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What is Kung-Fu San Soo?

Here is a well written description of our art that has graced the school brochures of The Jimmy H. Woo Association and The International Kung-Fu San Soo Association.

Kung-Fu San Soo is an Ancient Chinese fighting system.  It is not a sport, but an effective and efficient fighting system utilizing a combination of punches, kicks, strikes, blocks, throws and leverages, done in perfect rhythm, and directed to vital points of the human body.  These techniques can be changed instantly to suit the situation and do not necessarily follow a set pattern.

The utilization of highly scientific principles of physics involving movement and leverage as well as intense concentration and controlled breathing, gives a fighter extreme power.  Agility balance coordination humility and respect for one’s fellow man are also emphasized.

Approximately 3,500 to 4000 years ago Chinese Monks devised Kung-Fu within the confines of their monastery. They organized a system of hand to hand fighting for survival and for physical fitness. 

The mind as well as the body was taken into consideration; a healthy body, a healthy mind. Kung-Fu was organized into five basic areas: punching; kicking; leverage; throwing; and physical dynamics.  At various times in history, Kung-Fu San Soo found its way to other countries and locales. Mingling with their native forms of combat and influenced by cultural perceptions, a certain amount of distortion naturally occurred.  New systems appeared spawned by the merging of local systems with the newly imported, highly specialized Chinese combat system. Thus Kung-Fu evolved as the first organized system of hand to hand combat.

San Soo Strives to develop a strong respect for other men. The Art of Kung-Fu Lies not in Victory or Defeat, but in the building of Human Character.

Learn about the meaning and history of the Kung-Fu San Soo Chinese Characters (Hanzi) ... by Yee-Wah Chow.

The Lineage of Kung-Fu San Soo

The Lineage of Kung-Fu SAN SOO started in the Qwan Yin Monastery and descended down the following path:

Leoung Kick (Monk)  (Jimmy's Great-Great-Great Grandfather)

Chin Moon Don  (Jimmy's Great-Great Grandfather)

Chin Siu Don  (Jimmy's Great Grandfather)

Chin Siu Hung  (Jimmy's Great Uncle)

Jimmy H. Woo  (Chin Siu Dek)

The History of Kung-Fu San Soo

Kung-Fu San Soo, as taught by Grandmaster Jimmy H. Woo, had it's origins in the very basics of Chinese feudal life over 2,500 years ago in the temple of Kwan Yin. This is the oldest martial art as we know it. For many hundreds of years, China was divided and sub-divided into various warring factions, and each produced many different types of fighting styles. Chinese systemized warfare pre-dates the arrival of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, thought to be the founder of Shaolin Ch'uan, who appeared some 2,500 years ago.

Exactly how and when these fighting tactics were begun in the Kwan-Yin (Goddess of Mercy) monastery, in the village of Pon Hong, Guangdong Province of Southern China is still unclear, and is in the process of being researched. The main reason the martial arts were perfected by this group of monks was to protect themselves from bandits and outlaws as the monks returned with supplies and donations from nearby villages.

One of these monks, named Leoung Kick, an orphan who had lived in the monastery since age ten, (Jimmy H. Woo's Great, Great, Great Grandfather) decided to leave the monastery when he was approximately 30 years old. He took with him two of the Buddhist training texts which probably date back to the late 1500's, during the Ming Dynasty. These books have remained within the Chin family for five generations and are extremely fragile and rare. All the techniques and forms taught to and by Jimmy came from these two manuals.

Young Chin Siu Dek (Jimmy's Chinese name) was taught by his Great Uncle Chin Siu Hung who was nicknamed Chin Neow Gee, which means "Crazy Devil." Hung was an extremely large man, at 6'5" and weighing well over 320 pounds. Following in his father and grandfather's footsteps, Hung became a well-known fighter, teaching in his own San Soo school. He was an overlord for the entire province, which at that time, the late 1800's and until 1941 was about the size of Orange County, CA.  He had complete control over nearly every aspect of the lives of the people in that area. No one, started a business, moved, or made any other major decisions without consulting Hung.

The Story of Chin Siu Dek

From the age of four, Chan Siu Dek (Jimmy H. Woo) trained under his uncle Chan Shiu Hung and soon became his prize student. His progress was rapid and he loved the contact and grueling workouts on hard floors. In his teens, Dek became a traveling teacher of Tsoi, Li Hoi, Fut, Hung Ga, his family art. When a grievance arose in the province and it needed settling, Dek was called in. When village elders decided it was time for the young men to learn to self-defense, Dek would be sent to live there for months at a time and teach them.

In 1933, at the age of 19, Chan Siu Dek left mainland China via steamship under the passport name ‘Jimmy H. Woo.’ He travelled to Hawaii and in 1935, made his way to Los Angeles, California, bringing with him his family art, Tsoi, Li, Hoi, Fut, Hung Ga.

Shortly, thereafter, the Japanese invaded mainland China and took control of his beloved province. It was extremely fortunate that Jimmy had left mainland China when he did as the capture of the provinces by the Japanese Empire led to the deaths of many Chinese martial artists.

During these early years in this country, Jimmy resided in China Town, Los Angeles, California. He worked many varied jobs and became acclimated to his new home in LA's Chinatown District. In his early years, Dek had learned the produce business from his parents. This knowledge served him well and he developed a love of fresh fruit and vegetables. He worked long hours as a produce manager in a market. He also loved to cook and eventually owned three restaurants.

But his first love was teaching San Soo. He began teaching close relatives and friends. In addition he taught at the “cousin club,” a social, recreational organization, and had connections with the Hop Sing Tong and the Hung Sing. He also helped with security needs of the residents and businesses in the area and did some unarmed bodyguard work.

December 1962 marked the grand opening of his martial arts studio in the Midway Shopping Center in El Monte, California. He named the art “Karate Kung-Fu” as no one in those early years had heard of “Kung-Fu.”

Kung-Fu San Soo had always been shrouded in secrecy. To paraphrase Master Ron Gatewood’s book, The Secret Art of the Fighting Monks, “The Chinese had many prejudices and they tended to be very closed... preserving the best for the Chinese …” “Secrecy was of paramount importance as they knew that someday they might have to fight the very foreigners to whom they had taught their deadly art.” Jimmy’s decision to teach Americans was a major milestone. The next 22 years would prove to be most rewarding for those, of all walks of life, who wisely chose to study with the Grand Master, and his large association of affiliate schools.

In January of 1984, Jimmy H. Woo 'quit business.' In that same year, his grandson James King earned his Black Belt and Sifu Jimmy H. Woo became Grandmaster, Jimmy H. Woo (Lo Sifu). Jimmy H. Woo taught his instructors' class two Saturdays a month until his death in 1991. His passing brought to a conclusion 46 years of teaching Kung-Fu San Soo, here in America.

Kung-Fu San Soo is hand to hand combat.

Literally translated Kung-Fu San Soo means “a man learned, articulate and active in the use of his hands (body) in combat with another man.”


Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo









Jimmy in China Town   (First row, fifth from the right.)

















Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo with Raul Ries
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Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo - 1982
Darrel Clardy's Studio - Buena Park, California
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