Program: Kung Fu San Soo
I studied with Bill Hulsey locally when I lived in Los Angeles. He studied under Jimmy Woo and Frank Woolsey and is very well known in the San Soo community. He’s been teaching for more than three decades.
If you’re interested in San Soo, you should definitely read more about it. Different instructors emphasize different things, in part because they came along at different parts of Jimmy Woo’s life. Hulsey learned the earlier hard-punching style so what you’re getting is (in my opinion at least) the real core fundamental of the art.
Here is a video in which Hulsey explains more:
Kung Fu San Soo is solely a self-defense art. While there are some forms (two per level), the emphasis is definitely on practical techniques. When I studied with Hulsey, he’d show us a lesson and/or technique (which is a more leverage-oriented lesson) per night and no more. It’s easy to spend a long time on a single technique, plumbing its depths to learn a ton of details. A very good brown belt who was a friend had taught me the Ah Soo lessons, but working through them with Hulsey, I appreciated a lot of the finer details.
Traditionally, there is one book per level. They are actual books. Each book is a series of lessons with increasing diversity of targets and complexity of action. Each lesson is 4-9 moves, usually broken up into 2-3 sets of combinations, which can be rearranged to suite (e.g., you might start with lesson #5, then use part of lesson #29, etc.) The books are:
White Belt: Ah-Soo – 45 Lessons. These are defensive punching/kicking lessons. You may sometimes see these referred to as “The Basic 45,” though see the video above for some interesting information on this.
Yellow Belt: Fut Ga (“Way of the Monk”) – 45 Lessons. These are both defensive and offensive, and stress movement, approach, etc.
Green Belt: Choi Li Ho – 50 Lessons. These are leverages, takedowns, etc.
Brown Belt: Top Ga – 50 Lessons. Material from all of the above.
At black belt, you would work on the rest of Top Ga (51-100) and then the 150 Num Pi lessons, which are advanced material. Hulsey has always felt that the Num Pi lessons are really the pinnacle of San Soo. I’ve heard it said that Num Pi are San Soo – the rest is just what you need to learn so you can do the Num Pi lessons correctly.
San Soo really needs a partner, particularly when you get into the locks and holds. It targets very specifically (e.g., not just “the ribs” but “the spleen” or “the temple”).
The packages are reasonably priced – $169 starts you on the yellow belt course, and includes several DVDs plus a book. Unlike some schools which have dozens of belts, Hulsey has stayed with a simple yellow to green to brown to black. There are no testing fees – you simply buy the next course when you’ve passed the test for the course you’re on. Hulsey does feedback, grading, and promotions by video.
He’s posted some videos of his students. The guy below looks good and is 100% distance taught.
Each belt package comes with a spiral bound book and three DVDs. The books are well made – spiral bound, but laminated covers and heavy stock, so they should be durable. For each lesson, there is a step-by-step photo sequence of how to do it, and then often close ups and details on finer points. So for example, to start, you would buy the white belt package and receive
- a DVD with white belt lessons
- a DVD with white belt techniques
- a DVD with the white belt forms
- a book with all of the Ah Soo lessons (1-45)
The videos are his “home movies”. The story is that he made the course originally for a distant nephew to learn, and then he commercialized the program. Each technique is shown twice, with commentary. As an example, the White Belt videos are 1:27 hours for the lessons DVD and 53 minutes for the techniques DVD. The camera angle is fixed. Don’t expect fancy, slickly edited multi-angle camera work like Jeff Speakman does. But Hulsey does deliver each lesson with good commentary and points out common mistakes. Of course, you have both the book and video to refer to – most programs are just video.