All the information in this section comes
from conversations with
Jimmy H. Woo from 1968 through 1976 at the El Monte studio.
What is Kung-Fu San Soo?
Kung-Fu San Soo is literally
every way to use you hands, feet and body to defeat an opponent - and
much more. This Art teaches an individual to be able to fight. That
means, learning to use your mind and body to respond to what ever an
opponent may try on you.
Kung-Fu San Soo is not a limited series of
techniques as in other arts. A student is taught techniques which are
made up of a series of blocks, punches, kicks, leverages and throws.
Such techniques are designed to acquaint the student with various
moves and motions. The technique also familiarizes the student with
the various places on the human body that may be attacked - and all
the different directions from which it may be done.
The student then practices the technique
until it is understood and can be done with coordination. Then the
student is encouraged to mix the new technique into previous lessons
to create new techniques. As the days, months and years go by, the
student amasses literally thousands of combinations.
Students work out one on one - in a fighting
format. This builds reaction and timing in the student. After some
time, the student reacts automatically with the body and the mind
working as one. Eventually, the student develops the ability to fight
as a skilled and smart fighter reacting to any situation.
Finally, the student acquires the psycology of a fighter which enables
him/her to understand a situation and often diffuse it or turn it to
his/her advantage. All of this coupled with the ability to take the
opponents balance and to maintain an element of surprise throughout a
conflict, puts Kung-Fu San Soo head and shoulders above other martial arts.
For thousands of years, the neighboring
principalities in Southern China maintained their owned armed forces
and taught their own hand to hand fighting systems to their soldiers.
When one area succumbed to a warring neighbor, the fighting systems
were consolidated. In this way, several well developed fighting
systems evolved in Southern China, over one or two thousand years, by
the nineteenth century.
When a kingdom or fiefdom fell of decay, the
accumulated literary works were sometimes saved and conserved in
local monasteries. Such was the case that the art of Tsoi Li Ho Fut
Hung was conserved within the Kwan Yin monastery in the area around
present day Chien Tien.
The accumulated writings that represented
the Art were compiled into two volumes during the Ming dynasty. These
volumes were used as the teaching texts from which the monks at the
monastery were trained.
Eventually, Chin Moon Don became the
teaching master of the Kwan Yin monastery. He was very skilled as a
teacher and so his students, the monks, were very capable fighters.
This fact was not lost on the local Warlord of the region. In time,
he made an offer to Chin Moon Don. If he would leave the monastery
and teach the Art to the soldiers of the Warlord, Chin Moon Don would
be made the head of his own great family and become rich and feared.
If he refused, soldiers would shoot many arrows into him.
This was a hard offer to refuse. So Chin
Moon Don left the monastery. He took with him the two ancient
teaching volumes as well as one additional volume that is believed to
be his own written record of the lessons he had learned as a student
Chin Moon Don taught for many years and
eventually passed the task on to his son, Chin Leoung Kick. Kick then
passed the honor on to his son, Chin Siu Don who passed it on to his
nephew, Chi Siu Hung.
The Japanese overran the area around Chien
Tien in the 1930's. The fact that the populace deferred to the Chin
family instead of the military authority angered the Japanese
greatly. The military commander decided that he would stage a fight
to the death between Hung (then over 70 years of age) and the
regimental Karate champion. He reasoned that having his champion kill
Hung in hand to hand combat would show to the locals that the
Japanese were superior and must be obeyed.
Hung was told that he must fight or that the
entire population of the village would be killed. He agreed to fight.
Hung killed the regimental Karate champion within twenty seconds.
This of course caused the military commander to go into a rage. He
ordered Hung and all those present machine gunned to death.
Prior to this, Chin Siu Dek had fled the
country to the United States and the invaluable books were smuggled
to Hong Kong by Hung's Son. In the 1960's they were sent to their
intended heir, Chin Siu Dek, who we know as Grandmaster Jimmy H.
As he grew into adolencence, Jimmy was exuberant
and overflowing with confidence.
Jimmy acquired a taste for gambling with the other young men of his class and developed a
temper,especially when he lost. Following a violent altercation with another youth of the
ruling class, Jimmy found himself in trouble.
The word went out that he was persona-non-grata and that his life
would be very difficult if
he remained where he was. His family secured for him a passport in the pseudonym Jimmy
H. Woo. They gave him the passport and a bag of money, and placed him on a steamship
destined for the United States. They belived that he would be safe there.
By the time Jimmy arrived in southern California, he had gone
through all of the considerable funds that his family had given to
him. And, there was no way to secure money from home. For his first
home here, Jimmy had cardboard accomadations beneath the Santa Monica
Jimmy began work delivering produce for an oriental green grocer.
From this start, Jimmy worked many different jobs and vocations
throughout California, in Las Vegas and other places. His work for
the China Town Merchants Association as private security is still
Jimmy taught the fighting art he learn throughout his life to
members of the chinese community and to others on a private basis.
Occasionally he consulted even in movie productions.
Finally, his uncle, who had secreted the family teaching texts out
of mainland China and into Hong Kong, contacted him. It was his
uncle's intention to send to Jimmy these ancient texts since it was
the wish of Chin Siu Hung that Jimmy suceed as teaching master of the
This was now the 1060's and Jimmy opened his studio in El Monte
California behind the Midway Shopping Center on Lower Azusa Road. He
call the Art Karate Kung-Fu back then.
Even in retirement Jimmy continued to teach at the El Monte studio
until his death on Valentines day 1992.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Jimmy H. Woo
remember a warm happy person who never tired af telling endless
stories of his adventures and misadventures. We also marvel at his
great skill in the Art of Kung-Fu San Soo, the truly Ancient Chinese
Art of Self Defense.