on the training you are about to do. It is a physical symbol that you can use to leave the stresses of the day outside of the hall and to concentrate on the time you spend there. As you can see this tradition may seem old fashioned but it is a potent tool to help you learn to focus your efforts on what you are doing now. This teaches the student a valuable method to reduce stress and improve concentration.
Respect to the place where knowledge is gained has also traditionally been shown by students keeping their training hall clean and tidy. The cleanliness of the training hall has always been a way to show respect to all that use the space. This habit of respecting common equipment and space is soon transferred into everyday life.
The expectation of the Kung Fu student is always to keep their training hall tidy. Small gestures such as stacking and cleaning the pads. Placing bags in the correct area. Placing rubbish in the bins provided. Leaving shoes neatly at the door and out of the way of others. And if you make a mess cleaning it up immediately. It is also an example to new students on how to behave.
The outward show of respect is just one way traditional martial arts positively influences its practitioners in all parts of their life. It’s importance and use is an integral part of the training as you develop as a martial artist. You will find as this habit grows at training, and then into everyday life, showing people respect has an amazing effect on our relationships and dealings with all people in life. It reminds us how it makes us feel when we are shown courtesy and thus it should always be shown to others. It is subtle and with practice, is easy to do. This is one way a martial artist develops as a person and becomes a more positive influence in the world.