I ask because it is commonly regarded as having the exact sense of Sensei, of Master, or Teacher, but these don't convey the full meaning. Sensei, for instance, shares the same characters as the Chinese xiānshēng 先生, which is distinct from the two sets of characters used for Shifu, 师父 and 师傅.

Wikipedia gives the facts, I'm looking for the context, to better understand the Chinese tradition, and how it is expressed in the contemporary generations.

  • What are the meanings and connotations of the term Shifu? What is implied?

Chinese martial arts were not really taught to westerners in the US prior to the late 1960's, so this may be the first generation in the west fully separate from the old country.

  • Are contemporary Chinese martial arts teachers using different terms based on the different dynamics in contemporary and western culture?

For instance, in a modern wushu context, a teacher may be a coach to generations wushu competitors, but only Shifu to a small number of students. Wu Bin is famous example—his status comes as a coach specifically, not a shifu of a lineage per se. (He is the Chinese equivalent of Bill Belichick:)


1 Answer 1


A Shifu is technically a Master in something. It is not only applied to Martial Arts either. When someone masters an art, trade or skill, they can be considered a Shifu. That is, they have achieved the highest form of a certain skill.

Being a Shifu generally also means you have enough knowledge to teach others in the art, trade or skill. However, not every Shifu is a teacher or coach.

To be a Coach and a Shifu, you do need to be able to actually teach the art, skill or trade you mastered. And teaching is a skill in and of itself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.