A Tradition of Respect
Etiquette is an expression of respect. All cultures have ways of showing respect. Most martial arts come from east Asia, which includes China, Korea and Japan, where customs and culture differ from our own. There are also different customs within our own culture, for example, lifestyles in New England differ from those in California. While this is not east Asia, there are some martial arts customs which are universal and show respect for the origins of martial arts. These customs are followed by the Academy.
When entering or leaving any martial arts studio one bows, usually at the entrance facing into the studio. This bow can be directed to: a master or senior teacher present in the room; a flag which can either be a country's flag or the school banner; the space itself; or a picture of a teacher or past teacher. At the Vermont Kung Fu Academy, we generally bow when entering or leaving the workout space. Bowing between teacher and students at the beginning and end of class is also customary.
Addressing a Teacher
There are two words for teacher in Chinese, one is sifu and the other is laoshi. Sifu refers to a teacher of an art form. This term is most often used to address a martial arts teacher. Laoshi is used to address a teacher in the academic sense, although it can also be used for a martial arts teacher. Always address a teacher of Kung Fu, regardless of their ethnic origin by either sifu or laoshi, unless they indicate otherwise. Teachers of Japanese styles are generally addressed as sensei. If you are unsure of how to address a teacher Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Sir are appropriate. At the Academy, Sifu Makaris does not mind being addressed by his first name.