Mark Sifu Still
Mark Gin Foon Sifu is still going strong at
83. Last year he asked me to write a book for him. I
considered doing so, but, what can you say that hasn't already been
said, about a Sifu as accomplished and well publicized as Mark
Although, I have not returned from China to the USA in the last 10 years, I speak with Mark Sifu by phone. I call him on occasions such as the Chinese New Year and his birthday. Just a few weeks ago he asked me to write something on the internet for him. Mark
Sifu's contribution to Kwongsai Mantis is indisputable and his
teaching is genius. What more can or needs to be said? Therefore, I will just re-publish here an article I wrote for him in 1986.
Official Karate Magazine, July 1986
1986, 2010, Roger D. Hagood. All Rights Reserved
GIN FOON MARK: KUNGFU
Bruce Lee was a practitioner of southern
praying mantis, on occasion demonstrating the techniques. Why? Its
techniques are deadly efficient. Movements are continuous and
circular, soft and hard, except In attack, where the middle knuckle
(phoenix eye) of the Index finger is used like a needle to pierce
the internal organs.
Practitioners of southern praying mantis
explain: “A punch with the fist produces an external muscular
bruise; striking with the phoenix eye produces an internal
bruise." Those who practice the “hard” forms of chi kung
Internal protection know that it Is only the phoenix eye that can
break their internal work. Applied by a soft touch over a’ vital
organ, and then a powerful strike down and Into the organ with the
needle-like finger, the resulting damage may he as moderate as
stagnation of the blood and air (chi), or as severe as thrombosis
(blood clotting) and Internal hemorrhage.
Though deadly as self-defense, southern
praying mantis Is also studied for health and spiritual development
Basic to its health practices is the ancient medicinal practice of
the “six healing breaths.” In Chinese theology, there is the way,
the one - the “Tao.” From this evolves the polar principle of
opposites - yin and yang.
Yin and yang are moved by the division of the five elements: wood, water, fire, earth, and metal. These elements correspond to the liver, kidneys heart, spleen, and lungs, each having specific sound produced during exhalation. The sixth healing breath relates to the “organ” unique to Chinese medicine: the triple burning space (lower esophagus, stomach, and urethra).
The Idea Is to inhale
the pure (yang) energy and exhale the impure (yin) energy from each
organ, while relieving everyday stress and tension. The sounds and
positions for the organs have a definite healing effect, which has
been well documented In Japanese and Chinese hospitals. Today,
Chinese astronauts include chikung exercises in their training
regimen, and recently Indian chi kung (yoga) exercises were
conducted on the space-shuttle mission known as “Project:
Kung fu masters of today know Master Gin
Foon Mark as one who has learned spirit kung fu (shen kung),
sometimes referred to as the ‘left” side of the Tao.
Parapsychologists often refer to It as “red” magic, instead of black
or white. As a disciple of the Monk Moot Ki Fut Sai in his Chinese
homeland, sifu Mark learned the “charms” which enables one to
control spirits using the ba kua diagrams) In relation to the
zodiacal signs. Simple charms are Used for healing the sick and
exorcizing epidemics and various diseases: complicated ones for
begging for rain, controlling natural forces, expelling evil, and
commanding universal spirits.
As a spiritual discipline, each of Master
Gin Foon Mark’s students learn the meaning of the Chinese words, Hoc
Yurn, Hoc Yi Hoc’ Kung Fu, Jurn Jow, Jurn Si’ Jurn Gow Do. They must
understand humility, loyalty, and hard work with respect of the
ancient masters, respect of sifu Mark, and respect of his guidance.
In daily practice the’ show this by saluting (with the unique
southern- mantis salute) the altar of kung fu and past masters and
Sifu Mark when they enter and leave class. Sifu Mark opens his
classes by burning incense at the altar and closes It with his
Sifu Mark rarely discusses the controlling
of spirits,. though he thoroughly enjoys the practicality of the
southern praying mantis system. His students emulate his fighting
posture by extending their hands forward, with the elbows slightly
bent and tucked In close to protect the centerline - like a mantis.
Tactical operations of the hand Include grappling, catching,
holding, capturing, clasping with the forearms, slicing strikes with
the knuckles, pressing with the elbow, sudden quick pushes with both
hands, spearing with extended fingers, flicking of the hands In
quick jabs, exploding fingers from the fists, jerking the opponent’s
arm, slicing and chopping with the edge of the palm, hooking and
deflectlng hands, elbow strikes, claw-like raking actions, and
poking with the back of the hand. A single movement may contain
several of these actions.
Many of the movements are simultaneously
defensive and offensive. The feet are separated by a distance of
about 24 Inches, with the bent lead leg supporting most of the
weight, while the slightly curved rear leg acts as a strut. This
highly mobile posture facilitates the strategic advance and retreat,
lateral and spinning maneuvers essential to the style. Sweeps are
short and long, forward and backward. Kicks are high and low,
Including snaps, thrusts, pushes, jumps, and stomps, though shin,
knee, and groin kicks are emphasized for efficiency.
The system Includes all of the standard
classical Chinese weapons and some which generally ‘reflect the
mantis style. Lion dancing Is also taught by sifu Mark, and students
learn the sleeping lion, the angry lion, the eating lion, the
resting lion, and the hungry lion.
Students learn these basic maneuvers in the
many forms, individual and two man, which Incorporate all the hand
and foot techniques of the system. Sifu, Mark believes that mastery
of three techniques is more useful than knowing nine and not being
able to use them. As a result, students often practice for several
years, only to learn the basic forms of three-step arrow and
five-animal form. Though each form, has a two-man breakdown in which
students try to develop the ability to “feel,” “adhere,” or
“redirect” power, they are also broken down into step-by-step basic
movements for self-defense, as in the harder forms of karate or
shaolin. Breakdown forms range from two- to five-men situations and
train the students’ hands to react instinctively in free fighting.
Several strategies may be employed when
fighting: scaring, faking actions, tripping the opponent, attacking
from the left and right angles as well as from the front. adhering,
‘and discharging. Sight and sound, are also refined in order to
understand and anticipate the opponent’s movement Hand to-hand
contact is used to “sense” the opponents strength, weaknesses,
power, intentions, shifting of weight, and readiness to attack.
Sifu Mark’s hands do not rely on brute
strength to overcome his opponent, but “borrow” his opponents
strength and turns it against him. The’ three-step arrow form
Is recognized by kung fu masters as a chi kung formula which guides
the breath to the’ lower abdomen while also developing inch-power.
The three-power strike is a spring power (ging) action which comes
from the shoulder, elbow, and hand, allowing the student to strike
three times without recoiling the arm. To explain this, sifu Mark
uses an analogy. A hard-style linear punch is like a single-fire
rifle; you must recoil the arm’ as you would reload the rifle. The
three-power strike is like an automatic weapon with continuous
firing. “Chi force” Is like a cannon which will destroy its
To further explain, sifu Mark says,
“External kung fu moves the outside of the body while .the Inside is
still; Internal kung fu is internal circulation with the outside
still,” To achieve the balance necessary’ for fighting, sifu Mark
explains that practice must include two people and four ways. Two
people learn proper strength, balance, and feeling for the
“lightning fast” hands of southern mantis. To develop the deadly
power, one must know the four ways of the breath inhalation and the
ascension of chi through the spine, exhalation and descension of chi
through the anterior channel.
Sifu Mark’s “hand” is very rare, and his
forms are not shown frivolously to the public; only occasionally are
they demonstrated. Master Gin Foon Mark is the living representative
of the entire system, as it evolved from the bamboo forest temple in
the Kwong Si province of mainland China, where the first ancestor
closed his hands (retired) from teaching (after 1863).
Sifu Mark’s home state, Minnesota,’
considers him such a note-worthy historical figure that a videotape
was produced about his life and is shown in public secondary schools
to Introduce his diverse talents as master chef, calligrapher and
artist, herbalist and acupuncturist, philosopher, and kung fu
master. An educational film, Kung Fu Master: Gin Foon Mark,
was produced for commercial distribution and has been shown on Home
Box Office. He has been featured on prison TV and was the subject of
the program ‘You Asked For It."
Health, Wealth, Longer Life and Happiness to
Mark Sifu in the Year of the 2010 Tiger!
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