Few people are aware that the longest-standing martial arts school in Washington state is located in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.
Founded by Grandmaster John Leong in 1962, the Seattle Kung Fu Club is considered “one of the longest-running Kung Fu schools in America,” as stated by Leong’s son, Robin, who is also a Kung Fu master at the China Harbor Restaurant.
It was a triple celebration, marking Leong’s 86th birthday, as well as the distinction of being the most historically significant Kung Fu school in our state and, perhaps, in all of the United States. Established in Chinatown in 1963, the Seattle Kung Fu Club has occupied the same location for the past 60 years, situated atop the Kau Kau B.B.Q. Restaurant with a shop below selling martial arts equipment and crafts.
Leong started teaching the traditional art of Hung Gar Kung Fu in the summer of 1962 at the Metropolitan Health Club in downtown Seattle. This period also coincided with Seattle’s glory days, occurring in the midst of the World’s Fair, according to Robin.
Originally from Guangzhou, China, Leong began his journey when he was 25 years old.
The school is described as “a close-knit family—a family of dedication, selflessness, and honor,” according to Robin. Former and current students from various parts of the U.S. joined in the Oct. 7 celebration, including Hollywood movie star Marc Singer, 75, and several community leaders from Chinatown. Over 400 people attended, witnessing Leong’s students of all ages and diverse backgrounds performing Kung Fu in various styles and forms.
At 86, Leong continues to teach at his school, exercising for about an hour every day. Perhaps, these are the secrets to his longevity—having a purpose and maintaining his fitness.