Mark Sifu Still Going Strong
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 Sifu!
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
© Roger D. Hagood
GIN FOON MARK: KUNGFU MASTER
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: Pneuma”.
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 salute.
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 target
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."
Copyright © 1986, 2010, Roger D. Hagood. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Health, Weath, Happiness and a Longer Life to Mark Sifu in the Year of the Tiger - 2010!
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