Sifu Rebecca Knapp, Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

By Sifu Rebecca Knapp

Adult Student’s Corner

In Part 1, we talked about the pervasiveness of this concept in kung fu, and we discussed some different facets of respect, in a quest for a deeper understanding of its meaning. Onward…

Why is respect important?

  • Respect keeps us from hurting what we ought to value.
  • Much of the universal values and virtues that affirm our human dignity, and contribute to the good of the individual and society are derived from the values of respect and responsibility.
  • We need respect to successfully work together–whether you are on a project at work, or countries coming together to solve the world’s problems. We can’t make meaningful, sustainable progress as individuals, a
  • group, a society, a country, or a world, without mutual respect.
  • From a kung fu perspective, respect is a pre-cursor to trust. This is a place where people can be seriously hurt, and their training can be limited, in the absence of trust. Think about having to partner with someone you do not trust. Think about taking direction from a Sifu if there is no respect. It is important as fellow students, and critical as instructors, to foster respect, so we can support our traditions, and create an atmosphere of trust.
  • Most importantly, being respectful is simply the right thing to do–it makes everyone feel good at the end of the day.

Thoughts on Being Respectful

Recognize that the desire to be respected is universal. There are, however, individual and cultural nuances that have an impact on a person’s perception of respect.

Respect is a given in our academy. Start there.

Error on the side of collectively respectful behaviour: Please and thank-you, pardon me, May I help you, excuse me, shaking hands/bowing, paying attention, using appropriate language and behaviour, maintaining personal space, not being suggestive or overpowering, maintaining neutrality, and acceptance vs. judgement…just to name a few! Above all, make it genuine, or don’t bother.

You don’t have to like someone to treat them respectfully. No one can make you like another person, but as a citizen of our society and a member of this academy, we can insist that you treat everyone in a respectful manner.

Remember that acceptance does not equal agreement. You can accept a person, even if you do not agree with his/her ideals, values, principles and opinions. If you can accept people as they are, then you will be able to treat them with respect. Think of it this way: That person is not my friend or is not like me, or does not share my beliefs, values etc, but he/she is a human being with a right to his/her own opinions, feelings and preferences, and even if they are in conflict with mine, I do not have the right to treat him/her with anything other than genuine respect.

In its simplest terms, it’s back to The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Not so complicated after all!