Mark Mikita, pictured with stick and knife on a white background.
Opening his first martial arts school in 1978, Mark Mikita has been teaching full time ever since. A lifelong practitioner, he has earned an international reputation as a consummate martial artist and a patient and inspiring teacher.
Born with artistic talent, Mark went to school to study technical and scientific illustration and product design, and part of his training involved going to a medical school to stand on the opposite side of the dissection table with a drawing pad as woozy, green-faced medical students carved up cadavers.
While his passion for training in and teaching the martial arts would eventually eclipse any thought he had of becoming a professional illustrator, the emphasis on detail and precision that defined the style of drawing he learned to do and the intimate, hands-on knowledge of human anatomy he gleaned from those experiences (and continues to expand upon) had a significant impact on the way he looks at and teaches technique.
Growing up on military bases, Mark has a deep and abiding respect for anyone who has served their country in uniform but particularly those who were actually in combat.
At the urging of his father, a World War II combat veteran who fought in the Philippines and personally witnessed many of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against the Filipino people, Mark started a closed-door group exclusively for combat vets suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, and helping them find some measure of peace in their lives has been profoundly rewarding.
He credits the years he spent working with those deeply wounded men with giving him an understanding of the power of compassion and the true meaning of brotherhood among warriors. In honor of their sacrifices and the fallen heroes for whom they still mourn, Mark never charged any of them a single dime, as he felt that they were as much the teachers as he was and they more than paid their dues in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is also quick to acknowledge that his work with battle-scarred vets fine-tuned his sensitivity in working with victims of sexual assault and violent crime.
In 1993, Mark was honored to receive Grandmaster credentials in the Filipino martial arts but he rejects such overblown titles as unnecessary, preferring that his students address him simply as Guro, the Filipino word for teacher, a title his beloved father imbued with great significance when Mark was just starting out teaching (to find out how, click here).
A perennial student, Mark thinks of himself as the senior-most student in his school and his most advanced students will attest to the fact that he continues to expand the horizons of his personal art, both by studying with other teachers and, more importantly, by tapping in to his own creativity, something he strongly encourages his students to do as well.
Artist, martial artist, martial arts teacher and life coach, Mark is also a trained professional actor, fight choreographer and sought-after consultant and trainer for actors preparing for serious action roles. He starred opposite Tom Sizemore in the action film Assassin's Game and has trained Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Benecio Del Toro, Stephen Amell and many others to look lethal on camera.
Tragically losing his eldest brother to suicide in 2006, Mark altered his course as a teacher to bring greater emphasis to helping his students find balance and purpose in their lives, beyond the drive to simply accumulate money and material possessions, which provide neither.
Living a very disciplined life himself, Mark does not require his students to follow his example but encourages them to consider that the purpose of discipline is to live more fully, not less.
He believes that every person who comes to him to learn what he has to teach inwardly aspires to be a better version of themselves and he feels that he has a mandate to challenge them, sometimes gently, sometimes boldly, to do just that.
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Ralph Waldo Emerson