Grandmaster Michael Matsuda

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 has written 50 published articles on Monkey kung fu and has authored MONKEY KUNG FU: HISTORY & TRADITION. He has co-authored several small books on Monkey kung fu as well.

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.


Learning the Art

I am pleased to announce that I have decided to open up teaching to all who are interested in learning the art. During the past five plus years, I have been teaching only three students the entire artform. They are nearly at the point of completing their training so I feel I should open the doors to more students. Prior to this location, we were in Santa Clarita, CA which was very limited. Now that we are here in North Hollywood, in a more central location, I think it would be good to open training to all.

I don’t want this art to die. Because I am the only individual left in America to actively teach the art, I felt that I should both teach and document the entire art onto DVD. There will be 15 DVDs to learn from and I teach everything.

MORE INFO TO COME – still working on the website.

Monkey Kung Fu: What is it?

Monkey Kung Fu is a very unique style of martial art. It is unlike any other artform because its foundation is low to the ground, its movements are unpredictable and it has one major factor that separates it from all the other styles, it is extremely deceptive.

But first, let’s first clarify the Monkey art. There are actually three (3) forms of Chinese Monkey styles. Shaolin Monkey, Wu Shu Monkey and Tai Shing Monkey. Shoalin Monkey is the oldest of the three. The stances are not low and the movements are designed to be a man mimicking the movements of a monkey. There is only one known form of Shaolin Monkey. The last person Master Matsuda ever witnessed the form was Ark Y. Wong. Wu Shu Monkey is designed for the Chinese opera or the Wu Shu style of kung fu. It is very flamboyant, very elegant and very gymnastic. It has some low stances but is performed as a showpiece. The play, Journey to the West includes a Wu Shu monkey as its star. Tai Shing Monkey was created around 1911 and was designed based on the mix of the Great Earth style on the movement and techniques of actual monkeys. It is a very powerful and bone-breaking style of martial art and is extremely effective. This is the style Grandmaster has mastered.

As most martial arts styles promote a more face-to-face approach with techniques designed to block, hit or strike, Monkey Kung Fu takes a very different approach. As a monkey, he knows he doesn’t stand a chance against a larger opponent, so he must adapt. He must alter his thought process that will enable him to both strike the opponent, but quickly get away. I enjoy using the scenario of a group of monkeys whose home was invaded by a tiger. Obviously, if the tiger got a hold of the monkey, he would be quickly eaten. In order for the monkeys to get rid of the tiger, save their home and not be eaten, they had to put together a deceptive approach. In a sense, they had to fool the tiger.

As the tiger approached, one monkey would swing down and strike the tiger from behind and quickly jump into the jungle. As the tiger attempted to get the monkey, another monkey would come out of nowhere and hit the tiger as hard as he could and jump into the trees. Each monkey examined the situation and found an striking approach in which they could deliver a powerful blow but still get quickly away. The tiger became frustrated as he couldn’t get his paws on any of the monkeys, yet he was still sustaining blows. Obviously, the blows weren’t as strong as a tiger’s move, but nonetheless, they did do damage to the tiger. After awhile, the tiger left and the monkeys were victorious. Their goal was not to kill the tiger, but to get him away from their colony. They fooled the tiger by coming at him from various angles and getting out of harm’s way.

In Monkey Kung Fu, our goal is to deceive the opponent. We have to alter our mindset and like the monkeys, and in a sense, become the attacker. Our goal is to deliver an extremely devastating blow and to severely injure the enemy and yet quickly get away. Monkey Kung Fu uses elbows, knees and more and strikes at vital points to the body. Monkey Kung Fu surprises their enemy by bringing them quickly down to the ground through powerful grabs and striking with lightning speed and above all, causing a lot of damage. In many cases, a monkey will set up an enemy by forcing them to chase him then in a split-second, turn around and strike them.

Does Monkey Kung Fu Work?
Monkey Kung Fu, as it was originally designed, is an extremely powerful art. It is one of the most powerful artforms in Chinese Kung Fu. The reason why it is so powerful is because it is practiced from both high and low positions. Anyone can kick from a high position, but how many people can kick just as and even more powerful from just a few inches from the ground. A monkey must learn how to strike with such devastation, they can get quickly away without worrying about a counter-attack.

Speed, endurance and timing are essential in learning Monkey Kung Fu. A monkey must be able to burst out and attack quickly and just as fast, get out of the way. A monkey must be agile, moveable, and their movements must flow without even thinking about them. A monkey practitioner must develop their movements and strike in vulnerable areas of the enemies body.

Monkey Kung Fu is not an artform that some have seen screaming all over the place and does techniques that wouldn’t even allow them to break a wet-paper bag or focusing their whole art on being able to stretch their head to reach their private parts. This is not Monkey Kung Fu. Monkey Kung Fu, as it was originally designed, enables the practitioner to cause great bodily injury and yet leave the situation quickly without hesitation.

The Mind of the Monkey
Another area that sets Monkey Kung Fu apart from many other styles is that the practitioner must develop the “Mind of the Monkey.” They must create a mindset that in a sense, they become that monkey. In a nutshell, Monkey Kung Fu has five primary characteristics. The Lost Monkey, the Tall Monkey, the Stone Monkey, the Wooden Monkey and the Drunken Monkey. Each one of these are very unique and in most cases, they need to fit a person’s personality and sometimes physic (but not necessarily). The Lost Monkey is the quickest because he is lost, scared and frantic. When attacked, his blows are swift. His moves are fast and techniques are agile. He attacks without notice and sometimes uncontrolably. A person must take on those characteristics in order to be more effective. His personality must be like the Lost Monkey and his movements must be adjust accordingly. No two monkeys are unlike, even two Lost Monkeys. In short, you must become that monkey. Your mind cannot be one man against another, but a monkey against a man.

Monkeys, even small monkeys, are powerful creatures and their movements are incredible. So should yours be. By changing our mindset, we put on that monkeys personality and take on their characteristics. I realize this is a very hard concept to understand, but after some time practicing, if taught correctly, you will get the hang of it.

Can Anyone Learn the Art?
Yes, but they have to have a good teacher. And that is so important. In Monkey, you can easily damage your knees by learning it incorrectly. You can damage your back and you can endure a lot of dizziness if you are doing it incorrectly. This is a very advanced artform, it is not for the beginners and should be treated as such. Movements are hard but if you try hard enough, you can master them. Anyone, anyone can learn the art if they are taught the right way. There are a few individuals who only had one year of training and trying to push themselves as a master of the art. Please beware. Monkey Kung Fu is a wonderful artform and even if you don’t go on to master the entire art, you will improve your kicking, striking and movements ten-fold. Anyone, if they want to, can learn the art.



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