At the recommendation from si heng ("older brother") Gerry Tala, Mark Elefane began studying Jow Ga Kung Fu at age eleven under Grandmaster Hoy K. Lee. At that time, the Virginia Beach School consisted of one small room, accommodating one children's class and one adults' class, each maintaining about eight students. Despite being a fitting size for the children's class, after a few months, Sifu Lee, prompted by a recommendation from Tom (the school's dai si heng or "eldest senior brother"), allowed Mark to take the adults' class, as well. For the next several years, Mark continued to take both classes, training on his own during the off days. Mark eventually earned the honor of becoming a senior student, and upon leaving the kids' class, became an assistant instructor to them at age fifteen. At age sixteen, Mark was teaching classes occasionally in Tom's absence. By age eighteen, he had proven himself in combat, competition, and Kung Fu philosophies, enough to begin consistently teaching both the kids' and adults' classes. Mark then began training
more personally under Sifu Lee and with his fellow instructors, eventually earning the title of an "advanced" level martial artist. Ironically, it coincided with Mark's discovery of how little he actually knew and the lifetime of learning that lay ahead.
Mark’s first tournament was a state-wide event open to all styles. He took home three first place trophies in forms, weapons, and sparring, thereby beginning a rewarding tournament career. Over the next seventeen years, Mark claimed national and international victories in forms and weapons events, as well as fighting events, including full contact fighting in the bantam and featherweight divisions. In a notable fight for an international amateur San Shou title, Mark was in a weight class above his own and dislocated his shoulder in the first round. With the help of corner men Gerry Tala and Ed Senu-Oke, Mark's shoulder was popped back in, and he went on to win the fight in a unanimous decision. Mark has also met other great fighters in the ring, including opponents traveling from Brazil, China, and students of MMA professional Cung Le.
Mark's favorite Jow Ga activities were going on the road for tournaments and other special events. Sifu Lee’s students are an extremely tightly knit family. Long trips, nights in hotels, and challenging tasks together only strengthened their bonds. In a special trip to Vancouver, Canada in 2004, Mark was recognized as a Master by the World Organization of Wushu & Kung Fu Masters. However, it wasn't until a bittersweet celebration in 2008 when Mark was officially recognized as a Sifu by Grandmaster Lee, and made the decision to relocate from Virginia Beach to Los Angeles.
Currently, Mark lives, trains, and teaches Jow Ga Kung Fu in North Hollywood, California. Working as a professional stuntman, performer and fight choreographer, his talents and combat knowledge continue to prove useful. In addition to physical training, it is the practice of the principles and morals, taught to him through Jow Ga Kung Fu, that enlighten each day.
"Respect the founders, respect the teachers, respect the teachings. Learn kindness, learn justice, then learn kung fu..." -Excerpt from the Jow Ga school poem