The History of Kung Fu San Soo
Kung Fu San Soo Photo Photo from Kung Fu San Soo of the Monterey Peninsula.


by Rich Robson

In order to trace the roots of Kung Fu San Soo it is necessary to go back to a time in Chinese history referred to as the "Warring States" period which began in the 11th century and ended in the 3rd century BC. This period was characterized by a feudal system where great overlords ruled grants of land given to them by rulers of the Chou dynasty. Each overlord, in an effort to maintain control over their land, developed their own system of fighting. Naturally, the best fighting systems would continue to improve while the ineffective systems tended to decay and disappear.

About a thousand years ago, three such overlord families, Tsai, Li and Hoi, united in the construction of a Buddhist temple in the village of Pon Hong, Guangdong Providence of Southern China. This temple came to be known as the Temple of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. It was in this temple that San Soo had its roots as the three families combined their respective arts into one.
About 200 years ago, a young man named Chin Moon Don lived in this temple. At the age of 30 he left with the two training manuals which contained the techniques that make up San Soo. These books remained in his family for four generations until a man named Chin Siu Hung came to possess them. He was an extremely large man, 6'5" tall and weighing over 320 pounds. He followed in his father's footsteps and became a well known San Soo teacher.

A nephew of Chin Siu Hung, Chin Siu Dek began his study of San Soo at the age of 5 and became Hung's prized student. Dek learned extremely quickly and loved the grueling workouts. In 1935, when Dek was 21 years old, he left China for the port of Los Angeles with a passport under the name of Jimmy H. Woo. As fate would later prove, this turned out to be an extremely fortunate move.

Chin Siu Hung was 73 years old when the Japanese invaded China. In 1942 he was forced to fight a death match with the regimental karate champion of the Japanese army. The Japanese commander thought such a display would surely demonstrate the power of the Japanese army. In fact, it took Hung less than 20 seconds to kill the karate warrior! Enraged, the Japanese commander ordered Hung and most of his students immediately killed by machine gun fire. This basically ended San Soo in mainland China. Had Jimmy not immigrated to the United States, San Soo would not exist today.

The San Soo fighting system contains punches, kicks, leverages, and throws. There also is much emphasis put on the mental attitude that one needs to approach a dangerous fight situation with a calm and collected mind. It is a highly fluid and dynamic system; the techniques are altered to fit the particular situation at any given moment. It is highly aggressive and offensive in nature. The San Soo fighter is trained to be in control under any circumstance. It is based on biological and physical principles that have been researched and developed over a period of more than 2,000 years. When properly understood and applied, the techniques used in San Soo will give the fighter the optimum chance to prevail over any opponent.

Rich Robson is a 2nd degree black belt and owner/chief instructor at the Kung Fu San Soo Club, 3388 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104. For more information on Kung Fu San Soo, call Master Rich Robson (619) 297-0424.

Martial Arts articles of interest by Jade Dragon Online:
Part 1 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
Part 2 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
The Roots of Martial Arts
Profile:   Sifu Share K. Lew

Kung Fu San Soo web sites:
Kung Fu San Soo of the Monterey Peninsula
Kwan Yin Kung Fu San Soo Website

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