San Soo » Lineage

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The exact lineage of Kung Fu San Soo is extremely difficult to trace. It may in fact be impossible. This study therefore is a work in progress and given new information, it may change. This lineage also uses the Romanized Cantonese spelling 'Chan', which is more popular among the Southern Chinese artists, and substituted for the Mandarin 'Chen', and the Hoisanese 'Chin'.

Lineage assertions fall into two distinct camps: the official International Kung Fu San Soo Association view held by those who believe they firmly understand the lineage left by the late Grandmaster Chan Siu Dek (Jimmy H. Woo); and those that have clear and undisputable documentation and testimony placing Chan Siu Hung (Cantonese, Chen Shiu Xiong in Mandarin), Chan Siu Dek's great uncle and universally acknowledged teacher, in the accepted historical lineage of the very popular Nánquán art of Choy Li Fut.

There are many historic Choy Li Fut practitioners around the world today. Chan Yong Fa and Ng Fu Hang are two who offer significant interest to Kung Fu San Soo practitioners, as they are the living great, great grandsons of Chan Heung, the founder of Choy Li Fut, and share the Chan surname. Some Kung Fu San Soo researchers hold them to technically be 'adoptive' step cousins of Chan Siu Dek himself.

This study chooses to accept the rather unorthodox conclusion that both lineages are correct. We accept the Choy Li Fut lineage as documentable through numerous sources, many included here, although we do not claim that Kung Fu San Soo is a formally descended Choy Li Fut art, or a member of the formal Choy Li Fut lineages. We only allow that it clearly has roots closely associated in its background. And we also accept the official International Kung Fu San Soo association lineage as the personal family lineage left by Chan Siu Dek, as well as anyone could understand it, because we thoroughly trust the intentions and integrity of the late Grandmaster, Losifu Chan Siu Dek.

However, after contacting numerous individuals close to both sides of the issue, no one has been able to provide us with historical evidence showing us exactly who Chan Siu Don or Leoung Kick actually were. From our experience, one can Google just about any Romanized spelling possible and the only place any reference shows up is on Kung Fu San Soo web sites. And so far, we know of no one who fluent in Chinese that has been interested enough to use the Chinese search engines to try and find some reference that would put flesh on these bones.

So we've drawn our own conclusion. While Leoung Kick and Chin Moon Don could possibly be other names for Chan Yuen Woo or Choi Fuk, and Chan Koon Pak respectively, it's presently our opinion that they were probably real members of Chan Siu Dek's family ancestry, share a parallel lineage, and favored by Chan Siu Dek himself when viewing his own lineage.

Interestingly, if we take seriously the recent testimony of Chan Sai Mo (Cantonese, Chin Shi Wu Mandarin), the cousin of Chan Siu Dek and son of Chan Siu Hung, as reported from China, and from the calligraphy left behind by Chan Siu Dek, we have his claim that Chan Heung and Chin Moon Don were the same person remembered by different names. It's on the basis of his testimony that we tie in the two lineages at this point. Rather than offering a contradiction, we see this as lending significant support the 'official' accepted lineage left to us by Chan Siu Dek himself.

We only wish we had more evidence to offer students of the lineage with respect to the undocumented individuals and the official lineage. Still, we attempt to document this tree through the following sources.

Pre Buddhist Wushu

Chinese martial history prior to the introduction to Buddhism. This would include Confucian and Taoist backgrounds. More about pre-Buddhist Wushu.

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Legendary monk said to have brought Buddhism into the Chinese Taoist and Confucian systems, forging a synthesis between pre-Buddhist wushu and Buddhist health and body building practices.

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Taoist Influences

We believe that Kung Fu San Soo contains elements of the Chángquán, or northern styles, especially Taoist Wudangguan, and particularly in the free sparring method of training. The Taoist influence is sometimes attributed to or associated with the famous Taoist temples of the Wudang Mountains, at least in folklore. The most famous of the Taoist styles might be Taijiquan. This is not actually a part of the simplified official International Kung Fu San Soo Association lineage, and not a part of official Choy Li Fut lineage, but we place it here in attempt to explain certain highly probably influences.

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Shaolin Temples

The famous Temple System of Shaolin Wushu (Mandarin, Sil Lum Wusu in Cantonese). The most notable were the earlier Northern Temple at Henan, and the Southern Temple at Fujian. More about the temples in the history of Kung Fu San Soo.

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Medieval Modifications

Gok Yuen, Lee Sau, Ba Yee Fang, three Medieval Shaolin monks which legend holds to be attributed for the modification and improvement of the institutionalized wushu arts.

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Long Fist and Red Fist Influence

We're speculating here, but there's a strong possibility that in its pre-Nánquán lineage, before the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Kung Fu San Soo inherited some aspects of the longer Chángquán (Beiquan) styles. This influence would likely include Tàizû Longfist, or First Emperor Kung Fu, and possibly Redfist, or Hóngquán. Again, this is not actually a part of the simplified official International Kung Fu San Soo Association lineage, and not a part of the official Choy Li Fut lineage, but we place it here in attempt to explain certain highly probably influences.

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Five Families

Five Families of the Southern martial styles. More about the Five Families of Kung Fu San Soo.

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Lin Quan Yuan Temple

The famous Southern Temple of Lin Quan Yuan, the highly probably place of psychological and physiological refinement for the reactive fundamental fighting aspects that would one day become embodied in many of the Nánquán fighting arts, and of special interest to us, the art of Kung Fu San Soo. From the Fujian Temple, the art almost certainly moved even further South to the Kwangtung temple near Canton, where it was refined even further. When the Kwangtung Temple fell, the art, along with other "styles" and similar lineages, seems to have moved into smaller temples or training halls, and for practitioners of American Kung Fu San Soo, most notably one near Sanba Town, in Taishan City, Guangdong.

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Flower Fist Influence

Some of the most knowledgeable first generation practitioners have expressed strong conviction that Chan Siu Dek first taught a simplified standup version of a longer style which was most likely "Flower Fist" Chángquán, or Huãquán. It is historically likely to have been a longer influence toward the Lin Quan Yuan transformation to the Nánquán, or Southern fist styles, at the end of the Ming and the early Qing Dynasties. This simple long style is sometimes referred to as "Old San Soo" in the American lineage and dates to the beginning of the El Monte school. As a longer method, it may possibly also serve to help distinguish Kung Fu San Soo from other shorter method Nánquán arts that share a similar background, arts like Wing Chun. Once again, this is not actually a part of the simplified official International Kung Fu San Soo Association lineage, and not a part of official Choy Li Fut lineage, but we place it here in attempt to explain certain highly probably influences.

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Chan Heung's Teachers

Chan Yuen Woo, Li Yau San, and Choi Fuk, the three teachers of the founder of Choy Li Fut, Chan Heung. Through the Hero's Victory lineage of Choy Li Fut, we can trace the lineage of Chan Siu Dek's great uncle, Chan Siu Hung.

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Leoung Kick

Held to be an ancestor of Chan Siu Dek, and as oral history goes, the person who left the temple system with the books Chan Siu Dek used in his teachings. He would probably have been one generation earlier than Chan Heung, and as a monk from the monastery at Pong Hong, part of the larger temple system which included Chan Heung's teachers. Some seem to think he could be the same person as Chan Yuen Woo, others suggest the Monk, Choi Fuk. David Lorenson holds the former opinion, and given the extent of his research, it's very possible he's correct.

The latter is a most interesting possibility, as both were reported to have been monks surviving the destruction of the temples, and both lived about the same time period. But while those are two distinct possibilities, and as much as we would love to have some proof, no one was able or willing to offer us evidence of either. So we list him here as a distinct individual. We'd love to have something more, but unfortunately, no one provided us with any tangible reference or documentation regarding this person. More about the story of Leoung Kick and the temples.

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Chan Heung

Chan Heung in Cantonese, Chen Xiong in Mandarin. Chan Heung is popularly held to be the founder of internationally recognized art of Choy Li Fut, an art that shares three of the same calligraphic characters with Choy Li Ho Fut Hung, and a person critical to the history and lineage of Kung Fu San Soo. Recent testimony by Chan Siu Dek's cousin in China, Chan Sai Mo (Cantonese, Chin Shi Wu in Mandarin), holds that Chan Heung and Chin Moon Don were the same person known by different names. There are many historic reasons why individuals used different names during this period. Even more important to the student of Kung Fu San Soo history, is that several individuals claim they remember Chan Siu Dek proudly pointing to pictures of Chan Heung as his great grandfather. The official Choy Li Fut lineage shows no record of this assertion, but recent evidence suggests that Chan Siu Dek's great uncle, Chan Siu Hung, may have been adopted by Chan Heung, thereby lending some legitimacy to Chan Siu Dek's assertion.

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Chan Koon Pak

Son of Chan Heung, and a definite teacher of Chan Siu Hung, as documented by Chan Yiu Chi, grandson of Chan Heung.

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Chan Siu Don

If the official International Kung Fu San Soo lineage interpretation is correct, this would be a person in Chan Siu Dek's personal family lineage that would have roughly been a contemporary of Chan Koon Pak. So we place these two side by side. Some seem to think he could be the same person as Chan Koon Pak, including David Lorenson, and while it's possible, we found no evidence of that. We're very loosely concluding that this is Chan Siu Dek's paternal grandfather, brother to his great uncle, Chan Siu Hung, and therefore one of the stepsons of Chan Heung.

But there are some significant difficulties. Some credible sources hold that family records indicate that Chan Siu Dek's paternal grandfather was Chin Wen Zan. Whether Chin Wen Zan and Chan Siu Don were different names for the same person or different individuals, we cannot say. It does present a conflict. We'd love to have something more, but unfortunately, no one has been able to provide us with any tangible documentation regarding this person, or the relationship between him, Chan Heung, and Chan Siu Dek. And while we can't say we've left no stone unturned with respect to information, because we are extremely reluctant to trouble family members, we will say that we've done our share of begging from many other known sources.

It is highly possible that David Lorenson is correct, but that this person is a member of Chan Siu Dek's extended "Kung Fu Family", perhaps a Chan cousin, rather than a direct paternal ancestor, which is by the way, a perfectly respectable, sincere, and honest way for a Chinese martial practitioner to describe his own personal lineage, although somewhat beyond the scope of the cultural divide between East and West .

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Chan Siu Hung

Chan Siu Hung in Cantonese, Chen Shiu Xiong in Mandarin. Chan Siu Dek's great uncle, and most notable teacher. Chan Siu Hung was definitely trained in the Choy Li Fut as documented by Chan Yiu Chi, grandson of Chan Heung, and as noted in at least one Choy Li Fut lineage study. Search down the page from this last link for Chan Siu Hung, and you'll find it in Table 2, under Chan Koon Pak, in the Hung Sing Hero's Victory Lineage. Interestingly, the Hung Sing Choy Li Fut branch in San Francisco was rumored to be a place where the late Chan Siu Dek practiced when he visited the famous Choy Li Fut great-Grandmaster, Lau Bun. It's also one of the few places where we found the calligraphic character Chan Siu Dek used for 'Ho" in Choy Li Ho Fut Hung. We discuss this somewhat further here.

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Chan Sai Mo

Chan Sai Mo is the son of Chan Siu Hung and a cousin of Chan Siu Dek. He was known to be alive as late as 2005, but well into his nineties. He was recently interviewed by both Kung Fu San Soo students, and highly respected Choy Li Fut practitioner, Chan Yuk, or Paul Chan.

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Chan Siu Dek

The late Grandmaster and founder of Kung Fu San Soo, or American Choi Li Ho Fut Hung, honored here in great company by his Chinese home community of Taishan. Although he was trained in Choy Li Fut through his great uncle, Chan Siu Hung, he either brought to American a slightly different art, or created a new art altogether, breaking from the official Choy Li Fut traditions at this point in the lineage tree. It's difficult at this time to determine which. He went by the name of Jimmy H. Woo, but his given name was Chan Siu Dek, (Chen Shou Jue in Mandarin, Zhen She De in Pinyin, Chin Siu Dek in Hoisanese). More about Chan Siu Dek.

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Paul Chan

We include Choy Li Fut Master, Paul Chan (Chan Yuk), because he includes and honors both Chan Sai Mo (Cantonese, Chin Shi Wu in Mandarin), and Chan Sai Mo's father, Chan Siu Hung, in his own lineage, and has provided Kung Fu San Soo history students with information and testimony from interviews with Chan Sai Mo about both Chan Siu Dek from the time they studied together in Sanba Town, Taishan City, Guandong Province, China, and about Chan Sai Mo's father, Chan Siu Hung. Through his own research, in his own lineage, Paul Chan holds Chan Siu Dek's great uncle, Chan Siu Hung, was the stepson of Choy Li Fut founder, Chan Heung. If this is correct, then through this family family link, this places Chan Siu Dek right at the core of one of the most notable of all the Nánquán martial arts, just as he claimed. It also serves as a significant source of pride for all Kung Fu San Soo practitioners.

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Chan Tai Shan

We include the late Chan Tai Shan because he was:

  1. A practitioner who included Chan Siu Hung's son, Chan Sai Mo, and cousin to Chan Siu Dek, in his own training lineage
  2. A tough American practitioner who taught in New York City Chinatown
  3. Held by Chinese martial arts historians and the Chinese government, and noted in Inside Kung Fu Magazine, to be one of China's "National Treasures"

Nothing would thrill us more than to see Losifu Chan Siu Dek one day also honored in this way, serving to further legitimize his family art, our art, Kung Fu San Soo.

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Bill Lasiter

Bill Lasiter is a first generation master under Chan Siu Dek, a Grandmaster today, and although we acknowledge some controversy surrounding the title, we simply accept it in good faith and move on in the art. Through him we trace the lineage of the Sonora School of Kung Fu San Soo.

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Rusty Wallace

Rusty Wallace, founder of the Sonora School of Kung Fu San Soo. Rusty studied with Bill Lasiter from 1974 until 1991, and received his Master's degree in 1986. He's produced three more masters, a score of black belts, and continues to teach at the school located in Sonora, California.

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Anthony Shaw, Joe Casteel, Don Williams, Justin Wallace, Rick Christian

Masters Anthony Shaw, Joe Casteel, and Don Williams are the first three third generation masters emerging from the Sonora School. Tony Shaw now teaches his own group of students in nearby Tuolumne. Joe Casteel teaches and continue to study at the school. Don Williams moved to Florida in 2005 and added Kickboxing and Brazillian Jiu Jitsu to his studies. Rick Christian, Justin Wallace, Brandon Wallace, and Russell Nystrom are the most recent Masters. Rick has retired, the others continue to study and teach at the Sonora School.

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