Sometimes when I am reading posts here and there I wonder - are Americans so gullible? In the past two weeks there have been posts by people from my own country announcing the arrival of such-and-such Grandmaster on the scene, ready to take students. One of them has even created a new system, of which he is the Grandmaster, along with a Daoist sounding name!
Is this how Chinese martial arts must be marketed in the West? Does not skill in the art and teaching count?
This in no way implies anything about the skills of the teachers - I do not know them, and they may very well have good skills - but to call oneself Grandmaster, and put on such airs, would be absurd in China.
In China we never hear this term "Grandmaster". I always thought it was a Western concept, as in Western Chess (Bobby Fisher and Boris Spasky were Grandmasters according to the ranking systems of international Chess - the title had some actual meaning, like "Heavyweight Champion").
In China we call teachers "Laoshi" or "Jiaotou" or even just "Xiansheng ("mister")" , especially if we are not students of them. If we or are teacher are very old fashioned we might call them "Shifu" out of respect - but that implies a certain relationship. There is no term like Grandmaster in China - our teachers teacher is our Grandteacher, but that is a relationship within a school or group, not a title. The same is true of the term "Zhangmenren" - this is the head of a school or (by agreement with others within the system) the person who has authority to represent the system to the public. It does not follow that this person is the most highly skilled in the system - usually he is the most educated or most personable. Perhaps the closest to the term Grandmaster the way Americans seem to use it is "chuanren", which means someone who has (again, by agreement or designation) authority to teach the system.
I would implore these teachers (and their students) to re-examine their motives in using such titles - it does not reflect well on them, and in turn it makes CMA look silly as well.
(Many thanks to Ms. Rose Selavy for translation help)