An Inner Circle student has been a tradition of kung fu teachers for a long time. It is a group of students who decide to they want to master the system, and who are willing to make a commitment, mainly to themselves, but to their Sifu as well. They have been called, inner circle students, special students, or indoor students in the past. It all means the same thing, they are close disciple's of their Sifu.
To a Sifu, when they teach a student, that student is the Sifu's student for life even if they decide to quit training or train some other style. The Sifu always views that person as their student no matter what. As a student, however, you do not have to accept the Sifu as your one and only teacher for life, until you want to and are ready to. Becoming an Inner Circle Student is a way of announcing that intention of becoming a lifelong student of the system and to your Sifu. Even though a Sifu will always see you as a student, no matter what, the Sifu does not have to see you or accept you as an Inner Circle student. Sometimes the Sifu will put you through a test and ask you to do something for them, to see how serious you are about the request you are making because it is also a large commitment for the Sifu. Once you become an Inner Circle student, the Sifu has agreed to teach you everything they know as you are ready for the information and as long as you keep up your responsibilities as an Inner Circle Student.
To become an Inner Circe student, it is customary to give some Hueng Bao, and to let your Sifu know that this is your intention. In the past, the process of becoming an Inner Circle student was symbolized by sharing a cup of tea. We still sometimes do that in present day. But it is a process, first you announce your intention to your Sifu, then you have to build a relationship of trust with your Sifu, then you have to maintain that relationship. It is not so easy to do, although it is very simple.
So why become an Inner Circle student? For one, when you know that you want to master the system is when you should consider becoming an Inner Circle Student. Or if you know you want to teach it one day. Some people join as a show of dedication to their Sifu. Some people just want to get everything they can out of the system and this a way to do it. Usually Inner Circle students get keys to the school, so that they can train at any time they want, and so they can become instructors.
A student can join the Inner Circle at any time, however, the student should give this careful consideration. It is not for everyone. It does involve extra responsibilities around the school and to the school, there is a commitment, and the Sifu will have some expectations for the Inner Circle Student. The choice is the student's and you can attain a very high level of skill in the Ving Tsun system without becoming an Inner Circle Student. But the people who join get to participate in and learn from "Kung Fu Life", which is a much more powerful way to learn and the way to true mastery. I am an inner circle student of my Sifu, and my Sigung Moy Tung.