Bluegrass Martial Arts 


Bluegrass Martial Arts

2506 Plantside Dr, Louisville, KY 40299

(502) 499-4050

 

 Jun Bao is the Kung fu system founded by James Ibrao. Combining Hung Gar, 7* Mantis,Tai Chi techniques and Traditional Forms from James Wing Woo.

Sifu James Ibrao was born November 3, 1937 in the state of Hawaii in a city called Waialua. "In Waialua, every element of our lives was based around a sugar plantation which meant that everyone worked with one another, knew one another and respected one another. For seventeen years I had the advantage of having an extended family of nearly three thousand people."

During this time James became very active in athletics and was able to make marks in every sport he played. 

"Strangely enough, out of all the sports I tried, basketball was my favorite. In fact, many of you may find this difficult to believe, but at 5"foot 9" I was able to slam dunk!"

After being so active in sports, James found he needed a release. A friend, Bob Sarno, had an acquaintance named Ed Parker who was involved in the teaching of a new martial arts called Kenpo Karate. On the island, martial arts instructors had to be registered to teach and the only art he had been able to study was a little judo. "You can imagine my excitement at being exposed to the power, quickness, and innovative moves of Ed Parker who was literally a giant. It was more than just his stature, he had an aura of power and what many would call fearlessness."

The next day, James joined Mr. Ed Parker and his four students, on their journey into the experience called Kenpo Karate. "I"m not sure whether it was natural ability or pure desire to learn, but I never found the intensive workouts to be too difficult. I was always trying to see and figure out what the next move would be. I always looked for the next logical step in the beautiful and deadly art taught by this dynamic and charismatic individual."

When James started his study of Kenpo Karate, there were only three belts, White, Brown and Black. "It is true that I was the first man to achieve Black Belt under Ed Parker and it is true that I achieved this goal in only nine months." Back then, study was much more intensive and the judging of any artist was on the basics; ability, quality, coordination, speed and power of your techniques. In those days the only way to test your abilities was to really hit! While not very practical and in retrospect not very prudent, it did develop something in the early generation of Kenpo students that our current counterparts will never know.

Grand master James Wing Woo came into the picture in 1960 when Ed Parker and I went on a road trip to San Francisco to visit a few of the Chinese Martial Arts Schools. Ed immediately recognized Master Woo's talent and invited him down to Los Angeles to document his knowledge in books and to incorporate some of the characteristics of the Chinese systems into Parker"s Kenpo.

Many of the forms unique to Kenpo today were being created at this time. James Wing Woo had developed many of the Forms and Kata which would come to set the tone of the art for years to come, as well as some of the most powerful and deadly techniques in the system.

In 1961 James Ibrao was invited to scrimmage against the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. James toured with the Globetrotters for two years, and then returned to Los Angeles. He did not return to my studies with Ed Parker. deciding to instead unlock the mysteries of the Chinese Martial Arts under James Wing Woo.

 

The Kenpo forms common today were created as recently as the 1960's. Before Kenpo had its own forms students were taught the traditional forms of Okinawan Karate. Then with the Introduction of Sifu James Wing Woo, Kenpo adopted Chinese forms. The Chinese influence of James Wing Woo on Kenpo Forms as they were developing are still present today in several of the Long Forms. 

Sifu Woo also contributed several Kung Fu forms to the catalog of Kenpo material while the current Long Forms were in development. Today most Kenpo schools only teach the forms unique to Kenpo karate, but at Bluegrass Martial Arts we still include the forms once part of Kenpo Karate, both the forms provided by Sifu Woo, as well as the Funakoshi traditional Okinawan Karate forms.

Sifu James Wing Woo was born September 26, 1922, on the property of a Standard Oil refinery in Oleum California, north of Oakland. His father had a restaurant there and lived nearby with his wife and children. The Woo family would grow to eight boys (James was the second). Before it did, however, the Woos moved to China. It was 1928, and James was six. But his father had gotten involved in tong wars in the Bay Area, and, as James recalls, had a "price" on his head.

The Woos lived in Canton, the capitol of Kwantung province in the southern part of China, and, within a couple of years, James began learning Tai-Chi from a godfather and various family friends. 

In 1929, Japan invaded the northern part of China and many martial artists in Manchuria and Shanghai moved to Canton. As the Japanese threatened to take Canton, the Woo family split up, some members staying as long as they could; others going to Kowloon, and the rest fleeing back to California. In 1938, James and a brother settled in San Francisco. The 16 year-old James attended school and found work as a waiter.

Out of the Navy by 1945, James took on a variety of jobs, including waiting tables, working in sales, peddling everything from Rena chinaware to automobiles. Away from work, he practiced Tai Chi in local parks. Many evenings, he would visit a studio run by Lau Bun, who knew James' father. James enjoyed spending time with professor Lau and his students, but preferred to work out by himself. One evening, he met a group of Kenpo Karate artists who were visiting from Los Angeles.

In the summer of 1960, James, along with a group of professor Lau Bun's students, went to Los Angeles, staying with a prominent Kenpo Karate instructor in Pasadena. "I got enticed by this teacher, who was writing a book on Chinese martial arts" said James, who prefers not to identify the man by name. The instructor asked James if he could help him write the book.

After assuring his family of his plans, he returned to Pasadena and assisted the instructor on the book. James also began helping to teach the higher belt classes in the Pasadena gym, for free. "You look at these students," he said," and they're all fast and sloppy. So I slowed them down and taught them forms."

With the book finished, James went home to San Francisco, where he learned that the Pasadena instructor had found a publisher. However, according to James, it was a bad deal, and he declined to sign the contract. "So I was going to go back to San Francisco, and all these brown belt class students, the higher-ranked students said, "Don't go back. We'll find another place to open up, and you can teach there."

James decided to move south, and, in 1961, the Academy of Karate Kung Fu opened in a large storefront at 5440 Hollywood Boulevard. "All the people came," James remembers, including students of the Pasadena instructor. His wife Eve, with whom he would have three children, stayed in San Francisco, but would join him later. In 1963, he and a partner relocated to a new gym, at 5156 Hollywood Boulevard, and his school was renamed The Chinese Martial Arts Association. In 1986 he would move to Sunset Plaza and, finally, to his current location, where some longtime students continue his teachings.

In the 1970's, with Bruce Lee and other martial artists taking kung fu fighting to the big screen, James and his most accomplished students began drawing attention from Hollywood producers and directors. James got his first role in Sam Peckinpah's Killer Elite in 1975, after he'd almost tossed the director out of his studio.

James wound up playing ?Tao Yi,? but notes that in all of the 15 roles he has had, from Killer Elite to Lethal Weapon 4 to a recent episode of the TV mystery series,"Monk", he never actually performed martial arts on screen. He has portrayed a priest, a criminal clan leader, an elder martial arts master, and 'a dead Chinese man'. He had never taken a single acting lesson. He said, "I just let it happen."

James taught martial arts for 53 years until his death in 2014 at the age of 92.