Chew Choo Soot and Malaysian Karate

Following the first world Karate championships in 1970, the Budokan style of Karate was given official recognition in Japan. Somewhat related to Shotokan, the style was founded by a Malaysian named Chew Choo Soot (Chew being the surname) who created a Karate style that was closer to the art’s Chinese origins. This article aims to be the most complete history of the man and the style.

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Early life 

Chew was born on February 7 1922. At the age of 15 he became interested in and involved in weight lifting and fitness training and became the Malaysian national weightlifting champion in 1939-1942. Through his training he struck up a friendship with a Karate practitioner and they taught each other. It was during the Japanese occupation of Malaysian and the Japanese officer contacted Chew after seeing him on a magazine cover. The officer had trained in a style called Keishinkan and ultimately introduced Chew to his teacher Takazawa Masanao. The Keishinkan style was derived from the teachings of Kanken Toyama whose Karate contained the essence of Karate Jutsu.

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with his student the movie star Carter Wong
Kanken Toyama 
A full biography of Toyama is here, but to explain his Karate, he began his formal training under Master Itarashiki. Later, he apprenticed himself to Anko Itosu. Toyama also studied stickwork from a master called Ōshiro, and learned the Kushanku Kata from the Shuri Te master Chibana Chōshō (Chibana Chōshin’s uncle). In 1924 Toyama Kanken moved his family to Taiwan where he taught elementary school and studied related systems of Chinese Ch’uan Fa (Kempo). He studied Chinese Kempo under Chen Foji in Taipei and under Lin Xiantang in Taichung. The names of these arts were unusual and recorded as Taku (Hakuda), Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo.  Taku is said to be one of central China’s Hotsupu (northern school) Ch’uan Fa and is further classified as Neikung Ch’uan Fa, that is, an internal method. Makaitan and Rutaobai, which the techniques of nukite (spear hand) came, and Ubo, all belong to the Nampa (southern school) Ch’uan Fa and are external methods or Waikung Ch’uan Fa. These later three styles hail primarily from Taiwan and Fukuden, China. Toyama sensei was also known to have studied and taught Tai Chi. Toyama’s Dojo and the name of the style some of his students taught was Shudokan.

Chew’s training 

In addition to Kanken Toyama’s Karate, Mr Chew also studied Chinese Kung fu, Tae Kwon Do, Judo and several styles of Karate-do including Shito-ryu and Shotokan. However anothe profound influence was the Shuri Te that was derived from Chotoku Kyan’s teachings. Mr Chew studied under Zenryo Shimabukuro the then Grand Master of the Seibukan style, who was a student of Chotoku Kyan, who was a student of Matsumura, Itosu and many others.
Master Chew attended the first world Karate championships
Master Chew attended the first world Karate championships

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Mr Chew also went to Taiwan where many styles of Kung Fu were taught. He studied the tiger style of Hung Gar, Choi Lee Fut, Tai Chi Chuan, and Pa Kua. He learnt and mastered many different ancient Kung Fu and Kobudo weapons and he was renowned for both the broadsword and straight sword but also the dragon stick. In 1968 he established his Kuala Lumpur headquarters.
Karate Budokan is founded
The first official headquarters building of Karate Budokan International at the Lote Yew road, Kuala Lumpur, was declared open on 26th May, 1968 by the honorable Encik Mohd. Khir Jhohiri who was then the minister of Education of Malaysia.
He parted from the Keishinkan in 1971 and the style began to demonstrate a more Chinese influence. But he also employed from Japan two Japanese instructors Mr. T. Yoneda and Mr. T. Ishikawa of the Shito Ryu style from Osaka, to further his research.
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While his son Tony carried on teaching in Malaysia, Mr Chew began to spread his art around the world. He visited England in around 1978 and two instructors in particular are worth mentioning. The first was Sensei Mike Newton, then a teacher of Yoseikan/Seibukan Karate and the second was Sensei Phil Handyside, then a teacher of Shotokan Karate.
Mr Handyside received an Invite from Grandmaster Chew to escort him around the North West to promote Budokan Karate and was awarded his 2nd Dan. Mr Handyside organised the KBI World Open Championships in 1979 at the Preston Guild Hall.
Phil Handyside 8th Dan
Phil Handyside 8th Dan
Shortly afterwards Mr Handyside named his organisation Shobukan. Mr Handyside told me: “He did not come across like a Karate master. He wasn’t confident and cool like Kanazawa, he had a speech impediment that sometimes made him seem nervous and he was built more like a wrestler than a Karateka, but his Karate was brilliant.”
The Budokan style was much more Chinese looking with circular diagonal blocks rather than linear movements. Phil described, “for example in Shotokan the Soto Ude Uke are done mostly linear but in Budokan they cut across and down so if you want to break a grab they are much more powerful.”

Escorting Chew on his tour of England Phil grew close to the master and aside from Kanazawa now sees him as his greatest influence. In 1979 he was asked to organise the world championships of Karate Budokan International and hosted the event at the Guild Hall in Preston.

Chew was the father-in-law of film actor Carter Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) and he was also accompanied to Britain by his senior students Wong Sek Khar (now the Soke grandmaster of Budokan) and Ng Tang Pheng who Phil also trained under.

On hearing of Grandmaster Chew’s death Phil posted on Richard Chew’s Budokan Facebook wall recalling his departure from the KBI in the early 1980s: “Unfortunately politics ruined it in those days You had to be part of certain groups to be recognised, so to keep my Shotokan grades I left the KBI.

“Congratulations to the KBI for keeping the path. I was so sorry to hear of the death of Grandmaster Chew Choo Soot. He was a good friend and teacher, I have a photo of the Grandmaster at my Dojo, and always say how proud I was at his teaching there, and is part of my history.”

Grandmaster Chew teaching in P Handyside's Preston Dojo and in 2012 the author taking his 5th Dan under Shihan Handyside in the same Dojo
Grandmaster Chew teaching in P Handyside’s Preston Dojo and in 2012 the author taking his 5th Dan under Shihan Handyside in the same Dojo
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Author of this article Simon Keegan

 

Bushinkai Shihan Simon Keegan and Shobukan Shihan Phil Handyside who graded under Grandmaster Chew
Bushinkai Shihan Simon Keegan and Shobukan Shihan Phil Handyside who graded under Grandmaster Chew
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