Interview with Sifu Kisu (part 2 of 3)
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Acastus: How were the fighting styles for the four elements selected? Can you elaborate on why you felt each style was appropriate to its element?

Sifu Kisu: Bryan told me about the concept of the four elements and nations and their bending abilities. He asked me to create a "Bible" of movements for each tribe. I know many martial concepts and essences from the years of training with my Master, so I had a full quiver of techniques ready to fly.

The Water Tribes had to be Tai Chi with its ebbing and flowing of natural energies. Water always runs to the lowest point...

Earthbending called out for the practical rooted Hung ga style.

Airbending with it's yielding, spinning, and unexpected responses begged for Bagua with a sprinkle of Hsing Yi, also known as mind heart boxing.

The Fire Nation, a.k.a. the "bad guys", had to use Northern Shaolim with a dash of Northern 7 Star Preying Mantis. Why? Well, there was this old gung fu film called "The Five Super Fighters" that I liked. The bad guy was this Northern Shaolim cat who carried a sign around with him claiming that he specialized in correcting bad gung fu, ha, ha, ha! I have always been a bit of the black sheep, the bad boy of our gung fu clan, so I took great delight in gifting the Fire Nation with my Northern Shaolim. My teacher loved it, but didn't know my reasons behind my selection. I hope he does not read this or I will get one of his scathing looks of disapproval, ha-ha!

Acastus: In your ASN bio you mention that the study of martial arts is about more than fighting, it is about self-control. We see a lot of great fighting in Avatar, but could you tell us a bit about how the other virtues of the study of martial arts are seen in the show? What, if anything, do you hope the target audience will take away with them regarding the study of martial arts?

Sifu Kisu: Good question. Any monkey can ball up a fist and shove it into someone's face, but how many people will take control of themselves and forge their body in the fire of their will?

The martial arts draws many insecure, injured people to it's ranks, but it is a trick. Once you learn it and master the basic, you could not use it to fight because an untrained person will be killed or seriously injured and you get to go to jail. Then you can fight with all of the other people who could not control themselves.

Monkeys in cages.....

Chinese Martial Arts embody harmonized teaching and training techniques which serve as either self-defense, healing, psychological revelation, vivifying exercise, or a spiritual path, and could act as a catalyst to people who would normally not be interested in spiritual practices or other esoteric training.

One of the reasons I signed on for the show was the message Bryan and Mike wanted to share with children. Concepts of honor, duty, loyalty, friendship and harmony. Thinking beyond self. Empathy. Compassion. Consideration of a spirit world! This ain't Tom and Jerry friends.

I ask parents who bring their children to me what is the greatest gift that you can give your child? Money? Clothes? Toys? What if you knew of a gift which you could give your child and which would be with him for the rest of his life? What if you knew that this gift would be absolutely invaluable in getting your child through life?

What is this gift? It is the gift of martial arts!

I explain to them training in the martial arts will give your child self-confidence, self-validation, self-worth, and will channel your child's energies into productive and constructive action. Many will ask, isn't martial arts about fighting, about kicking and punching and violence? It is true that the martial arts are, by definition, concerned with the nature of fighting. The martial arts are more than a vehicle for fighting. They are a vehicle for the cultivation of self-discipline, self-control, as well as self-defense. When a person learns to control himself, when he learns the true value of self-discipline, and when he becomes confident in his abilities of mind and body, then what lofty goal can remain out of reach?

Gung Fu is a difficult and arduous path, but one that is also extremely rewarding. In the physical realm, the person learns to control the body through the forms and the techniques. By controlling the body, the person learns to discipline the mind, to strengthen the mind over the body, and to push the body beyond endurance through determination and sheer will. In the union of mind and body, the rewards are potentially limitless. When the person learns to value a healthy body, of what benefit can drugs be? When the person learns to value a healthy mind, of what benefit can the common modern, misleading "wisdom" be? When the person is secure and confident in himself or herself, of what value can gangs be? Through Gung Fu training, the person learns more than just how to defend himself. They learn the initial steps to becoming a constructive, positive, and contributing member of society.
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