Shifu Mario Salazar

Shifu Salazar has been studying and training in Chinese martial arts for nearly 30 years. Salazar has trained both in the US and China under renowned Shaolin masters such as Grandmaster Shi De Ru, Grandmaster Shi De Yang, and Grandmaster Chen Zhen Lei. Salazar is a multiple-time national Champion in traditional Kung fu, Tai ji (chi), and has also fought nationally and internationally in Sanda(Chinese kickboxing).

Salazar began studying Kung fu  and Tai chi at the age of 12 in 1992 at Jade Mountain Martial Arts in Tampa. He earned the title of USWKF National Champion in Teens Traditional Kung fu and Teens Tai Chi in consecutive years 1994 and 1995. He studied lion dance and performed as part of Jade Mountain’s kung fu and lion dance demo team from 1994-1998, in addition to teaching as an assistant kung fu and Tai chi instructor at Jade mountain from 1995-98.

In 1999, in effort to further his education in martial arts, and with the goal to concentrate his studies in Shaolin kung fu and the Chinese fighting arts, Salazar began to travel in search of a Shaolin teacher. Travelling by bus (in the pre-internet era), he visited kung fu schools and met teachers in cities across the US, training for short periods at a few of the schools.  Eventually, Salazar ended up at the Shaolin Institute-at that time the Liu Institute-Mobile, AL campus, and soon after became a live-in, full time training student under Shaolin Master and Disciple, Shawn Liu (Shi De Ru). As a full-time student at the Shaolin Institute, Salazar lived at the kung fu school and followed a strict and rigorous training schedule, similar to that practiced at the martial arts/wushu training schools and sports universities in China. *This training regimen comprised anywhere from 8-10 hrs. of daily Kung fu, Sanda and Tai ji practice, 6 days a week.

*Similar martial arts and sports training schools are also common in many other countries but may be unfamiliar to most people from the US.

Master Liu-who at that time was also the US Sanda team head coach- often told Salazar, “Anyone can do forms, but not everyone can use that knowledge to fight.” With this philosophy at the forefront of his mind, Salazar would concentrate much of his studies the following years on the understanding and interpretation of the self-defense applications of Kung fu and Tai chi, in addition to a demanding schedule of Sanda (kickboxing) practice and fighting. From 2001-2003, Salazar was a member of the US Sanda team, and the Shaolin Institute Sanda team, during which Salazar fought in more than 2 dozen amateur and professional kickboxing fights.

Salazar first traveled to China in 2001, during which he worked under Master Liu as an as assistant cornerman to some of the US Sanda team fighters, such as Mike Altman and KJ Noons, who were competing in the Chinese Kung fu Superstar Challenge in Shanghai.After the event, the team traveled together to Shaolin village,*where, according to his teacher’s wishes, Salazar stayed in the village for 2 additional months to train as an exchange student at the school of Master Liu’s kung fu brother, Master Shi De Yang. There, Salazar studied traditional Shaolin forms and Sanda full-time under the training of Shi De Yang and De Yang’s coaches.


After leaving Master De Yang’s school, he stayed for another several weeks at Master Chen Zheng Lei’s school in Zheng Zhou for a short term of full-time Tai ji training as a compliment to his Chen Tai ji studies.

*(Note: Later that same year, what was then known as “Shaolin village” was dismantled due to complicated political reasons and residents and kung fu schools near the temple were all forced to move outside of the Shaolin temple area. The original Shaolin village is no longer in the vicinity of the main temple and, unless sanctioned by the Chinese government, almost all the dozens of Shaolin training centers remaining, including Master De Yang’s school, are now located in Deng Feng Village, several miles outside of Shaolin. So, just to prevent any confusion, this is why anyone who has visited or trained at any Shaolin kung fu training center post 2001 will not have seen or studied at the old Shaolin village, but rather in Deng Feng).

In 2003, Salazar returned to China as part of a Shaolin Institute fight team, competing alongside team mates such as Pat Barry and Duncan Duffin. The fighters represented the US in an exclusive US vs. China tournament in Heze, ShanDong province. This event was held as part of a collaboration to promote the city, thus, the local sports university hired some of the best fighters from all over China to participate. Salazar’s opponent was Kang YongGang, the 2001 Chinese national Champion, World Wushu Sanshou Champion and, who in a famous bout in 2003, beat Thai champion Baowee. Kang and Salazar fought in front of a nearly sold out Shangdong stadium with a crowd of over 22,000 and televised on CCTV.

Following the tournament, Master Liu took the team to Shaolin temple, where they would meet and pay respect to the Great Grandmaster Shi SuXi, who passed away several years later in 2006. Venerable SuXi, was not just a Shifu and mentor, but also like a father to both Master Liu (DeRu) and Master DeYang, who are considered among the handful of Ven. SuXi’s closest disciples. (Ven. SuXi was the last living of the 12 Shaolin Grandmasters that had stayed at the temple though the turmoil of China’s cultural revolution and spent a total of 70 years of his life at the temple in service to Shaolin and Chan Buddhism. He is also the last Shaolin Temple Master allowed to be laid to rest in the Pagoda Forest. For more info about the late Great Grandmaster Suxi click here: info about Great Grandmaster Suxi


Later during this visit, Salazar also participated in creating a promotional intro video for master Shi De Yang’s VCD/DVD instructional/educational series on Shaolin Martial Arts and traditional Shaolin forms. Afterward, Salazar stayed for a second time at Master Shi De Yang’s training school (now in Dengfeng), and completed another month of full-time intensive training, studying advanced Shaolin forms in addition to sanda.

From 2001-2004, alongside his training schedule, Salazar also worked under Master Liu as head kickboxing and kung fu class instructor of the Shaolin Institute Mobile campus. In addition, he volunteered as demo team leader and performer, and helped to organize and run roughly 10 US Open Sanda and Kung fu Tournaments Hosted by the Shaolin Institute.

Salazar him self has competed in Kung fu or Tai ji in at least 18 sanctioned tournaments, earning a total of 59 top placing medals. In 2002, 2004, and 2005 Salazar qualified for and competed in the US National Chinese Martial Arts Championship Hosted by the Wushu Union (now dismantled).  He won National Champion in Men’s traditional kung fu weapons in both 2002 and 2004, while in 2005 he won National Champion in traditional weapons and open hand, as well as the overall tournament Traditional Men’s Grand Champion.

With the blessing of his Shifu, Salazar moved back to Tampa in 2004 to open his own school, and with the aspiration to teach all aspects of Chinese martial arts, including the internal, the external, as well as the fighting and self-defense elements.

From 2005 to 2015 Salazar would juggle teaching alongside training and competing in various Sanda or Muay Thai bouts. After many years of balancing these passions, he travelled to Thailand in 2015 for a final retirement fight at Bangla Stadium, where he fought a local Thai fighter who had 76 pro fight under him, following standard Muay Thai rules for five 3 minutes rounds.

Salazar fight record:

Amateur kickboxing 24-2

Professional kickboxing 8-2

MMA 2-0

Salazar continually strives to use martial arts as a way to connect with and give back the community. In 2012, 2013, 2014, Mt Song Martial Arts hosted the Kung fu & Tai chi Charity Toys for Tots Tournament, raising over $1500 worth of toys each year for the Toys for Tots Tampa organization.

Salazar partnered with USF Confucius Institute in 2012 as a performer and instructor for Confucius Classrooms and the K-12 Chinese language programs throughout the Tampa Bay area. He works together with K-12 teachers and program leaders to increase multi-cultural awareness by sharing Chinese culture with students through martial arts, lion dance and dragon dance.

After almost 2 decades training and teaching Shaolin martial arts, Salazar was officially honored with the title of Shaolin Disciple in 2018 by his Shifu, (Shi De Ru), and given the Shaolin name, 释行颯 Shì Xíng Sà.



Salazar encourages students to participate in competition for self-improvement and has led dozens of students to gold medal and/or ring victories in Kung fu, Tai chi and Sanda. At least four of his students have earned the title of Grand or National Champion, some multiple times, under his instruction at various competitions.

Since 2006, he has volunteered each year as a judge for the International Chinese Martial Arts Competition (ICMAC) Circuit, one of the largest Chinese martial arts tournament circuits currently in the US. In 2019, he was honored by the Circuit and Inducted into the ICMAC Instructor Hall of Fame.


Shifu Salazar’s talent, passion and dedication to the martial arts is unparalleled, and he sets a genuine example of martial arts spirit for all who learn from him. He continues daily to guide students to reach their martial arts goals, encouraging them to not only train hard, but also to constantly challenge themselves and strive to improve with humility. Salazar above all hopes to inspire a lasting love for true, real martial arts in both current and future generations.