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San Soo

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San Soo
Also known asSan Soo, Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung
FocusHybrid martial arts
Country of originChina (Republican Era), United States
CreatorJimmy H. Woo
Famous practitionersBenjamin Brandt, Kathy Long, Gerald Okamura,[1] Ralph Johnson,[2] Daniele Bolelli
Ancestor artsHung Gar, Li Gar, Fut Gar

Kung Fu San Soo (功夫散手) is a Chinese-American martial art. It is based on techniques from all over China, both Northern and Southern Chinese martial arts systems.[citation needed]


The specific or proper name of this art is Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung (蔡李何佛雄) and/or 5 Family Fist (五家拳). The name "Kung Fu San Soo" itself was chosen by Woo to simplify the pronunciation and meaning for American students, rather than using the complete names of the 5 families.

San Soo is a distinct fighting style from the similarly named Chinese martial art Sanda (also called Sanshou).[3] Although they share the same name in Chinese (散手 - meaning 'free hand'), context is used to differentiate between the two.[4][specify]


Kung Fu San Soo has its origins from the 5 Family Fist (五家拳), commonly practiced in the Taishan region of the Guangdong province.[citation needed][5] In China, many centuries ago, there were three original families that contributed information from their systems in order to create this art. They built a monastery and developed a combined defense system. These families are Tsoi, Li, and Ho. Fut was the philosophical or religious base and originally made reference to Buddha. The Hung family was added later in order to increase power, physical conditioning and dynamics.[6]

Foundation and techniques[edit]

Kung Fu San Soo originated for use in military combat and uses techniques designed to swiftly disable an attacker. Due to the fact, San Soo is a practical martial art for self-defense and the techniques are intended for real fight scenarios, there are no competitions or tournaments for San Soo Kung Fu. While San Soo was not created or taught as a tournament sport, practitioners commonly incorporate forms of limited sparring.[7]

Kung Fu San Soo does not attempt to emulate the motions of animals with elaborate forms.[8] His words were, "We fight like men, not animals."

The basic premise of San Soo is there are no rules in a fight, so the style is techniques oriented[9] to remove a threat as quickly as possible through seizing the initiative and keeping the opponent off balance. Like many martial arts, San Soo can be used by smaller or weaker persons against larger or stronger assailants by utilizing technique and knowledge of reaction to make up for a lack of strength.[10]

Techniques in San Soo are made up of Chin Na leverages, throwing, choking, joint-locking, strangling, strikes, and quick takedowns.[11] Targets include the eyes, nose, throat, base of the skull, neck, liver, spleen, kidneys, testicles, and knees, and for this reason, most San Soo practitioners do not engage in full contact competition/sport fighting. Techniques are commonly practiced in unrehearsed 'freestyle workout' sessions with carefully controlled contact. San Soo practitioners claim this method of training builds an automatic and flexible response in much the same way we learn language a few words at a time until we have full and versatile vocabularies. Training methods, historic interpretations, and modifications exist from school to school among the modern descendants of San Soo.

San Soo also incorporates training with the use of many traditional Chinese weapons. These include the staff (5', 7' and 9'), broadsword, hooking or ripping swords, baat cham do (butterfly swords), three-section staff, taijijian (tai chi sword), knife, spear, kwon do, chas and chain. The baton, although not a traditional Chinese weapon, was a weapon that Jimmy Woo specialized in and incorporated into the art.

Notable practitioners[edit]

Jimmy H. Woo (founder of American Kung Fu San Soo)[edit]

Kung Fu San Soo was brought to United States by Chin Siu Dek.[12][13][a] Kung Fu San Soo tradition holds that Chin Siu Dek lived and grew up just across the river from this school in the village of Sanba. Chin learned Five Family Style / Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung primarily from his Great-Uncle, Chan Siu Hung [14] at the Hung Sing Goon school in Taishan, Guangdong Province, China. The Hung Sing Goon school would end up being destroyed by communist partisans during the Cultural Revolution.

Chin would enter United States under the Chinese Exclusion Act, and leaving China on the eve of the Japanese Occupation, Chin Siu Dek took the name, "Jimmy Haw Woo" as a lifetime pseudonym.

According to sources, he was born around 1910-14.[15] Jimmy H. Woo died in Southern California on February 14, 1991.[16]

Benjamin Brandt[edit]

Benjamin Brandt was a first-generation master trained by Jimmy Woo at studios in La Habra, CA and Monterey Park, CA. Ben Brandt is the incorporator of the International Kung Fu San Soo Association, established on September 15, 1983 in Monterey Park, CA.

Kathy Long[edit]

Kathy Long is 5-time World Champion Kickboxer and holds an 8th degree black belt/sash in Kung Fu San Soo.

Gerald Okamura[edit]

Gerald Okamura is a Hollywood Actor and Stuntman[17]

Ralph Johnson[edit]

Ralph Johnson is the drummer for Earth, Wind & Fire[18]

Daniele Bolelli[edit]

Daniele Bolelli is author of multiple books and creator of the History on Fire podcast. He holds an 8th Degree Black Belt in Kung Fu San Soo

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chan Siu Duk, or Chen Shou Jue (陳壽爵, Chen2 Shou4 Jue2), depending on the dialect.


  1. ^ "Gerald Okamura". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  2. ^ "Ralph JohnsonSansoo". earthwindandfire. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  3. ^ "Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu - About San Soo". Archived from the original on 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  4. ^ "亚虎娱乐导航_亚虎娱乐官网导航_亚虎娱乐安全网址". sansoomichigan.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  5. ^ F, Michael (2011). "What is San Soo". Kung Fu San Soo Diamond Bar. Retrieved 30 Oct 2023.
  6. ^ "Real Kung Fu San Soo - About the Art". realkungfusansoo.com. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  7. ^ Black Belt Magazine, Jan 2004, The Reality of Kung Fu San Soo, Mark Cheng, p. 20 -22
  8. ^ Hacker Cracker: A Journey from the Mean Streets of Brooklyn to the Frontiers of Cyberspace, Ejovi Nuwere/David Chanoff, p. 172
  9. ^ Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts, Jess O'Brien, p. 4
  10. ^ Black Belt, Mar 1990, p.36, The Art of Action and Reaction, Dennis Kirby
  11. ^ Black Belt, Sep 1995, p.39, Wing Chun vs San Soo Kung Fu, John Bishop
  12. ^ "Kung Fu San Soo: Home". dapgakungfu.com. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  13. ^ Emerson, Award Winning Flash Designer, Web Designer, Internet Producer, Terrance Emerson, Tnt. "Kung Fu San Soo Sonora - Tsoi Li Ho Fut Hung". sonorasansoo.com. Retrieved 3 December 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "History of Chan Siu Hung". Archived from the original on 2 November 2004.
  15. ^ Hawk, Ehjazz. "THE HISTORY OF KUNG-FU SAN SOO..." Kung fu San Soo Master. Retrieved 30 Oct 2023.
  16. ^ "San Soo AFC - Kung Fu San Soo History from Orange and Los Angeles County's Realistic Fighting and Self Defense School. Kung Fu San Soo Video, San Soo DVD's, San Soo Books and Self Defense Training Products". sansooafc.com. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Gerald Okamura". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  18. ^ "Ralph JohnsonSansoo". earthwindandfire. Retrieved 2018-10-18.

External links[edit]