This phrase, LMAA is a Family, is used contextually within the walls of The Academy. Personally I feel the terms of Kung Fu is needed in comparison to the terms of other arts. In Karate you have a Sensei, which normally translates to Master or loosely to Instructor. Terms such as Shodan or Shihan denotes what level of mastery your Instructor is at. Sempai is used for a senior or elder member of the school but is loosely used as Assistant Instructor. In Korean Sa Bum Nim is meant to denote the Master Instructor and Kyo Bum Nim is for any type of instructor. All of these terms are great within their own right and hold merit, yet they can sound impersonal.
The Kung Fu term used for expert in a field is Sifu. A Sifu has become synonymous with Master, but that's really based on the Japanese and Korean arts proximity influence. Sifu, is not meant to mean master, because the practitioner should never be in a mindset where their training is completed. Sifu means expert but when written with a hyphen (Si-Fu) that's your own personal mentor or Father/Mother of Kung Fu. Obviously the Si-Fu isn't your biological parent, (in most cases lol) but they are the Parent of The School. For most people the Si-Fu is the instructor that you learn under. Si-Fu is meant to be taken as your Kung Fu Parent. It's their knowledge that gives birth to a new way of fighting for yourself. Oft times you only have one Sifu, because that relationship is important. It's more of a personal connection, with a small ceremony of tea brewing and dinner preparations. The ceremony is intimate, because the connection is meant to be such.
Through the Si-Fu's knowledge of Kung Fu they give birth to many different Kung Fu practitioners within the Qwoon or Training Facility. These other practitioners are also given family terms in the Cantonese language. A male practitioner who started before you is referred to as your older kung fu brother and one who started after you have started training is your younger kung fu brother. The terms for these people under your Si-Fu is Si-Hing (Elder Brother) and Si-Dai (Younger Brother). This also applies to female practitioners who started before or after you. Si-Jie is for Elder Kung Fu Sister and Si-Mui is for Younger Kung Fu Sister. Your Si-Fu also has a Si-Fu and the Si-Fu to your Si-Fu is your SiGung, meaning that's your Kung Fu Grand Father/Mother. Just like you have an actual Grand Mother and Grand Father, whom if not for them you would have no parents, so it is in Kung Fu, if not for your Kung Fu Grand Parent, there would be no Si-Fu for you and you wouldn't be practicing the art under your Si-Fu which is why we also show honor and respect to the lineage of mentors as well.
LMAA is a Family because of the atmosphere of the training area. A student of Kung Fu is more than just a student or a customer, they are apart of a lineage of Kung Fu, an entire family of Kung Fu that dates back to the earliest practitioners. LMAA cares about you as an individual, not just how well you perform in tournaments, or how good your form looks. In fact, we care how well these things are because we care about you, not about accolades. Any help needed in any area of life, know that the Si-Fu is here to give it. The training area is where it begins, but the entire universe is our Qwoon (School), and whenever needed, just like family, call and we're there to help. A Si-Fu loves all of their students, and teaches them with the love and compassion that they need, sometimes tough love, but still love is at the root of the instruction.
Using family terms to describe the relationship between training partners makes it more personal and fitting. Many come from broken families, even if intact as far as structure, sometimes broken in terms of wants and needs from family members. If it's already perfect, then you just add on to the family through Kung Fu. For those that are looking for a little more, if there's a void to fill, someone in your Kung Fu family can fill it, only child, now you have siblings, want an older or younger sibling, now you have them, need a friend, a class full of them! So LMAA is a family, because Kung Fu is a system about family.
Below you'll find the Cantonese Words for the terms used to describe you and your relationship with your Kung Fu Family!
Si-Fu (With hyphen) - Your Personal Mentor
SiFu (No hyphen) - Expert in a field
SiHing - Older Kung Fu Brother
SiJie - Older Kung Fu Sister
SiDai - Younger Kung Fu Brother
SiMui - Younger Kung Fu Sister
SiGung - Your Si-Fu's Si-Fu
SiBak - Your Si-Fu's Older Kung Fu Sibling (Male or Female)
SiJo - Your SiGung's Si-Fu (Sometimes used as an originator of a style.)