San Soo

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San Soo is a form of Chinese martial arts also known as Kung Fu San Soo and San Soo Kung Fu. San Soo has its origins in the very basics of Chinese life two thousand years ago. These fighting tactics were begun in the Kwan-Yin (goddess of mercy) monastery in the village of Pon Hong, Guangdong Province of Southern China.

Approximately 4,000 years ago some intelligent Chinese Monks, within the confines of their monastery, created and organized a system of hand to hand fighting. Thus, Kung Fu and San Soo evolved as the first organized system of hand to hand combat.

San Soo is not a sport, but a fighting technique. It is based on a combination of punches, kicks, strikes and blocks done in perfect rhythm and directed to vital points of the human body. The 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 the fighter extreme power. Agility, balance, coordination, humility and respect for one’s fellow man, are also emphasized.

It is said that the monks developed this form of martial arts to protect themselves from bandits and outlaws as they returned with supplies and donations from the nearby villages as well as to maintain their physical fitness.

Combinations of kicks, punches, other kinds of strikes and leverages are based on scientific principles of physics. It follows no set pattern, and is easy to adapt to any given situation.

San Soo Heel Hook

Jimmy Woo (Chin Siu Dek) is credited with bringing the art to America in the 1930’s, finally opening his own studio to teach formally in 1962. San Soo is not a tournament sport. San Soo incorporates techniques that can remove a threat as quickly and effectively as possible being as it is a combat art.

Typical moves during a fight could include blows to the throat, upward blows to the nose, or kicking to the groin, all of which are customarily banned from tournament fighting.

The application of proper technique is paramount for San Soo. This paradigm can be used effectively by smaller, weaker persons against large assailants, as it does not rely on brute force. Therefore, San Soo is useful to women in rape prevention and self-defense. A basic premise of San Soo is there are “no rules in a fight” and hence it is an extremely brutal form of hand-to-hand combat. The swiftness of neutralizing an opponent is another aspect of this paradigm, with some practitioners aiming to end a fight within ten seconds, using merely three blows.

San Soo is an efficient form of hand to hand combat, but this doesn’t preclude its practitioners from having respect for human life. This point is demonstrated with a quote from Jimmy H. Woo, “The art of San Soo does not lie in victory or defeat, but in building human character.”

Kung-Fu San Soo, an ancient Chinese art of self defense, has been shrouded in “veil of secrecy” for more than 4000 years, making it one of the oldest, yet least known and least understood martial arts in the world today. In fact, it is probably one of the world’s best protected secrets. There’s a sort of unwritten “code of silence” that still surrounds the art, meaning that many of its practitioners simply believe the art should remain reasonably anonymous and as far from the public eye as possible.

Kung-fu san soo cannot be literally translated into English because it is a concept, not a definable art. Generally speaking, san soo is practiced by a man who is articulate with his hands in a combat situation and can perform a variety of movements with them. In short it is the immediate neutralization of an oppenent at the instant he makes any aggressive movements towards you whatsoever. Kung-fu san soo is offensive in nature and possess both “internal” and “external” qualities. Since the study of just one of these qualities would be insufficient, most of the san soo schools teach both.

International San Soo Logo

Kung Fu san soo is based on highly scientific principles of physics and leverage dealing with predictable responses and reactions of the human body. The techniques can be instantly changed to suit any situation and do not follow a set pattern.

The origin of this art is obscure and no one actually knows for sure the exact details of just how this scientific information was obtained. It it believed by many, however, that hundreds of thousands of Chinese prisoners of war and imprisoned slaves were tortured and put to death to obtain this information. The results of this so-called experimentation resulted in not only the basis for the san soo art but also for its counterpart, the art of Chinese acupuncture. San soo deals with the destruction of the human body; acupuncture with the healing of the human body. A true yin and yang relationship.

The Chinese discovered that whenever a target on the human body was struck, a predictable reaction would take place. This reaction would then expose various other targets that could also be struck, and their reactions would expose even more targets. The Chinese also discovered that not only would those reactions expose targerts, but in most cases they would also put the target in the most vunerable situation.

Ancient Legend: San Soo began at a Quan Yem monastery in Hoy Song, Canton many centuries ago. The priests (monks) of that monastery went throughout the countryside sharing their religious teachings and conducting religious services in surrounding towns and villages.

The people presented offerings to the priests to take back to their monastery in appreciation for their teachings. Those offerings contributed to the priests’ survival because they did not work the land as the “common man” did. Whether the offerings consisted of food, clothing or money, the priests being able to deliver those goods was paramount to the survival of the monastery. Throughout the land it was common knowledge these Quan Yem priests traveled unarmed and unprotected while carrying valuables to the monastery. Knowing this, bandits often lay in wait, targeting the priests for robbery and often death.

Outside the towns and villages there was no law to depend on. Many of the priest fell prey to these bandits. The only way they could survive depended on the offerings reaching the monastery. The only way they could get the offerings to their monastery would be to overcome their attackers.

Because their religion did not allow them to carry weapons, they knew their only effective tool lay in the use of their body. The monks knew if they were to rely on their bodies, they must develop and organize a method of unarmed combat. Their attackers would have no pity on them. Combat would often be to the death. It would boil down to “my life or yours.” Therefore movements had to be fast and swift; deadly or immediately incapacitating despite the attackers size or number of opponents.

Experience showed the priests would fight both armed and unarmed multiple attackers. Often they would be alone when attacked. Help would not be available. Common sense dictated offensive and not defensive fighting would be the norm . Literally hundreds of monks over many generations trained continuously toward perfection of that goal. Together, hundreds of men training every day throughout their lifetime provided the result known today as Kung Fu San Soo.

As the art was being perfected, its teachings were kept exclusively in the monastery and taught to all new priests for their protection. One day, about five generations ago, one priest left the monastery. Returning to the “outside” world, he took with him the training and experience he had gained as a fighter. Additionally, he took two very thick, hand written books from the monastery. Books containing an unimaginable wealth of information dealing with all aspects of the art of San Soo.

Modern Legend: Because of their value and the fact he had taken them from the monastery, I asked if they were stolen. Jimmy was noncommital. Shrugging his shoulders he stated, “Maybe, I don’t know. Could be.” (The books are still in the family’s possession today.)

When the priest left the monastery, he returned to his family. Knowing the power of the weapon he possessed by knowing this art, he decided to keep the art secret. He taught only members of his family, after swearing them to secrecy. They in turn passed down the art within the family from generation to generation, from father to son, uncle to nephew and cousin to cousin.

Finally, a man and his wife belonging to this family made a vow. They promised that their second born son would dedicate his life to the continuance of the art. This son was later born and he followed his preplanned destiny.

As the great-great grandson of the priest who originally left the monastery, this boy began his formal training when he was seven years old. Now, grown into manhood, he has been actively involved in the Art for more than 50 years. We know this man in the United States as Jimmy H. Woo.

Methods: The application of proper technique is paramount for San Soo. They can be used effectively by smaller, weaker persons against larger assailants, as it does not rely on brute force. Therefore, San Soo is useful to women in rape prevention and self-defense. A basic premise of San Soo is “there are no rules in a fight” and hence it is an extremely brutal form of hand-to-hand combat. The swiftness of neutralizing an opponent is another aspect of this paradigm, with some practitioners aiming to end a fight within ten seconds, using merely three blows.

Alternate History/Legend: In ancient times the monks needed a form of exercise and an organized way to defend themselves from being robbed and brutally roughed up. Being non-violent they had to practice on each other and learn how not to hurt each other. Hundreds of brilliant minds developed a form of exercise that would not only strengthen the body, but also strengthen their ability to defend themselves.

They had to study how the human body moved and functioned. They learned the vital areas and non-vital areas of the human anatomy. They learned the damages that could be inflicted when striking different areas of the human body. But at the same time they kept a high respect for their fellow man. They went on the supposition that the mind and character of any individual is not completely known. With this assumption any human could be equal as a fighter. Non-violence was the intent. They trained with the thought that they had to commit themselves to do their best if ever having to utilize their skills. As these trained individuals branched off and left the training environment, deciding to either raise a family of their own or travel elsewhere, they taught bits and pieces of their knowledge here and there. It was developed for survival.

Over the years martial arts, especially with the rise of the Olympics, have been watered down for the utilization of a game or sports environment. Depending on the environment and terrain, cultural diversities and size of the individuals of that region was what aspect of Martial Arts Education was dwelled on. The first organized fighting system was developed for survival no matter what the situation. The size of your attacker and the environment that you may be in at the time is a consideration in your training. In-fighting, ground fighting and the ability to manipulate any individual to your advantage is the main goal in the training in the first organized fighting system.

The 5 elements of the system are simple; punching & kicking, leverages (principles of physics) or joint manipulation, Pressure points or knowledge of nerve points, Psychology or the knowledge of body reactions (the thinking mans art) and the knowledge of power & balance or the ability to maximize your effort with the least amount of energy (concepts of physical and internal strength). As Martial Arts Education began we have to note that it was based on the element of surprise. It was determined that once an attacker was in the state of mind of conflict, you needed the advantage. This advantage came from the element of surprise.

By appearing untrained or not having any fighting skill knowledge. This is why Martial Arts Education has been past down from generation to generation in the manner that it has, to keep it pure and true. It is not pretty or flamboyant. The practitioner uses their own grace and skill to show the beauty of the movements as originally taught. These devastating movements, strikes or techniques are truly an Art form when practiced in a pure manner, as the original practitioners did. In a manner as not to injure each other and still get the true effect.