Kung Fu Teacher Reaches Into Past For New Ideas

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Seeing the movie "Shanghai Noon" inspired Payson resident and Sifu Rick Clark to pick up another form of Wushu, better known to us Americans as martial arts.

When Jackie Chan wielded his traditional weapon a horseshoe tied to a rope and whipped on at least five bad guys, Clark knew he had to give this oriental custom a try.

"I was a big Bruce Lee fan in the '70s, and I haven't gotten over it yet," Clark said.

These days, folks eating lunch at Macky's Grill in south Payson might catch a glimpse of Clark practicing the ancient art behind the Tall Pines Real Estate office.

Clark has modified the weapon so he can practice in safety. He uses a tennis ball and red flag tied to the end of a 12-foot rope. He tosses the ball out, then goes into a very precise routine that keeps the ball in motion. The rope wraps and unwraps around his body with the slightest movements from Clark. In seconds, the weapon flies left, right and high above his head.

Clark's goal is to eventually attach a real weapon to the end. While there's not much published information on this weapon, Clark believes a 'plumb bob' a weight with a sharp point from the local hardware store recreates this form of kung fu well, if somewhat dangerously.

"Time and effort translate to 'kung fu,'" Clark said. "If you put a lot of time and effort into something, your 'kung fu' is good."

In addition to refining new forms of an old ritual, Clark teaches Tai Chi through the Payson Tai Chi Chuan Club, and bears the title 'Sifu' (see-fu) Chinese for "father teacher." He has studied Wushu with one instructor since 1991, and is hopeful that the Chinese will introduce the sport into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Clark's dream is to be there as a coach while keeping an eye on his grandson, 3-year-old Dean Serrano ... who is already displaying potential to compete, according to one proud grandpa.

"We just had a 'ninja weekend,'"Clark said. "He really stands a chance to be in the Olympics."

It may have been an American interpretation of traditional Wushu that turned Clark on to the sport, but it is the benefits that keep him reaching into the past for new ideas.

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