SINGAPORE - Gongfu master Mark Houghton is known for being one of only three disciples who the late Hong Kong martial artist and director Lau Kar Leung imparted his practice to.
The 51-year-old Briton, who has lived in Hong Kong for 20 years and has cast his moves in more than 60 movies, founded the Lau Family Hung Gar Academy in Hong Kong and is set on establishing a martial-arts school in Singapore.
My Paper caught up with the formidable man to find out what it means to pass down the Hung Gar martial arts to the next generation and how practising martial arts cultivates good values.
How different are martial-arts moves in films from those in real life?
Practising martial arts is mostly for practical reasons, for self-defence.
But in movies, (performing) martial-arts moves means selling a movement. If there is no reaction to (a powerful movement), the audience won't buy it.
I had a fight scene with a six-year-old boy in a 1994 film called Shaolin Popey, and a lot of people who watched it laughed and asked how I managed to get beaten up so badly by a child. For me, it was a compliment, because it meant that they believed it.
The concept of martial arts has evolved over the years, and mixed martial arts (MMA) is now the fastest-growing combat sport. What do you think of it?
Traditional martial arts lack something - contact. The techniques have lost a sense of reality because they have become all talk.
They also (focus on) form and nice movements, which people don't see as useful in real life.
People today don't want to listen, they want to see action. With MMA, people just fight. It works because there is always contact, it's real and people can see that (the sport) is useful.
Every martial-arts technique has its good points and weak points. As a martial artist, it's up to you to take what is good and expand on that, and to discard what is not good.
To me, all martial arts are the same. It's not the style, but the person that makes that (technique) stand out. It's about earning respect, the right to learn and exercising moral responsibility, instead of abusing your skills by bullying others.
What are your plans for the new school here?
I'm going to promote the history of Hung Gar martial arts.
I also want people to be able to use these traditional movements in modern-day society. What I want to do is to bring back that element of power in traditional martial arts, for people to actually use the movements rather than just perform them.
My master's teachings have been invaluable. I just hope to be able to fulfil my promise to him - to spread his martial arts, and to pass on his knowledge and skills to the next generation.
What do you remember best about your late master?
He will always be my hero, and he will always be a hero to people around the world. He showed the world what he loved the most: Chinese martial arts, which bring much happiness, knowledge and reward to everyone. And the martial arts will live on for years to come.
Get My Paper for more stories.