Chee Soo

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Early days

Chee Soo T'ai Chi Dance - Archer position

According to his birth certificate, born Clifford Soo on 4 June 1919 in All Souls, Marylebone, London, Chee Soo was the son of Ah Soo who was a chef at the Westminster restaurant. His father was of Chinese origin and his mother was English named Beatrice Annie Ah Soo formerly Gibbs.[1]

Chee Soo was born of a Chinese father and an English mother, and as they died when he was only a very young child, he was brought up in a Dr Barnardo's home, which was and still is a charitable orphanage. He started his first job, as a page-boy in a nursing home in Earls Court, West London, and in his spare time he used to go to Hyde Park to enjoy the fresh air, watch the horse riders exercising their animals, and to play with his ball.
However, something happened that was to alter the whole course of his future life. One Sunday afternoon, he went to the park to play with his ball, when suddenly it bounced rather erratically, and accidentally hit the back of an elderly gentleman who was sitting on a park bench. Having recovered his ball, he went up to the gentleman to offer his apologies, only to see that the man was also Chinese. As it was a very rare thing to see another Chinese in London in those days, they began to talk together, and even arranged to meet again. So the two began to meet fairly regularly — whenever the opportunity and the weather permitted, and a very strong friendship developed between Chee Soo and the gentleman, who was Chan Kam Lee.

In the summer of 1934, Chee Soo was invited to Chan Lee's class, and that was the beginning of the training that he has maintained ever since, and it was surely the ordained way of the Tao that enabled Chee Soo to start his learning of the vast range of the Taoist martial, philosophical, healing and cultural arts in this way. It gave great happiness to Chan Lee for he had no family of his own, and as he earnestly desired to keep the Taoist arts alive, he adopted Chee Soo as a nephew, and taught him the arts whenever his work and time permitted. For Chee Soo it meant that the he had someone on whom he could rely, and to advise him, and teach him the fundamentals of the Taoist philosophical attitude to life and all that it meant.

The War

In 1939 the Second World War broke out, and Chee Soo did his share of fighting as a Tank Commander in the Second Battalion of the Royal Tank Corps, in France, in North Africa — where he won the Military Medal, and in Burma where, after a hectic battle, he was finally taken prisoner by the Japanese. He went through many periods of beatings, torture, starvation and very hard work as a member of a working party in the mountains between India and Burma. Finally, three years later, as the Japanese started to retreat from the advancing Allies, he managed to escape into the Shan Mountains of West Burma and made his way over very rugged terrain and through many jungles, till finally one month afterwards he was able to make contact with the Allies again. Three months after recuperation and treatment (for he then weighed only 84 lbs), he was flown back to England, where he was able to enjoy a long leave with his wife. After that, he was discharged from the forces and took a course in book-keeping, stock control, commercial history and sales promotion.
He managed to make contact with Chan Lee again after the war was finished, and the class in Holborn was restarted. In 1950, Chee Soo, with Chan Lee's permission, formed his own class in Manor Road School, West Ham, East London.[2]

The formation of the International Taoist Society.

This society was based on the foundations that were originally laid down by Professor Chan Kam Lee, who started the first Chinese Taoist Arts School in London in 1930.
Chan Lee died in the winter of 1953-4, when his boat sank in a fierce storm off the coast of China, and it was then that his nephew Chee Soo was asked to take over the Presidency of all the Taoist Arts that were being taught. In 1958, Chee Soo set up coaching classes with the object of training qualified teachers, and county, area and regional coaches. Over the years these have proved very successful and there are now classes and clubs operating in many parts of the world, besides those that exist in the British Isles.[3]

The Avengers

thumb Chee Soo, Ray Austin and Dame Diana Rigg publicity shot for The Avengers cult TV show circa 1967.

Chee Soo was also involved as a fight arranger with the cult TV series The Avengers during the 1960s as is evidenced by publicity photographs of him with Ray Austin (himself a Black Belt third dan Kung Fu Master and pupil of Soo’s) and Diana Rigg probably taken around 1967. He brought Kung Fu before a western audience years before Bruce Lee had even been heard of. Chee Soo, Diana Rigg and Film Stunt arranger Ray Austin worked together on "The Avengers" cult TV series

During the 1970s he ran a Chinese Health and Herbal clinic in London.[4]

Coventry

According to Marilyn Soo who is Chee Soo's widow, during the 1980s he moved to Coventry and spent his time writing and teaching courses in T'ai Chi and Kung Fu at the Alderman Callow School in Coventry (now called The Westwood School) and other locations around Britain, as well as visiting some of his students overseas in places like Australia and around Europe.[5]

Wales

He died in Ebbw Vale on 29 August 1994 as a result of an abdominal aneurism caused by deep vein thrombosis probably aggravated by several long haul plane flights during the previous two years.[6]

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chee_Soo
  2. The Taoist Ways of Healing by Chee Soo page 138
  3. The Taoist Ways of Healing by Chee Soo page 139
  4. Chinese Art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan - Gordon and Cremonesi 1976 page 1
  5. Tao of My Thoughts pages 127-150
  6. Tao of My Thoughts page 147