SIFU NORMAN MANDARINO
Norman Mandarino was born in Buffalo, New York on December 27, 1941. He began his journey in the martial arts in 1969 after his friend, Tim Jones, a second degree black belt in Isshin Ryu karate, offered to teach him karate. Sensei Jones taught Isshin Ryu Karate at ABLEY Community Center. Sensei Jones eventually moved to Lake Tahoe. Sifu Mandarino continued his studies with Sensei George Insley, who replaced Sensei Jones. Sifu Mandarino studied Isshin Ryu Karate for about one year.
At the time, Master Wong Ting Fong held two tournaments each year. It was because of one of these tournaments that Sifu Mandarino first came into contact with Master Wong. He went to Master Wong's school to purchase tickets for Master Wong's tournament which was to be held the following day. Master Wong invited Sifu Mandarino to watch his class practice for a demonstration they were going to give at the tournament. Sifu Mandarino gladly accepted and was overwhelmed by the art demonstrated by Master Wong and his students. This was a point of enlightenment for Sifu Mandarino. He knew he would dedicate his life to learning Master Wong's art.
Sifu Mandarino is one of nine students promoted to Black Sash under Master Wong and one of only three students to achieve the rank of Second Degree Black Sash. He is also the only student Master Wong ever promoted to the rank of Fourth Degree Black Sash. Being his highest ranked and most dedicated student, Sifu Mandarino was selected by Master Wong to be his disciple, and the "successor" to continue teaching his art. Sifu Norman Mandarino has dedicated over 40 years of his life to learning Master Wong's art. He spent 12 of those years training under Master Wong as a student and head-instructor of the Golden Dragon Kung Fu Society.
In 1974 Master Wong asked Sifu Mandarino to open an affiliate school in the Wimbledon Plaza in West Seneca. A year later, Master Wong closed his own school and the Golden Dragon Kung Fu Society under Sifu Mandarino became the school's headquarters. Master Wong, now in semi retirement, still acted as an advisor and consultant to Sifu Mandarino and continued to instruct him as a closed door disciple.
In 1983, Master Wong fully retired, elevating Sifu Mandarino to "guardian" of the style. This is the terminal rank for the headmaster of the style and the one who is designated to continue to spread the knowledge and teachings of the art. Sifu Mandarino renamed his school the Mandarin Kung Fu Society. This was not done for the sake of personal pride, but for the reason that Sifu Mandarino was now teaching on his own, no longer having Master Wong to help perpetuate the art
Master Wong and Sifu Mandarino training in contact weapons set.
Sifu Mandarino leading a class in
"Fierce Tiger Comes Down the Mountain"
While there can be various ranks of "Master" denoted in Chinese martial arts, Sifu Mandarino did not assume the rank of "Master" that he was permitted to claim in 1983 with Master Wong's retirement. He felt that he was too young in age and needed the experience and wisdom that only time can provide to the art.
Chinese martial arts tradition indicates the rank of Master or "guardian" of the style is awarded upon one of three conditions:
The death of the Master of the style
A living Master no longer feels able to fulfill his responsibilities and thus "retires". His disciple becomes master of the system.
It is determined a new style is created and acknowledged
Master Wong unfortunately passed away in 1992. Sifu Mandarino still did not presume the rank of "Master" even-though he had now had met two of the three traditional conditions.
Over the next 15 years Sifu continued to develop diverse and progressive teaching methods, as well as creating new empty hand and weapon forms based on the roots and principles of Master Wong's art. Sifu Mandarino has always maintained a very strong work ethic and a high level of integrity as a martial artist. He has devoted over half of his life to training and analyzing the movements that have been passed down to him.
On July 27, 2006, at age 64, Sifu Norman Mandarino, having filled all the conditions required in the Right of Passage, respectfully decided to exercise his entitlement to the rank of Red Sash Master in Mandarin Kung Fu. Sifu Mandarino continues to teach and develop his art at Mandarin Kung Fu.
Sifu Mandarino demonstrating an
overhead strike with the staff.