Sifu Kisu is the fighting instructor and consultant for the Avatar franchise. He is known for his extensive knowledge and abilities with various styles of martial arts. Sifu Kisu related the four bending arts to actual styles of fighting in real life, as to give bending in the series authenticity. His extensive work with the series is highlighted in the behind-the-scenes featurettes Creating the Legend and The Essence of Bending.
Raised in Toronto Canada, Sifu Kisu was first exposed to the world of martial arts at an early age. After spending time in the military he moved to Los Angeles and worked as an Executive Protection Specialist for many celebrities and VIPs. In the late 70's, Sifu Kisu began studying karate with his uncles upon their return from Vietnam. They primarily trained in jujitsu and karate. Kisu was later sent off to learn Shorin-ryu under Robert Yarnell in St. Louis. After this, Sifu Kisu got involved with taekwondo, specifically the Chung Do Kwan system, and had the great fortune to study with Master Kong Eng Moo. He later accompanied Master Kong Eng Moo to the Kukkiwon in Korea. Kisu continued to learn taekwondo from his master, along with the Korean president Park Chung-hee's bodyguards.
In 1980, he became a disciple of Master Hui Ho Kwong and trained with him for the next twenty-six years. During this time Sifu Kisu was introduced to the Northern Shaolin style and learned that martial arts are not just about learning how to fight, but more importantly they are a vehicle to master oneself.
"Chinese Martial Arts embody harmonized teaching and training techniques which serve as either self-defense, healing, psychological revelation, vivifying exercise, or a spiritual path, and could act as a catalyst to people who would normally not be interested in spiritual practices or other esoteric training. This knowledge changed me on levels I have no words to explain. My life's work now is the practice, teaching and promotion of the Northern Shaolin system of traditional Chinese martial arts. Recently I was hired by one of my students who works for Nickelodeon to consult on their hit TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Through that show I have attempted to promote the higher concepts of Martial Art virtues. I am proud to say this is the first show for young people I have seen passing along the concepts of honor, duty, loyalty, friendship and harmony."
Sifu Kisu related the four bending arts and several other specific bending styles to real life fighting styles.
Tai chi formed the basis of waterbending. Kisu took inspiration from the style's fluidity, connectivity and adaptability, all of which became fundamental concepts for all three waterbending styles. In addition, the 24-step form from Tai Chi was used to create the waterbending scroll that Katara ended up with.
Hung Gar formed the basis of earthbending. Kisu took inspiration from the style's low stances, rooted power and strength. He used a lot of the techniques from Gung Gee Fook Fu, the "taming the tiger" form and the "tiger crane" form.
Toph's seismic sense and unique method of earthbending was based on the Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style; while Sifu Kisu was not a master of it, he brought in his friend, Sifu Manny and Manny's son to become the example.
The Northern Shaolin system formed the basis of firebending. In particular, Northern Shaolin highlighted fire in the sense that the element has many manifestations. When controlled, it is one way and when out of control, the art becomes something completely different. Firebending features very powerful and dynamic footwork, arrow-like forward attacking techniques, feather-like retreating techniques and employs the "light as a leaf, heavy as iron" concept of fighting.
Lightning generation was based on the movements of Shaolin form number two, "dragon shoots its whiskers".
Ba Gua formed the basis of airbending. It utilizes light circle walking techniques and the "Eight Trigram Palm". The fundamental concept of airbending is similar to Ba Gua in that a bender shifts and rotates their center in order to counteract resistance and attack.
Pro-bending is heavily influenced by aerial acrobatic martial arts in concurrence with MMA and UFC styles of fighting.
The Metalbending Police Force of Republic City use a few moves based on the Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis form. It also uses entry techniques based on elements Sifu Kisu learned when he was in the military, particularly in terms of fire, ranging, covering sectors and vectoring.