Known by many names throughout history the art known as Kung fu San Soo is the most ancient of all Chinese martial arts. Boasting a history of more than 4,000 years. It's first recorded use in a military engagement was with the Yellow Emperor when he fought against the rebel Chih Yiu and his army circa 2,697 bce. Throughout the centuries the art changed as it was perfected, by picking up and dropping off techniques. used in actual face to face, life and death battles San Soo later was used by the ruling class as a form of entertainment, they would erect a stage platform known as Lei Tai and exponents would face off against each other.
The very best became personal guard for the emperor or other high standing individuals. The Imperial army's top soldiers were trained in this system, as well elite/wealthy, powerful people. As time past the art was past by retired military men to monks in Monasteries where they would retire. This began to aid in the formation of martial monks in temples of Sil Lum and Kwan Yin in southern China. Many forms of Chinese Kung-fu owe their existence to this original system of hand to hand combat. They would take bits and pieces and create whole other systems, later these arts traveled out of China to other oriental countries, blending with their native arts and culture creating even more arts like Kara-te, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido,, judo etc..
The original systematized art was quite complete even in it's early recordings. Hand and leg strikes coupled with joint locks/leverages and flips throws etc already were fully present. over the 4 millennia it's been polished like a fine jewel or any truly intricate work of craftsmanship.
At some point according to Grandmaster Jimmy H. Woo Three powerful families established villages in their names Tsoi, Li and Ho Families. They built and hosted Buddhist monks for their peoples religious needs. These monks didn't work like the common man, so relied on the charity of the people for their livelihood. On their travels returning to their Monastery they would be preyed upon by bandits and would be robbed, injured and some killed, This became a real issue so the Leaders of each powerful family sent their own families martial expert in the original art to train the monks to defend themselves.
The monks began writing down and training in all they were learning from these three martial masters. Coming to the conclusion that each one was particularly skilled in one area better than the others, they took the best aspects of each naming out of respect and honor for their teachers the art of Tsoi, Li, Ho and Fut which represents them and their Buddhist beliefs. They later developed forms combining all aspects of each families art. Tsoi Ga Kuhn Tao was best in all forms of striking then the others. Li Ga Ma was best in his use of leverages, flips, throwing, stances/footwork etc..Ho Ga was best at nerve and pass points, a thorough understanding of the central nervous system and how to attack it.
The monks used Hung Ga to refer to Power, Heroic courage and body dynamics, essentially the forms and drills. Fut Ga again is their spiritual and psychological approach to life and combat.
These monks of this particular Kwan Yin Monastery located in what was known as Pon Hong in the Guang Dong Province learned, systematized and further perfected the original art and titled it Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung Ga aka Kung-fu San Soo.
A young orphan boy taken in over a thousand years later was trained as well and after 34 years left the monk hood and returned to his family with two of the training texts of the art from the monestary. He began training members of his family after swearing them to secrecy. this man is Grand master Woo's Great great great grandfather Leuong Kick. Grand master Woo is the fifth generation of his family to learn this art that came from that Kwan Yin Monastery. At the age of 20 he left China for America and opened his families and monks private system to the public for the first time to Chinese people in Chinatown Los Angeles Clifornia in the 1940's-1950's, where he taught for 16 years at the Sing Kang. in Norther El Monte in Southern California U.S.A. in 1959 at the Midway Shopping center on Lower Azuza Rd. He continued this tradition but for anyone that wanted to learn. Making him the first Chinese Kung-fu master to teach whites, blacks, etc until his passing on Feb. 14, 1991.
A little more info on (San Soo), also known as Chinese boxing. San soo is a martial art which was originally developed by the Chinese military based on actual battle field combat fighting experiences, evaluating and creating efficient techniques; it combines full-contact kickboxing, which includes close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and, even elbow and knee strikes.
San Soo is not seen as a style itself, but rather is considered as just one of the two components of Chinese martial arts training and is often taught alongside Wushu Taolu (forms) training.
Jūnshì San Soo (Pinyin, Military Free Fighting): A system of unarmed combat that was designed by Chinese Elite Forces based upon their intense study of actual hand-to-hand fighting and combat philosophy to develop a realistic system of unarmed fighting for the Chinese military. Jùnshì San Soo employs all parts of the body as anatomical weapons to attack and counter with, by using what the Chinese consider to be the four basic martial arts techniques:
This history is from the Jimmy H. Woo Association website. The following history on the art of San Soo was written in May of 1993 based on information provided by Master Bernie Woo.
"San Soo as taught by Grandmaster Jimmy H. Woo, had its origins in the very basics of Chinese feudal life four thousand years ago. For many hundreds of years, China was divided and sub-divided into various warring factions, and each produced many types of fighting styles. Chinese systematized warfare predates the arrival of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, thought to be the founder of Shaolin Ch'uan, by several hundred years c.200 B.C.
Exactly how and when these fighting tactics were begun in the Kwan-Yin (goddess of mercy) monastery in the village of Pon Hong, Guangdong Province of Southern China is still unclear, but is in the process of being researched. The main reason the martial arts were perfected by this group of monks was to protect themselves from bandits and outlaws as the monks returned with supplies and donations from the nearby villages.
One of these young monks, named Leoung Kick, an orphan who lived in the monastery since the age of 10, (Jimmy H. Woo's Great, Great, Great Grandfather) decided to leave the monastery when he was approximately 30 years old. He took with him two of the Buddhist training texts which probably date back to the 1500's during the Ming Dynasty. These books have remained within the Chin family, where the techniques and forms were taught and passed down from generation to generation. All of the techniques and forms taught to and by Jimmy came from these two manuals.
Young Chin Siu Dek (Jimmy's real name) was taught by his Great Uncle Chin Siu Hung who was nicknamed Chin Neow Gee, which means "Crazy Devil." Hung was an extremely large man, 6'5" tall and weighing well over 320 pounds. Following in his grandfather's footsteps, Hung became a well-known fighter, teaching in his own San Soo school. He was overlord for the entire province, which at that time, late 1800's and until 1941 was about the size of Orange County, CA. He had complete control over nearly every aspect of the lives of the people in the area. No one started a business, moved or made any other major decisions without consulting Hung.
From the age of five on Dek was to be his Great Uncle's prize student. He learned extremely fast and loved the contact and grueling workouts on hard floors.In his teens, Dek became a traveling teacher of Choi Lee Ho Fut Hung; the official name of the martial art perfected hundreds of years before in the monastery very near his small village. When anyone in the province needed someone to come and settle a grievance, Dek was the enforcer. When village elders decided it was time for the young men to learn to defend themselves, Dek would be sent to live there for months at a time to teach them.
In 1935, at the age of 21, Chin Siu Dek left mainland China under the passport name Jimmy H. Woo and sailed for the United States. During the early years in this country, Jimmy lived in Chinatown, Los Angeles.
Chin Siu Hung was 73 years old when the Japanese invaded mainland China and took over his beloved province. In 1942 he was forced, against his will, to answer a challenge to fight to the death the regimental karate champion of the Japanese army. This was to be a public display of the power of the Japanese conquerors in front of the poor villagers of the surrounding area. Under the threat of death to his people if he did not comply, Hung fought and defeated the Japanese champion. In fact he killed the karate warrior in less than 20 seconds. He and most of his students were immediately killed by machine gun fire. This basically ended San Soo in mainland China.
It was extremely fortunate that Jimmy had left mainland China when he did, for the Japanese would have awarded him with the same fate as his Great Uncle and the other San Soo practitioners rather than allow a possible resistance corps to remain.
Jimmy carried the art to America and kept it alive while many of the other early Chinese fighting systems were destroyed by the Japanese. Mao Tse Tung later eradicated many of the martial arts styles, training books and monasteries when the communist Chinese took over power from the Japanese at the end of W.W.II.
Jimmy traveled several weeks by steamship to the United States, landing in the Port of Los Angeles, California. Jimmy worked many varied odd jobs as he became acclimated to his new home in Los Angeles' Chinatown District. His love for fresh fruit and vegetables stemmed from his long hours as a produce manager in a market, but his first love was teaching San Soo. He began teaching privately to close relatives and friends; later he was the instructor for several years at the Sing Kang "cousins club" a social/recreational organization. He also acted as security/police for the residents and business owners in the area and sometimes as a bodyguard, the only unarmed one in the area.
Destiny brought Chin Siu Dek to America as Jimmy H. Woo to preserve the ancient art of Choi (Ga Kuhn Tao) Lee (Ga Ma) Ho (Ga) Fut (Ga) Hung (Ga), San Soo. In his memory and that of thousands of instructors and monks before him, the art must be preserved."
Chin Siu Dek was born in Hoy San China in San Ba Town. His families art is Choy Li Ho Fut Hung ga. His first instructor was a cousin by the name Wing Cheurng whom after receiving a serious leg injury asked his Teacher, Chin Si Hung (also he's Dek's Great Uncle) to continue teaching young Dek. Hung accepted. Chin Dek trained for many years under Hungs direction becoming his heir and top student.
So much so that the Family art teaching books where sent with him to America to protect them from the coming Japanese invasion. Good thing to, since after the Japanese left and the new Communist Chinese government took over and banned martial arts training. They went around burning books, destroying traditional weapons, imprisoning adepts and closing schools etc. Many years later they allowed their sanctioned or (safe) martial arts, commonly known as WuShu. Its more or less a demonstration art with gymnastics,dance and a martial arts flavor.Not for fighting. Real effective Kung-fu was suppressed, destroyed or as many masters saw the writing on the wall, fled to Hong Kong and other countries. There were and are more real Kung-fu masters outside of China than within.
Chin Dek aka Jimmy H.Woo founded The American Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung Kung-fu San Soo branch based upon his families art and real fighting experience, He, like those in his family before and many of the hundreds or thousands before them bared the tradition of teaching with honor and character, so as to perpetuate the old, real Chinese fighting art of Kung-fu San Soo.
The art of San Soo is amazingly well rounded with the diversity and flexibility of techniques.
Here at Cypress College Kung-fu San Soo. we still teach Jimmy's forms from his Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung system, blended both of Jimmy's old style (1950-late 60's larger windmills, more aggressive) and his latter version (late 60's-1991 tighter in close, heavy on leverages and throws) lessons/fighting techniques.
That always being the base, but with incorporating degrees of resistive training, pad work and basics of grappling for some, making what I feel as the best training system for self protection .This is our Kung-fu San Soo. Full of History, time tested training methods and growth.
I'm working to keep the legacy of Grand master Woo and Kung-fu San Soo alive. Salute!
For more on the art and system of Kung-fu San Soo sign up at Cypress College through the continuing ed dept and train with us.
Kung-fu San Soo at Cypress College has a rich history going back to the 1960's Where instructors trained in Grandmaster Jimmy H. Woo's system share their passion to the thousands of students for over 5 decades.
Sifu Jason D. Kalar a 3 time master degree earner within San Soo has been training since 5 years old and has learned and taught here at Cypress College through the N.O.C.C.C.D SCE (now NOCE) For over 33 years. Sifu J.D. Kalar carries on the complete Jimmy H.Woo San Soo system with some added additions. Come and know that you are learning Kung-fu San Soo self defence the right way. So as to be effective.
Though Grandmaster Woo opened his school in 1959 it was in December of 1962, Jimmy officially held the grand opening for his martial arts studio in the Midway Shopping Center in El Monte, CA. In the early years he called it "Karate-Kung Fu" because no one knew what kung fu was at that time.
In January of 1984, following his retirement from daily instruction, Jimmy H. Woo became Grand Master (Lo Sifu) when his Grandson, James P. King, earned his black belt.
Jimmy H. Woo continued teaching his instructors' class two Saturdays a month until 1991, totaling nearly 46 years of kung fu teaching in America.