For practitioners of the martial arts a term like Master of Kung Fu can have a wide range of meaning. For long time comic readers the term may call to mind the Marvel comics of the ’70’s and ’80’s identifiable today as Shang-Chi thanks to the box-office breaking 2021 movie. But there is another comic that should come to mind when you think of that title, it’s Sifu Mark Horton (Hong Ying Sifu 洪英老师)’s 2021 release CHAN HUENG: MASTER OF KUNG FU.
This new graphic novel series is based on the life & times of legendary kung ku hero of China, Chan Heung. Known chiefly as the the early nineteenth-century founder of the Choy Lay Fut school of Chinese Kung Fu in 1836. While kung fu aficionados might have heard that Chan Heung, who was born in King Mui Village in the Sun Wui district of Kwang Tung province. It was named after three teachers who taught him different styles: Choy Gar (蔡拳), Lay Gar (李拳), and Fut Gar (佛家拳). But this comic dramatizes Chan’s beginnings in the early 1800’s , as a small boy training under guidance of his uncle, through his teenage years and on to the age of 20 when he completes his grueling years of training with his second teacher.
Considering my particular focus on the transmission of Kung Fu lore via comics, it seems our paths were destined to cross. Sifu Mark, our as he’s known via instagram @HongYingSifu was kind enough to not only let me ask him some questions, but he provided some exclusive preview pages as well. But who is Sifu Mark Horton?
Mark Horton began training in Kung Fu at a very early age. Boxing in England, at the age of 6 he moved to Malaysia at the age of 8 where he began training Shaolin Choy Li Fut Kung Fu. When he was 12 he incorporated his boxing experience to compete on the lay tai (擂臺) at Sanda (散打 – formerly Sanshou [散手]) competitions..
By the age of 24 his focus was on competing at the biggest events in China and the USA. By 2018 Mark won a combined 8 Gold Medals at a single World Championship held in China. Now a full time coach & teacher at his Hong Ying Shaolin Centre (歡迎光臨洪英武館)and founder of the Hong Ying International Martial Arts Association which has member schools in the U.S., England, The Netherlans, Japan and China.
A short Interview
Can you tell me about your earliest influences? What’s the earliest comics you remember reading or buying?
Super hero stuff from about age 7. By 10 i was hooked on Jack Kirbys work. Hulk and Thor particularly and then later the Silver Surfer,
How about Martial Arts?
I started boxing age six at school in England and then Kung Fu from age eight after we moved to Malaysia. I decided to 100% commit to Kung Fu probably from about age nine.
Can you name an early experiences that encouraged you to stick with these endeavors?
I fell in love with fighting after winning my first tournament and wanted more. Also wanted to expand and win Form & Weapon events too.
Martial arts seem to come in and out of fashion in comics and pop-culture in general. Since Bruce Lee, but also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Matrix or Avatar; the Last Airbender. Did you have this in mind when you decided to create your own graphic novel?
Not really. I always loved to draw and since I left art college to become a pro combat athlete I kept my hand by drawing forms or techniques for my students. One day a long time student made a small book with a collection of drawings I had given him over a 15 year period. This made me want to produce something else and so I came to the idea for CHAN HEUNG. Also, I saw it as a way to give something back to the art which has given me an awesome life.
How has the reaction been for it?
Part #1 has been out almost a year and I am very humbled by the response and number of people, from all continents, who seem to be enjoying the story and learning about a real Kung Fu hero in this way. I have had many nice messages from an audience spanning the globe and ranging from age 6 to 86 !
Have you given thought to other stories? Or even other genres or formats?
I am currently working on Book #2 of CHAN HEUNG plus putting the finishing touches on a kids sci-fi action book which I will illustrate too. I have another comic book planned which will be based on my own teacher, Doc Fei Wong.
He’s legendary, I’ve had the good fortune to meet him a couple of times, we once even crossed paths during a Samurai Movie Night at a local Tea house; our host was also one of his students. I recently interviewed her brother.
So what would you say to a young martial artist?
“You are on the same road as all the great masters who have gone before. Keep walking the road, be patient and honest in your training and you will achieve everything you hope for …”
And what if they asked which style was the best?
The style which really fires you up the most is the best style for you.
Human combat can be split into 4 zones Kick, Punch, Throw, Lock (Tuei, Da , Shuai, Na) so in the end it’s kinda all the same, but when you find a gym where you really feel at home that is the best style for you.
Wise words. Are there any other projects you want people to know about?
Thanks for doing this, it’s been fun and truly appreciated.