Jonny is a martial arts master four decades after catching bug in 70s boom

Johnny Johnson receiving award.

Johnny Johnson was awarded the title of si-jo (founder of style) for his 48 years of improving his version of Chinese kempo gung-fu. - Credit: Chinese kempo gung-fu

It was when everybody was kung fu fighting in the 70s that Johnny Johnson first caught the martial arts bug.

Now, 48 years after he first began training under the renowned Barry Theobald, the 65-year-old Gorleston martial artist has been given the rarefied rank of 'si-jo'.

"I'm a product of the kung-fu boom of the early 70s," Mr Johnson said.

The Gorleston man opened his own school in 1977 specialising in Chinese kempo gung-fu.

For over 40 years, Mr Johnson has taught more than 1,000 students.


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In May, Mr Johnson was awarded the title of si-jo (founder of style) for his commitment to Chinese kempo.

"It's been eight years since I was last graded, and I can't get any higher, so the governing body gave me the title, which I wasn't expecting, but I was very happy to be given it," he said.

Johnny Johnson

A warrior in a garden. Johnny Johnson promotes Chinese kempo for its focus on mental as well as physical benefits. - Credit: James Weeds

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"It's a tremendous honour."

Over the years, Mr Johnson has modified his methods and focuses on the adaptability of his chosen martial art.

From kicks and punches to grappling and weapons, kempo covers a broad range of disciplines.

"We're more realistic in what we do. If we need to, we can do the Shaolin monk stuff, we can break things in demonstrations, but kempo has its own core principles.

"If you break it down, kung-fu means 'well-learned skills'. Kempo is basically hand and feet art. When we do go to competitions, we have to prove ourselves because kempo isn't that well known, but competitors are often impressed with how versatile it is.

"The benefits of practice are coordination, friendship, health - both physical and mental - and fun."

After the lockdown restrictions, Mr Johnson has restarted teaching.

The logo for Chinese Kempo Gung-fu

The logo for Chinese Kempo Gung-fu, which highlights the variety of the martial art. - Credit: Chinese Kempo Gung-fu

"We're a small club, but that means we can really work on the individual," Mr Johnson said.

"It's a place where body and mind can come together.

"There will be ups and downs, but as long as you stick at it, you will get far."

Chinese kempo gung-fu have lessons on Tuesdays 7.30pm - 9.30pm at Corton Village Hall and Thursdays 7.30pm - 9.30pm at Colville House, Lowestoft.

"If you like being different, if you like being a little off the mainstream, then kempo could work for you," Mr Johnson added.

For more information, visit the Chinese kempo gung-fu Facebook page.

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