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About Chee Soo

Chee Soo interviewed on BBC One in 1973.

Posted by Taoist Cultural Arts Association on Wednesday, 10 June 2015



Chee Soo volunteered to join the Royal Tank Regiment in 1937 to fight for his country

T'ai Chi Sword form

During the sixties Chee Soo worked with stunt arranger Ray Austin and Diana Rigg on the set of 'The Avengers'.

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 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 his nephew, and taught him the arts whenever his work and time permitted. For Chee Soo it meant that he had someone on whom he could rely, and to advise him, and to teach him the fundamentals of the Taoist philosophical attitude to life and all that it meant.

In 1939 the Second World War broke out, and Chee Soo did his share of the 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.

In the winter of 1953-4, Chan Lee died, off the coast of China, near Canton, when the ship that he was travelling in sank in a severe storm, and so Chee Soo was asked to take over the leadership of the Association that has been set up to bind the practitioners of the Lee style together. However, in deference to the memory of Chan Lee, Chee Soo declined to accept any title within the Association at that particular time. By 1959, groups and clubs were being formed all over the world and they were asking for leadership. For this reason, Chee Soo decided to accept the post of President of the Association. Since then the Association has grown from strength to strength in the British Isles, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany, Holland, Mauritius and New Zealand.

In 1982 Chee Soo moved to Coventry in the West Midlands where he set about training the next generation of Taoist teachers to continue his work. He devoted a great deal more time to writing and completed the publication of his series of five books about Taoism and The Lee style. Here he was remarried to Marilyn Perkin who was to become the Honorary Secretary of the Association. For many years they taught classes in the local area which are still running today, as well as many courses throughout the country and also overseas. Eventually they moved to Ebbw Vale in South Wales to be near Marilyn's elderly mother where Chee Soo sadly passed away in August 1994.


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