Profile of Mark Dacascos

Name: Mark Alan Dacascos
Date of Birth:  26 February 1964
Height:  5’ 9” (1.75m)
Weight:  153lbs (69kg)
Birth sign:  Pisces
Country:  Hawaii (Honolulu, USA)

Training Background

  • Mark trained since he was 4 years old under his father (Al Dacascos) in Wun Hop Kuen Do, which means: “Way of the Combined Fist” or “Combined Fist Style”, in which he has a 8th degree black belt.
  • He entered his first martial arts tournament when he was aged 7, won his first international tournament at age 9 and competed throughout Europe until he was (unofficially retired at) 18 years old.
  • He lived in Taiwan for 6 months, training in the Black-Tiger Northern Shaolin style.
  • He also trained for 2 months in capoeira under Mestre Amen Santo before auditioning for the role of Louis Stevens, in Only The Strong. This was followed by a further 5 months training after landing the part.  He continued capoeira for a year after filming ended.
  • Also trained in Northern Shaolin and Wu Shu under Professor Jiang Hao Quan and Coaches Eric and Debbie Chen.
  • Still trains Muay Thai under Kru Puk (Surapuk Jumjuntr).
  • Sports: Competed on the Valley College gymnastics team. Yoga. Tumbling. Snowboarding.
  • He continues his acting studies with Voice and Shakespeare teacher Patsy Rodenburg with Larry Moss, and Gary Austin.

Main influences

  • His father, Al Dacascos is the founder of the martial art, Wun Hop Kuen Do, and his mother, Malia Bernal, was the first woman to grace the cover of Black Belt magazine. Both are former national champions who still teach.  He says: “I attribute my understanding of how hard and consistent one must work to become good at anything, to my mother, Malia Bernal.  She walks the talk.”
  • Jackie Chan whom Mark met when he was 17 years old.

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Mark on his training influences

I love to train in martial arts!  I was a Hawaiian boy spending most of my teen years in Hamburg Germany, and my sanctuary was in the kung-fu school!  I was a foreigner, and although I had a lot of good friends, kung fu and Jackie Chan were a huge influence in my life! He was a huge influence and I think Jackie Chan was the one that inspired me to really get into gymnastics, and do flips and all that.  I attribute almost breaking my back to a Jackie Chan film haha!  In one of the movies I saw him do, he ran up something an did a back flip and I thought, “Oh that looks so cool! He does it so well!” He made it look like it wasn’t that hard, so I went back to our kung-fu school where the ceilings were about 9 and a half to 10 feet high and there was this beam in the middle of the gym and I thought, I’m going to run right-up the beam and do a backflip, (because I can do a backflip) so running up the beam will be even easier. So I ran all the way up to the top and my head hit the ceiling, so before I even did the flip I was falling backwards and…bam!  I hit my back!  So I realized it was not as easy as it looked.  However a couple of months later I tried it again and made it -was aware of the ceiling!  But, Jackie Chan…he was just huge for me!  Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan!

Mark on training philosophy

When I take a class I’d like to salute in and start off slowly with some warm up exercises, just to get the body relaxed, getting ready for  the jumps and kicks and so forth. When I was a teenager I grew up in Hamburg, Germany.  It got very cold in the winter time.  I would walk to my dad’s class sometimes.  He would salute us in and say OK let’s fight.  I would be thinking, “wait a minute, my body is like cold, I might tear something or whatever!”.  But his reasoning was that in a fight situation, in a street fighting altercation, self defence, you don’t have time to say ‘wait a second’ you don’t have time to say ‘I got to warm up my arms and legs, I got to stretch out’ you just got to go”  So he believed, as I now do, that if you want your body to react and to be able to perform the way that you want it to, you’ve got to train it that way all the time. Like picking up a glass of water, you don’t stretch before you do that.  So if you want to be able to kick high or do a sweep or punch you have to be able to do that when you’re cold.  You know what I’m saying? So that’s what we did.

A lot of times we would have training sessions where we came in our street clothes.  I think in most gyms, in gymnasiums or classes you come in with very loose fitting clothing and athletic shoes and we would come in sometimes with suit and tie and dress shoes on just to see how different it would feel fighting in different clothing.  Or environment training.  He would take us outside and we would train in the snow.  Or having a sparring match on the slant of a hill or on  pavement or sand.  Just to know, to come as close to reality as possible.  We would set up a bar situation bring in actual tables and chairs into our training area with ashtrays and glasses and of course we would be careful as careful as possible but we would simulate actual situations in your life.  I think as a martial artist if you want to learn how to work with reality you have to train like that.  We would try to avoid the eye  gouges and so forth, but as far as making contact and hitting and with the speed we did as much as we could without hurting each other.

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Mark on world renowned action actor/director Sammo Hung

“The first time I actually saw Sammo it was in Enter the Dragon, and back then I thought, “that’s a big man who moves like a little man!”.  That’s pretty awesome and I’ve been a fan of his since then.  Since 1973 when I saw the movie.  I am happy to say that I got my ass kicked by Sammo Hung, right on!  I did an episode of Martial Law, I play the bad guy.  In the first fight scene I win and in the second fight scene he destroys me. Happily so!  He’s a great guy and I’ll tell you what, man! he’s as big as he looks.  He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s precise and he’s funny!”

Mark on Jackie Chan

“Jackie Chan he was huge for me.  Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  Even now when I’m on my tread mill over there trying to keep my cardio up I pop on a Jackie Chan film or a Bruce Lee film and those guys keep me motivated.  I like Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow.  That was the first one I saw of Jackie Chan’s and it’s so vivid in my mind still.  For Bruce Lee, oh boy, I guess I would have to say its Enter the Dragon.  I love that opening sequence with Sammo Hung and I love the sequence with Bob Wall.”

Mark on dancing and self-expression

“Dancing is similar to martial arts, because it comes from the soul. It’s dialogue “physicalized,” just like the fight scene in a movie. I really, really enjoyed it, but what I learned is that you have to connect it. One of the great things Jiang Hao Chiang once said was, “Movement without spirit is nothing.” What I learned is that when I did a movement with Lacey Schwimmer that while we were technically correct we were not connected as people, and that spirit was missing. You could feel it and we scored very low. Spirit means everything and it’s so similar to dancing and cooking. I can relate because I am a martial artist and I can relate my martial arts to everything.”

Comments about Mark

“Working with Mark Dacascos was a great experience because Mark himself is a martial artist. He does kung fu in the kind of style that we like. Mark can perform all his stunts himself. Physically he’s a very talented person, not just in martial arts but also gymnastics, acrobatics, acting between the fights, everything. A lot of times some actors, even though they do fight scenes there’s no expression on their face, but Mark’s got everything.  He’s better than a lot of stunt guys out there!  So we had great fun! when I’d ask Mark: Can you do this? He’d say “sure, no problem”. He’d perform.” -Koichi Sakamoto (Stunt/Fight Choreographer from The Alpha Stunt Team).

“A lot of people in Hollywood who make the big movies don’t understand this, but it’s really hard to cast somebody who can do the acting, do the performance, who can also do the action that is required for this kind of movie without looking like they’ve been doubled every five seconds!” -Steve Wang

“Mark and Al Dacascos are the ultimate martial artists.” –James Lew

“Mark Dacascos is very good, great kathas, Mark really knows what he’s doing, got a heart of gold!”–Benny “The Jet” Urquidez

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1990Angel TownStoner's Driver
1992American SamuraiKenjiro Sanga
1993Only the StrongLouis Stevens
1993RoostersFilipino's Son
1994Double DragonJimmy Lee
1995Kickboxer 5Matt Reeves
1995Deadly PastLeo
1995Crying FreemanYo Hinomura/Freeman
1996The Island of Dr. MoreauLo-Mai
1996SabotageMichael Bishop
1997DNADr. Ash Mattley
1997DriveToby Wong
1998Boogie BoyJesse Page
1998SanctuaryLuke Kovak
1998No Code of ConductPaul DeLucca
1999The BaseMaj. John Murphy/Cpl. John Dalton
2000China Strike ForceTony Lau
2001Brotherhood of the WolfMani
2001Instinct to KillJ.T. Dillon
2002ScorcherRyan Beckett
2003Cradle 2 the GraveYao Ling
2005Final ApproachKato
2005Nomad: The WarriorSharish
2006The Hunt for Eagle OneLt. Matt Daniels
2006Only the BraveSgt. Steve 'Zaki' Senzaki
2006The Hunt for Eagle One: Crash PointCapt. Matt Daniels
2007Code Name: The CleanerEric Hauck
2007Alien Agent Rykker
2007I Am OmegaRenchard
2009Serbian ScarsPeter Olsen Obilich
2010Shadows in ParadiseLt. Max Forrester
2010The Legend of Bruce LeeThai Boxer
2013The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy StoneCobra/Mr. Cobb
Raj Khedun

Raj, a wing chun student, enjoys spending time studying various aspects of the martial arts, from theory to practically applied skills. He enjoys interviewing prominent and dedicated martial artists from all over the world, who have something inspiring and stimulating to share. He also manages projects in terms of filming, reviews of movies/books and other quality features.

  1. Thanks Raj… Surely, they need one like you..

  2. Influenced by the great martial artists of his generation, and more than capable of holding the screen with his good looks and physical prowess, Mark is a dedicated martial artist whose humbleness belies his ability to inflict damage if called for.

  3. A really detailed profile on his life and philosophy. The actor himself is a unique action star even among his peers in America. He absolutely has the right balance of vulnerability and toughness, which is different to the overly tough and masculine action stars that audiences are so used to; ‘Crying Freeman’ is a very good example of that.

  4. Along with Bruce Lee, Mark has been an amazing martial artist that has inspired me to better myself in becoming a more stylistic fighter, he is an awesome person and a true Master of the martial arts

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