The Real Deal

I call attention to a new link on the waka waka waka sidebar; it is the website of one Gin Foon Mark, one of the greatest living masters of southern Chinese kung fu.

Gin Foon Mark is a name I’ve known for many years. I began my instruction in Chinese martial arts in late 1975, when I was 19, under the tutelage of Sifu William Chung, a native New Yorker who had by then moved to Spotswood, New Jersey. For the first couple of years, having no other urgent business, I attended my sifu’s classes six days a week — one day in Princeton, my home town, two days at a karate school run by the noted sensei and tournament impresario Aaron Banks (that was in Manhattan, on Broadway somewhere in the 50’s), one day at the Jamesburg, N.J. firehouse, and two days at Master Chung’s house. Master Chung, in turn, had got most of his own instruction from his sifu, the great Master Mark, though he had learned much of his Lam Sai Wing Hung Ga from other teachers — in the lineage, if memory serves, of the renowned Lum Jo.

Master Mark has been at this a long time — he is now an old man, and has been teaching since 1947 — and had an “old school” kung fu education. From his website’s biographical notes:

At the age of nine he was admitted to the Chun San Shaolin Temple and studied with the famous monk Ki Fut Sai. He received instruction in Si Lum, White Crane, Eagle Claw, Leopard and Tiger. He also studied Tiger Claw in the Hoi Jung Temple, and Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis in the Macow Jook Lum Temple.

In these monasteries Master Mark was schooled in Moo Gai, a martial form of Qigong similar to Tai Chi, Ming Kung, self-defense and healing arts; Shin Kung, spirit Kung Fu; Chi Kung, the use of internal power for martial arts and health. This included Iron Shirt, Iron Palm, Cotton Palm and Dim Mak. He continued his studies of Praying Mantis in the United States under Lum Wing Fay for ten more years.

My education under Master Chung, while focusing primarily on the ferocious Hung system, also included an admixture of Southern Praying Mantis, which I have always found fascinating, and which still provides me with some useful surprises to spring upon my more advanced Hung Ga students and training brothers. I wish Master Chung had a site of his own that I could link to; he is a formidable master in his own right. Sadly, though, he does not. If, however, you’d like to see some video clips of his teacher, one of the foremost living practitioners of one of the world’s most highly refined fighting systems, then go and look at Master Mark’s website.

Martial arts being a rather prickly environment, I must offer a disclaimer here: none of the hagiography above is intended to downplay in any way my tremendous respect for my own teacher of these past fourteen years, Peter Berman Yee, and the gratitude I feel for his expert guidance, and that of his sifu: my sigung, the famous Tang Fung Hung Ga grandmaster Yee Chi Wai. I’ve made a lifetime commitment to Hung Ga, and it is indeed a fearsome fighting system. But Southern Praying Mantis has an elegance, beauty, and hidden power that I also admire deeply; I have always had a special fondness for it, and I thought readers might like a glimpse.

One Comment

  1. Dan says

    Nice disclaimer! I’m one of the unfortunate younger students who’s been at the receiving end of some mantis surprises and can personally attest to their effectiveness. Great video clips too.

    Posted November 10, 2006 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

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