“Gene” Chen Jinhong was a pioneer of Chinese martial arts in the United States. He was one of the first to bring Chen Style Taijiquan to the west at a time when China was closed to outsiders and the art was largely inaccessible and unknown. I was fortunate enough to meet and then train with him for approximately five years, from 1996 till 2001. In relation to the importance of his contribution to the art at the time and the particular depth and quality of his teaching, precious little has been offered online about who he was, his history, and what it was like to learn from him. This essay is part of an effort to honor his art, and teaching and to express appreciation for his generosity and guidance.
Chen was born in Shanghai in 1938. His family later moved to Hong Kong and then eventually to San Francisco, where he taught Chinese martial arts classes.
Chen had achieved ‘master’ status in Southern Praying Mantis—also known as Zhu Gar, or Zhu family gongfu—during his youth in Hong Kong. Zhu Gar is a Hakka (southern) system that is in fact not related to other mantis systems at all. According to Chen, the Zhu family changed the public name of their system in the interest of self-preservation, after facing persecution by the incoming dynasty of the day due to their family connections to the previous dynasty.
Zhu Gar kungfu
Chen apparently learned Zhu Gar in a location near where Bruce Lee was studying gongfu, and had met him as well in those days. Zhu Gar as he knew it was a system laser-focused on aggressive fighting and killing strikes. He was very proficient at it, with a highly developed “semi-internal” body method as he called it.
‘Gene’ Chen Jinhong demonstrating Zhu Gar Kyun kungfu
Very few people will ever be the martial arts obsessive Gene Chen was, and Zhu Gar, as effective as it is was Read the rest of this entry →