Western people who follow the Chinese martial arts, especially those who make a life out of them, are in big troubles with the inflation of the term “sifu”. The problem: if you accept that any muscled poser who learned three moves on YouTube calls himself “master”, then you need some hyperboles to define the good masters (or even the not-so-bad ones).
And so after the “Master” (often capitalized, in good accounts) appeared the “Grandmaster” and now – I discover on Facebook – the inflation has gone far beyond. Not only many well-known, passed away teachers are called “Great Grandmaster” (which is out of place, anyway), but also some alive and active ones (which is worse), including some not-so-good (in terms of skills, forms, lineage, knowledge of the art, etcetera) ones. What’s next? A “Great Great Great Great… Grandmaster”? “Hypermaster”? “Awesome Great Grandmaster”? Or “The Ultimate Greatmaster” (at least this would be the very last hyperbole)?
I had a real master, mr. Chan Hon Chung, whom I followed from 1977 until the day he wasn’t able to teach anymore. He gave me the richest experience of my life, but for me he is still only “Chan sifu”, “master Chan”. If one is a true master there’s no need of other adjectives. His life, his teaching, what he has left to people who have had the luck to deal with him are enough to qualify him. Adjectives on steroids do not add to his value.
So, please, do not define “Great Grand Master” my master Chan Hon Chung. He was really great, so he does not deserve adjectives inflated and/or shared with the troops.