Shou Shu (野獸藝術) is an application art originally derived from traditional kung fu. The fighting styles, body motion and application of Chi of seven different animals are studied to develop fighting skills. It is called an application art because it focuses entirely on the martial aspect of the art; there is no wasted motion, monotonous repetition or dance moves. It has not evolved into a sport and therefore has retained only martial application. As a result, many Shou Shu practitioners at lower ranks and in the black belt ranks have taken the art and utilized it in their military, law enforcement, and in the competitive sports ring either at martial arts tournaments or in controlled fighting circuits (cage fighting).
Shou Shu is an art that relies on body motion utilizing flowing and focused chi for its strikes. San Soo techniques are used to teach a novice so that reactions can be developed. Within these concepts, a beginner can be taught basic to advanced joint locks (Qin Na), take downs and throws unique to Shou Shu (considered today to be advanced)and some from Shuai Jiao, a multiple of blocks, strikes, evasions and kicks. Forms are taught within each belt to develop both soft and hard motion, focus, and internal and external Chi. Upon reaching black belt, each beast can be studied taking a minimum of 3 years to master and in most instances up to 7 years.
Although Shou Shu uses both fighting scenarios or techniques and forms to teach its principles, the art is not a form based art nor is it a technique based art. So, concepts learned through various techniques and forms can be dissected, parsed and applied in a variety of training methods to include controlled and free sparring, reactions, ground fighting and attacks, and multiple person reaction attacks. Therefore, it is through mastery of Shou Shu concepts within the context of these training methods, which eventually builds the desired skilled fighting reaction.
With regard to the teaching of the beasts, each beast is its own martial art style or system unique unto itself. Depending on the particular animal, there will be a variety of skills taught: There can be an emphasis on footwork, or joint locks, or throws, including many specialized hand and foot strikes. Some animal motion is more linear; or, by contrast, a particular beast motion will be completely circular. And, many of the beasts will have a combination of these martial aspects. All in all however, the beasts cannot be defined only by what the beast can do in a fight, but more importantly by the unique way in which the beast's Chi moves.
The term Shou Shu, based on its pronunciation, can translate in English from Chinese as "the fighting way of the beasts" or "beast art". The fighting aspect is particularly important given the reputation Shou Shu has maintained in the martial arts world. Like many other Chinese styles, there is an inherent respect within the Shou Shu schools and amongst the black belts for maintaining the purity and integrity of the art by not teaching advanced concepts except to students or Shifus who are ready for such information.
But, there are instances in Shou Shu's history where some Shou Shu black belts have demonstrated their skill to other kung fu masters such as Brendan Lai and Master Pui Chan (of the Wah Lum Pai temple in Florida). Repeatedly, masters have stated after observing the black belt demonstrate the brown belt form known as the "mass attack", that Shou Shu is what can be properly called a "fighting kung fu art."
Shou Shu, as it was originally taught, was given to Albert F. Moore, Sr. (born. Feb 28,1926; died. Jan 2, 2002).and others when he was a boy in the San Francisco Bay area. Many times throughout his teaching, Da Shifu Moore, Sr. explained how he initially began studying with a Da Shifu named Lu Chin.In addition to Shou Shu, Da Shifu Moore, Sr., had studied and learned traditional Chinese medicine and massage such as Tui Na. He was an engineer by trade.
He taught Shou Shu to his brothers, son and a limited number of students. For many years, Da Shifu Moore, Sr., also taught Kenpo Karate in California. But during this time, he would not teach the Shou Shu principles to anyone except a small few within his school. And, although he was proficient in other martial arts including Kenpo, Jujitsu and Shuai Shu (an art which Da Shifu Sr. specifically demonstrated to black belts who had previously studied it), as well as being a wrestler, he was always of the opinion that the Shou Shu student should spend their time learning "shou shu" instead of spending time on other arts. Consequently, he would not teach other arts unless there was a principal or concept that might be valuable. Accordingly, a kenpo practitioner can see some remnants in a few techniques in the lowest ranks of Shou Shu, such as in the orange and purple belts (which were at one time Kenpo's blue and green belts). But, these techniques have been drastically changed to include the Shou Shu principles.
It is known amongst many black belts who were privileged to attend black belt classes with Da Shifu Sr. and today Jung Moon, that during those classes, Shou Shu is taught in its purest form. Put another way, both before achieving the black belt rank, but moreso after one becomes a Shifu, individual concepts relating to motion and flowing qi are taught to each person. To this extent, many Shou Shu concepts are unique to the art. Accordingly, one will not see these concepts in other arts. This does not mean however that other martial arts do not share some aspect of a particular Shou Shu concept (i.e., use of centerline or flowing qi). A good example of a basic Shou Shu concept is the utilization of one's hip motion to reinforce a weapon. This concept although basic, takes two to three years to develop properly; and, once learned will develop to an even more advanced level when each animal is studied.
Over the years, a common statement said by many black belts in other arts (including Kenpo Karate, Tae Kwon Do or Hung Gar Kung Fu), who today are black belts in Shou Shu, is that in their years of learning these previous arts, the use of Shou Shu hip motion is simply not taught. That being said, even when a black belt studies one or two of the Shou Shu animals, despite his training in these beasts, the black belt will not learn all concepts used in Shou Shu; it is only when the Shou Shu animal motions are woven together, that the entire depth of the concepts are understood.
Accordingly, in the forty plus years in which Shou Shu has been taught, there have been many students who have learned the art. There are few who have received their black belt and even less who have attained the rank of master. Today, there are total of 16 masters and grandmasters of Shou Shu still living in the United States. And, the number of black belts (shifus) are in the hundreds. The list of living Shou Shu Masters are as follows:
Jung Moon Al Moore, II (Keeper of the Art); Da Shifu Ralph Moore (Grandmaster); Da Shifu Freier (Grandmaster); Da Shifu Parkins (Grandmaster); Da Shifu Smith(Grandmaster); Da Shifu Siegfried (Grandmaster); Shihan Clark(Master-7th); Shi Gung Amata (Master-6th); Shi Gung Pierini (Master-6th); Shi Gung DeGrasse (Master-5th); Shi Gung Krieger(Master-5th); Shi Gung Lara (Master-5th); Shi Gung Martin (Master-5th); Shi Gung Way (Master-5th); Shihan Valadao (Master-5th); and, Shihan Reiswig (Master-5th).
In recent years,a few black belts have left the immediate Moore's Shou Shu school system and started their own systems or merely continued on teaching Shou Shu principles within their own independent kwoon; others have joined other arts and taught a particular version or understanding of Shou Shu to their respective martial arts schools. And still there are even some who have studied MMA styles (i.e., Jaime "Cucui" Jara and Tosh Cook both low rank black belts in Shou Shu) gaining recognition in their own right as MMA fighters.
There are 9 belts to go through before making it to a black belt although the initial belts are merely guideposts for a student's progress. In realtiy, there are truly only 3 belts of significance before the animals ranks: green (martial artist), brown (expert division) and black (professional).
Nevertheless, the belts are structed as follows: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, and brown which is divided into three ranks, meaning that there are three brown belts to go through before black belt.
The third brown belt is either brown with a white stripe going in between it or a solid brown. The 2nd brown belt is either solid brown or brown with a red stripe going in between it. The first brown belt has a black stripe going in between it and is also known as black prep - it is during the first brown that principles of the cobra are first introduced to a student.
In Shou Shu, one of the primary forms taught in the novice ranks and which is a qigong form is the "Handset." Taught in the green belt, this form is said to be similar in some ways to the Cobra and Crane set from the Chang Family although those are not the exclusive animal motions in the form. When done properly, this form develops internal qi and is primarily a Yin form. As a student develops this set, the speed at which he executes it will decrease significantly much like the execution of the Sixth form.
By contrast the "mass attack" is a pure Yang set. The focus in this set is to develop flowing qi within the context of multiple attacks. Accordingly, this form is considered an example of fighting Kung Fu.
Before a student reaches the level of black belt, the student is taught in the second brown sixteen fighting sets or scenarios. Most of the fighting sets are off of 3-5 opponents. The sets will combine grappling attacks with both short and long weapon attacks (i.e., hands and feet). Although the reactions taught in the fighting sets are street adaptable, the concepts taught (e.g., exploding a circle, shifting, rebounding off opponents, centerline moving through opponents, escape, etc.) in this rank change the student from being able to defend himself against one or two opponents, to defense against multiple attackers.
After gaining a black belt there are seven degrees a student can continue on learning and eventually master. The animals are as follows: bear, tiger, mongoose, crane, mantis, cobra, and dragon. Although this is the typical order they are studied in, the order is not absolute. Truly the only requirement is that Bear is mastered first and Dragon last. However, Da Shifu, Sr., when he was living, had organized these animals in this order as it was the most practical way due to the relative difficulty of each animal.
Today, the animals are taught in this order albeit there are rare times when Jung Moon Al Moore II, will teach animals out of order to a black belt based on his individual ability. Many years before Da Shifu Sr.'s death and before the ongoing black belt classes he and Jung Moon taught, (as they would be known by shou shu practitioners today), Da Shifu Sr., taught black belts beasts from time to time out of his set order on this same reasoning: the animal motion would many times better suit a person based on his body type, ability and level of understanding.
Nevertheless, up through black belt, the material taught is indeed a mixture of these animals. Once attaining black belt, the limited animal motions previously learned in the novice ranks are perfected through each degree thereby perfecting the mixed beast system.
Shou Shu can only truly be seen or demonstrated to another person when the animals' motions are seamlessly used in one continuous motion. However, Da Shifu, Sr., when living would say that the moves of the Shou Shu green belt were truly an exhibition of the art. He was known for saying that he could tell a person's rank simply by seeing the individual show him Shou Yon.
The masters in Shou Shu teach Chinese weaponry to students beginning at green belt. Each black belt, if not already trained in weaponry, can become readily proficient in most weapons since a weapon is simply the extension of an arm or leg depending on whether it is a long or short weapon. Shou Shu has its own weapon forms unique to the art.
There are many Moore's Shou Shu schools throughout the United States including California(Sacramento, Stockton, Lodi, Turlock,two locations in Modesto,Elk Grove, Visalia, Indio, Fresno, Monterey,Newark, Clovis, Seaside, Linden), North Dakota (Minot), South Carolina (Myrtle Beach) and Arizona (Yuma, Kingman). However, there are a variety of martial arts schools which remain committed to teaching some of the principles of Shou Shu not affiliated with the immediate Moores Shou Shu school system. The list of the non-affiliated Moore's schools include: Sheng Chi Kung Fu, Hei Long Shou Shu, Five Claw Martial Arts, and Sivler Tiger Kung Fu. All of these schools were started independently by Shou Shu black belts.