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What is Kung Fu San Soo?
Kung Fu San Soo is a broad based Chinese martial art intended for unrestricted combat and defense. It mixes long and short range techniques, internal and external applications, standup and ground skills, locks and throws, fighting psychology, and strength training into a complex fight training system. Less formal than many other Chinese arts, its application for defense is arguably much more straightforward and effective. Learn more about Kung Fu San Soo
What can Kung Fu San Soo do for me?
The practice of Kung Fu San Soo produces many, many benefits including the following:
Who can learn Kung Fu San Soo?
Anyone can learn Kung Fu San Soo. Men and women of all ages and sizes, even children, have mastered the art. One student, Ron Scanlon, worked his way up to master’s rank and instructor from a wheelchair!
Anyone thinking that a wheelchair bound fighter must be some kind of joke has never witnessed Ron Scanlon instantly smacking a fighter to the ground and literally running over him with the harder parts of his chair. While he’s clearly limited with respect to fighters that have full use of their legs, it serves to prove that if he can do it, anyone can do it!
Where did Kung Fu San Soo come from?
Kung Fu San Soo is a Chinese martial art evolved from the Shaolin wushu (fighting) traditions. It evolved through the famous Nan Quan (southern) art popularly known as Choy Li Fut, but is sometimes seen as more practical than traditional Choy Li Fut training. More about Kung Fu San Soo History
It was Americanized by the late Grandmaster, known as Chan Siu Dek in Cantonese, or Chen Shou Jue in Mandarin, and also known as Jimmy H. Woo. Jimmy Haw Woo was considered by many of his contemporaries as one of the greatest practical fighters of his time. More about Chan Siu Dek
Do they practice Kung Fu San Soo in China?
Yes they do, but not strictly by its Americanized name. While it’s not the only broad based, or mixed Chinese martial art, it certainly is one of the most inclusive. Because it’s a training system with a long Chinese history, and is the broad personal interpretation of many fighting ‘styles’ Americanized through a single Chinese wushu fighter, Chan Siu Dek, it is in fact unique. But almost all of the core skills are practiced by various martial schools in China, often as ‘styles’, although not always altogether as they are in Kung Fu San Soo, and not always with the practical fight training focus. More about Kung Fu San Soo in China
Chan Siu Dek was an extremely broad skilled and accomplished fighter. He taught his students that most Chinese ‘styles’ consisted of limited focus and specialization, and that the more ‘styles’ that one mastered, the more accomplished the fighter.
One former student of Chan Siu Dek is Tim Cartmel. After becoming a Kung Fu San Soo master, Tim spent eleven years in China studying a number of Chinese fighting arts. He speaks, reads, and writes Chinese, translates martial arts books into English, and is probably a significant source of knowledge about exactly how Kung Fu San Soo skills fit into the greater martial arts scheme.
Are there competitions in Kung Fu San Soo?
The skill sets and training traditions of Kung Fu San Soo tend to preclude unrestricted competitive practices in modern sport venues without risking great injury or even death. Chan Siu Dek discouraged competiton, at least in the limited fighting venues available when he was alive. Even sparring can be dangerous, and Chan Siu Dek suffered under serious lawsuits from injured students. So Kung Fu San Soo schools do not typically emphasize resistive sparring or sport competitions, although the entire art revolves around extremely effective, semi-contact, “mock sparing”. It's very difficult to resistively spar, much less compete, when the objective is to break a collar bone or dislocate an elbow, where the technique is virtually designed not to lock for a submission tap out, but to tear and destroy tendon and connective tissue? How does one establish a winner without serious injury?
The skills taught in Kung Fu San Soo were historically used in brutal Chinese competitive matches, but were effectively outlawed by the Nationalists in the late 1920’s. Today the original name is carried on in a limited sporting venue as Kung Fu San Shou, and practiced widely across China. More about Kung Fu San Soo and San Shou
But all that not withstanding, Kung Fu San Soo training still produces great competitive skills, even if significant 'detraining' for sporting rule limitations is required, and additional training in sport fighting techniques is necessary. There are a few examples.
Five-time World Champion Kick boxer, and two time Black Belt Hall of Fame Inductee, Kathy Long, studied Kung Fu San Soo before even taking up sport fighting, and while cross training, she eventually earned her San Soo Masters Degree.
In 2005, 19 year old Kung Fu San Soo second degree black belt, Kyle Olsen, training under Kung Fu Master Jeff Frater's United Fighting Systems, and through the Bill Lasiter lineage, defeated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, Rafael Salomao, for a light weight world "no holds barred", MMA Vale Tudo title during an MMA Fighter's Challenge. Salomao claimed more than 300 wins and no loses, and was the light weight protégé of the feared and greatly respected trainer, Edson Carvalho. Olsen credits at least some aspect of his win to his Kung Fu San Soo training.
Tim Cartmel is yet another person who has successfully competed in both Chinese Martial Arts competitive venues and tornaments for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Tim holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a masters in Kung Fu San Soo, and has trained extensively AND competed in resistive competitions in China under Kung Fu Baguazhang and Xingyiquan instructors.
And finally, there's Chris McCune originally of the "No Rules Martial Arts" school, a third generation Kung Fu San Soo Master of the first generation Bill Lasiter lineage. Chris now runs The Academy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school, teaches Kung Fu San Soo, MMA, and holding a black belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu under the legendary Rigan Machado, teaches that art as well. He also won a Gold in the 2009 International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation No-Gi division World Championships.
Do you charge for testing or belt rankings?
Absolutely not. Sonora Kung Fu San Soo only charges a very low flat monthly fee. If you take advantage of the entire school schedule, it comes out to about $1.25 an hour to learn from three masters with a combined experience in 2006 of almost 60 years of training! No matter how you look at it, it’s a pretty darn good deal.
Belts are earned by skill level accomplishment. The amount of time it takes depends on how hard one works at it and how much natural adaptation the individual possesses. More about Kung Fu San Soo belt ranking
Is there a significance to the Hand Salute at the left?
The Hand Salute is common among Chinese martial disciplines, and one of the few Chinese formalities common to most American Kung Fu San Soo schools. It's used to salute a school, instructors, an audience during demonstrations, and other practitioners. The image at the left is a silhouette of the actual hands of Chan Siu Dek. More about the hand salute
Why Did Grandmaster Chan Siu Dek Use Karate Style Uniforms and Belt Rankings?
Since Chan Siu Dek is no longer with us to query, even with the testimony of first generation students, we probably have to speculate. But the evidence is reasonably clear. At the time Chan Siu Dek opened his first school, few if any had ever heard of Kung Fu, much less Choy Li Ho Fut Hung. But many had heard of Karate and tended to lump all the Asian martial arts into that category. We explain more about that here.