Michael Matsuda began his training in the martial arts in 1968. His father had dabbled into judo back in the 1930s and wanted his sons to learn how to defend themselves. He and his brother were enrolled in traditional judo at the Japanese Community Center in Sun Valley, CA.
From there he dabbled in Japanese karate and jumped into jiu jitsu at the Sun Valley Parks & Recreation department. It was there a young Al Dacascos came in to visit and do a little sparring with the instructor who was a friend of his. He was wearing an all black uniform and was doing a circular style of martial art called Chinese kung fu. It was at that moment Matsuda decided he would learn and master the art of kung fu.
During this same time, his cousin, Emily, had a boarding house for young college students. Matsuda was in Jr. High School and would frequent Emily’s home to hang out with the college students. One of them was learning Chinese kung fu and it was there that he began his training in kung fu.
In 1974, as Matsuda was about to enter High School, his mother found an article in the Daily News about the YMCA in Van Nuys, Ca that was starting a kung fu program on Saturdays. He enrolled and was being taught Hung Gar kung fu from Sifu Warren. Six months had passed and a new instructor showed up and two months later, another Hung Gar instructor was teaching. His name was Sifu Brian. One year later another instructor led the class named Sifu Lyle Fujioka. He was a senior student at Buck Sam Kong’s Siu Lum P’ai school in Hollywood.
Lyle would continue to be Matsuda’s instructor for the next several years. After three years of training at the YMCA, Lyle wanted a group of his student to join him at the main school in Hollywood, CA on Kenmore and Hollywood Blvd. Although he was now being taught at Buck Sam Kong’s school, Lyle Fujioka took Matsuda under his wing and continued to personally help him for another five plus years. Altogether Matsuda trained for 10 years in Hung Gar kung fu.
It was during his training at the Hollywood school, around 1977, he befriended a new student who just enrolled. They became the best of friends. Matsuda was training five days a week at the school and wanted his new friend, who was in the beginners class, to catch up and join him in the advanced class. So, at every practice he would either teach him in the back area or go to his home and teach him.
After about a year of training together, his friend said he bumped into this Chinese kung fu instructor from Hong Kong and he was teaching him a new form of kung fu. They both loved kung fu so his friend started teaching Matsuda everything he was learning. So each week, his friend learned and then taught Matsuda.
The art they were both learning was called Tai Shing Pek Kwar. Neither of them had any clue it was Monkey kung fu. Although it had ground rolling and other low movements, the actual monkey movements were not taught till they had several years into the art.
Matsuda’s friend had eventually mastered the entire artform and passed on everything he learned to him, his best friend. After 33 years of studying the art of Monkey kung fu, Matsuda was named the 6th generation master of the art; the only student, to this day, to master the complete artform.
Succeeding the art, Grandmaster Matsuda now takes the reigns of passing the art to the next generation. Since his friend had now retired teaching, Matsuda is the only master of the art in America. He is certified by the U.S. Tai Shing Pek Kwar Association and the only person entrusted of learning all five forms.
He is considered the leading authority on Monkey kung fu in America and was inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2004.