school. I subsequently studied with Ted for about twelve years. The last three years I also studied in the instructor's class with Jimmy Woo. So I stayed with San Soo from the time I was 12 until I went to the orient when I was about 23.
What can you tell us about San Soo in general?
I was looking for a style of martial arts which was street self-defense oriented. At the time I noticed that in a lot of styles, especially the Chinese styles, people did a lot of forms and exercises and prearranged drills, but when it came down to it, they didn't have much practical fighting ability. That kind of thing didn't interest me. I found San Soo to be a very practical style and the method of training was 100% geared towards street combat effectiveness. That appealed to me and that is why I stayed with it. Jimmy Woo produced a large number of very proficient fighters, so that was
Over the years I had worked out with people from other styles and I've tried to absorb some things, but I stuck with San Soo until I got my 8th degree black belt in 1983.
Because Jimmy Woo did not like to be in the public eye and he only taught in Southern California, many of the readers may not have heard of Kung Fu San Soo. Can you give us a brief history of the style?
Kung Fu San Soo is a Southern Chinese combat art that was introduced to the United States by Jimmy H. Woo. "San Soo" (fc^ - San Shou in Mandarin) refers to the "free fighting" or combat efficient orientation of the art. The full name of the traditional style is Choy Lay Ho Fut Hung in Cantonese, or Cai Li He Fuo Xiong ( in Mandarin. The first three characters, Cai Li He, are names of three families which contributed major categories of theory and technique to the style. The "Fut" or "Fuo" refers to Buddhism (the art was practiced in the Guan Yin, or "Goddess of Mercy" monastery in China), and the Xiong refers to a family from which the art incorporated its power exercises. San Soo includes a very broad base of techniques, including all manner of strikes and kicks, leverages, throws and ground techniques.
Jimmy H. Woo (this is a name he adopted when he came to the United States, his Chinese name was Chin Siu Dek in Cantonese or Chen Shou Jue # w
), in Mandarin) is the fifth generation inheritor of the style, having trained with his great-uncle from early childhood. Jimmy Woo's great-great-greatgrandfather was a monk in the above mentioned Guan Yin monastery. After mastering the Choy Lay Ho Fut Hung methods of combat, he left the order and returned to teach the art to his family. The art was passed down from generation to generation and finally to Jimmy, who brought the style to the United States as a young man. Jimmy Woo was one of the first Chinese teachers to begin openly teaching martial arts to non-Chinese and has taught thousands of students over his lifetime. Jimmy Woo passed away in 1991.
When did you go to Taiwan?
Since I was in High School I had wanted to go to China somewhere and study. I had read a lot of books about martial arts and had become interested in the so-called "internal" styles. When I graduated from college I wanted to go to the orient and study some internal style martial art. It was hard to find a teacher locally, so I thought I'd go straight to the source in China. I wanted to go to the orient and so I applied to the National Chinese Normal University in the Chinese Language program and got accepted, so I decided to go to Taiwan to study Chinese and find a martial arts teacher. Just before I left, a friend of mine introduced me to one of Xu Hong Ji's students and I got a letter of introduction to meet Xu Hong Ji C^b'-Uk). I had heard of Xu Hong Ji and had read articles about him, so I was excited to travel to Taiwan and study with him.
When I got to Taiwan, I went directly to Xu Hong Ji to ask him to teach me. By that time Xu had retired and said he was no longer accepting students. I was persistent and after a couple of weeks he told me I could follow him up the mountain where he went to exercise. For several weeks after that I would just follow him as he went up the mountain and sit all day while he talked with his friends. After several weeks of that he decided that I was sincere so he had me train with a friend of his, Mr. Fan. Mr. Fan taught me Shaolin Qi Gong. I woke up early every morning, climbed the mountain, and studied qi gong with Mr. Fan. In the meantime, Xu Hong Ji had gone to Japan to teach Xing Yi and when he came back he started actually instructing me in Xing Yi Quan.
After Xu started teaching me, I continued to climb the mountain every morning and practice qi gong. For the first two months all I did was practice pi quan (
- splitting fist) with Xu. That's all I did for hours. After a few months of pi quan, Xu started teaching me the rest of the elements and shortly after that Xu passed away.
After Xu Hong Ji passed away, I started studying with his son, Xu Zhen Wang 0i). I stayed with him for about another three years. He taught me privately for the first year and after that he reopened his father's school so that I would get experience teaching. He also taught classes at several of the Universities. The university students would come and I would help Xu Zhen Wang lead classes and teach students. I eventually got my black belt in the Tang Shou Tao system of Xing Yi from Xu Hong Ji's son, Xu Zhen Wang.
Was this article helpful?