Young Tiger: In the Footsteps of a Jow Ga Legend
Article printed in New Martial Hero Magazine, 2010 Ed. 24 (Updated 1.11.13)
Written by: Margaret Cubberly
Samson Chu Lee, son of grandmaster and “living legend” Hoy K. Lee, was six years old when he won his first tournament trophy. It was a local karate competition in Virginia and the youngster had picked up a first place for performing a southern empty hand form and a second place for sparring.
“I was so excited that I grabbed the trophy,” Samson laughed. “It was kind of big and I dropped it.”
Now 22 years old and a rising superstar in the kung fu community, Samson is no longer in danger of dropping his trophies. He has dozens of them and has earned over 100 golds in both national and international tournaments throughout the United States.
Among his recent championships have been Male All Around Grand Champion at Arnold Schwarzenegger's Battle of Columbus Asian Culture Fair & World Martial Arts Championships, Columbus, OH (continuing his fourth year as Grand champion), Junior Traditional External Form Grand Champion at the Taiji Legacy International Martial Arts Championships, Dallas, TX, Young Adult Traditional Form Grand Champion and Traditional Weapon Grand Champion in the Tiger Claw Elite division at Disney’s International Kung Fu Quest, Orlando, FL, and Male Champion of the Southern Style Quan at the World Chinese Traditional Martial Arts Competition in New York, NY. Recently, Samson earned 8 gold medals in 2009 and 6 gold medals in 2011 at the New Martial Hero Martial Arts Championship in Hong Kong.
Samson, who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began his training with the best – his father Hoy K. Lee. Sifu Lee has been teaching traditional kung fu for more than 41 years and heads the Jow Ga Kung Fu association of USA.
“My father was my role model,” Samson says. “My biggest challenge is meeting his expectations.”
Sifu Lee taught his son in a broad range of styles. In addition to kung fu, the young man studies sanshou kickboxing, tai chi, qigong, knife combat, grappling, and lion and dragon dance. Sifu Lee also allowed Samson to learn several other styles of Kung Fu from various friends of his father. Samson learned qi gong from Hop Gar Lama Pai Sifu David Chin, Dragon Ba Gua Palm from Sifu Johnny Lee, cane and empty hand forms from Si Suk Leung Wing Chow, many hand forms and weapons including Buddha palm, cougar, and fan from Sibak To Tu and Kristina Tu, and lion and dragon dance from Sifu Wai Lap Ki.
Samson’s weekly training regimen includes Kung Fu training for three days, three days of weight and strength training, and about seven hours of sparring, lion, and dragon dancing.
The young champion admits that it took him some time to understand that kung fu has an art as well as a system of self-defense. It wasn’t until his teenage years that he became fully aware of his proud legacy. Samson is fourth generation Jow Ga, a system that began in China over 100 years ago.
“When you are very young, it’s hard to focus,” he says. “You don’t know what you are practicing until you grow up. Then it becomes clearer when you realize the impact martial arts has on your daily life. There are always more aspects than meets the eye. You have to look deeper into what martial arts have to offer.”
Samson is a mature individual who has become more than a brilliant martial artist with an impressive history of wins. He is also a fine teacher of both adults and children, a leader of the Jow Ga Demonstration team and a man with a philosophical turn of mind.
Samson began teaching children’s classes when he was only 14 and says he teaches “for the love of it. I like the to see how the children grow and how excited they are to learn new forms. There is a lot of fun and spirit in the classes. I want to be a role model rather than an authority figure. It’s not enough just to have martial arts skills. You have to be a good person and earn respect.”
Samson’s teaching method emphasizes dynamic and static stretching, solid stance training, efficiency in body movement and control, explosive knockout power, directing chi (internal power) and profound spirit. He believes in both efficiency and simplicity as the key to technical mastery.
“No person can master a technique in one hour,” he says. “It takes years to understand a technique and even more to able to apply it with instinct and reflexes, rather than mere memorization. It’s important to emphasize repetition. Even the simplest, basic techniques can be the most advanced.”
Samson is convinced that being a role model is part of an instructor’s position and has often said that his legendary father is his own role model for his deep knowledge of martial arts and his open minded attitude about teaching other styles beside kung fu. He also cites fellow instructor Mark Elefane, who is now a professional stunt man in California. Samson admires him for both his talent as a martial artist and his social charisma. Samson also idolizes Bruce Lee for his martial skill and contribution to the martial arts world.
Samson’s empathy for children perhaps reflects his own early experience as a shy kid who responded to the “positive atmosphere” of kung fu.
“Many people are blinded by media in America and do not realize that kung fu is a lifelong practice and part of Chinese culture. You can view kung fu as a philosophy of life and apply it in all aspects of living,” he says.
A practicing martial artist, Samson has mastered about 33 forms. His favorites include spear, bench, straight sword, chain whip, double daggers, sup gee tiger, siu fook fu, tiger cougar, cougar out of the forest, crane, and buddhist fist.
Those who followed the demos offered by the Jow Ga Association of USA will remember the fierce two-man set Samson performed with his older sister, Tammy, who graduates from Old Dominion University this year with a degree in business administration. Tammy is also well recognized in the United States for her martial skill, and has won a vast collection of metals and trophies herself.
“We had a friendly rivalry,” he says with a smile. “We argued, but we never fought.”
Tammy, who has racked up numerous trophies of her own, often helped him, Samson says. “We’ve been blessed with a strong relationship.”
Samson is in his second year at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where he is pursuing a Pharm D. to be a licensed pharmacist. His studies have not interfered with his commitment to kung fu and his hope to become a master like his father. In addition to practice and teaching Samson is actively involved in the community, as a participant in VCU’s Virginia Academy of Student Pharmacist (VASP), The Student Chapter of the Virginia Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SVSHP), Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA), and Phi Delta Chi Professional Pharmacy Fraternity.
“In modern Kung Fu, fame and money appear to be important assets in the martial arts business,” the young champion says, “but I want to be recognized for my skill and love for the martial arts rather than sugarcoating my image. Quest for fame and money deviates from the morals of what a martial artist should be or what martial arts teaches. We do things because they are the right things to do, not because they are easy.”
Like his father, Samson may be forging his own legend. Samson Chu Lee is on his way.