Grandmaster Huo Yan Jia (founder of Chin Woo, 1867 - 1909) was the fourth child in the family of 10 brothers and sisters. During his childhood, he frequently became ill and, as a result, was often taken advantage of by the other children in his province. Ironically, Master Huo’s father, who was teaching kungfu, refused to teach his son the martial art. Therefore the young Huo was forced to hide behind bushes and watch as his father taught other students in the courtyard. Master Huo practiced on his own for the next 10 years. His parents never discovered this until he began to fight with his peers and defeat them. Later, his father officially accepted him and taught his younger son all that he knew. One day, he fought with a foreigner and immediately gained fame. It was during this time that many foreigners were in China, and some referred to the Chinese as the “Sick Men of Asia.” To keep the Chinese image, Master Huo decided to organize the Chin Woo School to allow all Chinese the opportunity to learn Chinese kungfu and strengthen themselves in order to defend the country. In 1909, a European wrestler was sent to Shanghai to challenge any Chinese that would accept. News quickly spread all over Shanghai. Later, some Chinese people invited Master Huo to Shanghai to accept the challenge. He seized the opportunity and emerged victorious. This incident further escalated Master Huo’s reputation.
As word of his victory further spread, so did the Chin Woo spirit. Unfortunately, in August 1909, Master Huo died, but on March 3, 1910, Mr. Chen Gong Zhe, Mr. Yao Chan Bo and Mr. Lu Wei Chang reopened the Chin Woo school. After Master Huo Yan Jia passed away, his younger brother, Mr. Huo Yuan Siang, and his son, Mr. Huo Tong Ker, continued to teach at the Chin Woo Association. Later, many famous martial-arts masters were invited to teach in Chin Woo. Even though they came from different schools, they all followed Chin Woo regulations. Thus Chin Woo became a famous and popular martial-arts association in Shanghai. Chin Woo sponsored most of the martial-arts tournaments. However, in 1966, Shanghai Chin Woo was forced to discontinue their martial-arts activities due to communist regulations. Those restrictions were later lifted, and martial-arts activities were again alive in the Shanghai Chin Woo.
After the death of Master Huo, Chin Woo was reorganized to make it available to other parts of China and Asia. In 1920, Shanghai Chin Woo sent representatives to Southeast Asia. Mr. Li Hui Seng, Mr. Luo Xiao Ao, Mr. Chen Gong Zhe, Mr. Ye Shu Tian, and Mrs. Chen Shi Chao made their first stop in Saigon, Vietnam. They opened the first Chin Woo School there and later in parts of Malaysia and Singapore. To prove their skills, they were often required to give demonstrations or accept challenges. By 1923, these five Chin Woo Masters had opened Chin Woo schools all over Southeast Asia and visited nine different countries. Of the five masters, Mr. Ye Shu Tian was considered the most knowledgeable in kungfu.