The Truth About Donnie Yen’s Mother

Fans of martial arts movies will be intimately familiar with Donnie Yen. Drawing liberally from Tai Chi, Muah Thai, Kung Fu and a laundry list of other exotic flavors of ass-kickery, Yen is fluid poetry in deadly motion. What many fans may be less aware of is what may be his first and deepest martial arts influence. Yep, his dear old mom. Bow-sim Mark is kind of a big deal — not just as an acclaimed martial artist but also as a business woman who made it big at a time when the glass ceiling was a whole lot thicker than it is today.

Mark enters the annals of amazing mom history way back in the Fifties, per, in Guangzhou Province, China. As a young girl, Mark started her training path in a combination of Tai Chi and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, two beautifully balletic methods of handing out naps. Even from a young age, she oozed natural talent. Mark is diminutive, standing at just five feet tall, but few at the time would dispute the fact she was sixty odd inches of graceful, spin-kicking destruction. Through many years of intense training, Donnie Yen’s mom was not a person to be trifled with. It’s worth also hanging a lantern off the fact that China at this time wasn’t greatly different to Western countries when it came to gender equality. There wasn’t a whole lot of it about.

Mark's accomplishments as a martial artist

Mark’s brilliance was a living testament to the revolutionary notion that martial arts didn’t just belong to the dudes. The concept of a woman studying martial arts at all was unconventional bordering on scandalous at the time, and like any number of tough women of the Seventies who had to fight hard to make it to the top, Mark’s prodigious talent painted a target on her back at times. She stubbornly persisted though, and eventually Mark attracted the attention of one of China’s martial art greats, Grandmaster Fu Wing Way, who took her in as his private pupil, according to NextShark. From the Eighties to the Nineties, Mark danced gracefully from accolade to accolade. In 1984, she brought home a gold medal at the inaugural International Tournament of Tai Chi. Just over a decade later, she’d be acknowledged internationally as one of the Kung Fu greats, and proclaimed 1984’s Kung Fu artist of the year. Grainy videos of Mark at her prime are mesmerizing to watch. Gravity seems to give her a get out of jail free pass as she leaps and spins across the floor, always finding creative new ways to insert her fist, foot, or ornate pokey device right where her opponents are least expecting it. She is, quite simply, ridiculously cool.

But Mark wasn’t just a great martial arts athlete. She was also an ambassador for the sport, and helped pave the way for the renaissance in martial arts appreciation to sweep through the US in the Eighties and beyond. Heck, you might even argue that she helped lay the cultural foundations that Donnie Yen’s successful career would later be built on. Thanks, Donnie’s mom!

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