Our School Name: Chuntian Academy International (CAI)
Chief Teacher: Matthew Plewes (1985-present)
Our Teacher’s Teacher’s School: Man-o-War Fighting Arts
Chief Teacher: Nicholas Banks – (1965-1975) Samuel Cheeks – (1975-1985)
Our Main Style: Shaolin Wuxing Kung Fu
Style Ancestry: Five animal forms: Original 18 Luohan Hands, Neigong, Qigong
Related arts, our cousins: Fujian White Crane, Hung Ga
In Southern styles, especially those associated with Guangdong and Fujian provinces, there are five traditional animal styles known as Ng Ying Kung Fu Chinese:pinyin: wǔ xíng; lit. ‘Five Forms’)—Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake, and Dragon. The five animal martial arts styles originated from the Henan Shaolin Temple, which is north of the Yangtze River.
In Mandarin, “wǔxíng” is the pronunciation not only of “five animals”, but also “five forms”.
According to legend, Jueyuan, a 13th-century Shaolin martial artist, used the original 18 Luohan Hands as a foundation, expanding its 18 techniques into 72. In Gansu Province in the west of China, in the city of Lanzhou, he met Li Sou, a master of “Red Fist” Hóngquán (紅拳). Li Sou accompanied Jueyuan back to Henan, to Luoyang to introduce Jueyuan to Bai Yufeng, master of an internal method.
They returned to Shaolin with Bai Yufeng and expanded Jueyuan’s 72 techniques to approximately 170. Using their combined knowledge, they restored internal aspects to Shaolin boxing. They organized these techniques into Five Animals: the Tiger, the Crane, the Leopard, the Snake and the Dragon.
In the early 1960’s, Great Grandmaster Ho Lee, who was taught by his father and grandfather in Guangdong, but Ho Lee himself later moved and lived a time in Hong Kong, brought his knowledge and skills to New Jersey. Nickolas Banks (Master Plewes’s teacher’s teacher) was teaching Okinawan Shorinji he picked up while stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam war. Ho Lee asked if he could watch Master Bank’s class and would quietly watch the entire class, get up and say thank you and leave. This went on for weeks to months and Ho Lee would have very few words and seemed quiet and shy.
Then eventually Lee spoke with Bank’s about Kung fu when Ho Lee realized Banks was teaching proper Martial Arts, and not kata-based fantasy fighting or street violence or sport, as most dojos and dojangs did then and now. Banks seeing Ho Lee’s next-level skills, began training in kung fu.
Master Banks was a private and top student learning the style.
Master Banks taught kids free around the neighborhood parks in the late 1960’s, a self defense hybrid of karate and certain kung fu techniques. This was to help build confidence and keep kids out of gangs and from doing drugs. Master Banks would teach select advanced students the kung fu behind closed doors.
In the early 1970’s, good paying jobs were scarce, so Master Banks, along with a few top adult students moved to Tidewater, Virginia seeking work and were hired at the Shipbuilding company that was building the worlds biggest ship at the time, the Aircraft Carrier (USS Nimitz).
The “Man-o-War” school opened and produced James “Juju” Washington, Lee Grant and Samuel Cheeks (Plewes’ teacher) as system teachers.
As the ship was finished was then launched, the students went their own way, some returning to New Jersey and New York.
Master Cheeks stayed in Tidewater and found work as a welder, his job and skill acquired at the shipbuilding company.
In 1984, Samuel Cheeks took on former Karate student,Matt Plewes as a personal student. After several years, Master Plewes became a system teacher and believed to be the only non-Asian and non-Black teacher, and also the only remaining active teacher in this particular lineage.
In the late 1980’s Master Cheeks and protege Matthew Plewes opened up Cheeks-Plewes Martial Arts Club. This was done so Plewes could learn to be a proper teacher under supervision of Cheeks. Plewes continued his regular private “closed-door” lessons with Cheeks.
In the early 1990’s Master Cheeks retired from teaching and approved Matthew Plewes to continue the lineage as a full Master Teacher. Master Plewes founded Chuntian Martial Arts Club.
Master Plewes additionally studied the fundamentals of Wing Chun from John Wong of Norfolk, Va. (Wing Chun, A superiorly developed Blocking System) and the base of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Concepts, developed from the already existing animal forms of the Snake and Crane.
These Wing Chun drills and basics were merged into the Chuntian Academy Curriculum to augment the blocking skills.
In the early 1990’s Master Plewes also studied introductory Jeet Kune Do Concepts and Escrima. (F.Cucci’s – FDC School-Va.Beach).
In 1997, Master Plewes opened Chuntian Academy’s commercial and research school in Suffolk, Virginia. Active police and military personnel assisted with the development of the modern concepts of the system taught today.
The techniques of Chin’na seize and control were tested in real world by active police and correction officers.
In 1998-99, Master Plewes, employed Li Sun, a Taichiquan expert and member of the Shanghai Taichiquan Association, as a Tai Chi and Chi kung (Qigong) teacher. Master Plewes studied mainly and would incorporate the health and longevity aspects in to the warm up and wind down routines in class. A practice he still does to this day.
In 2001, Master Plewes traveled to Japan for an intended 6 month stay to research Japanese martial arts. After the 911 terrorist attacks, Master Plewes extended his stay. Master Plewes was requested to teach by several people after they witnessed him break up an attack on a woman by a man at a bar with split second reaction and perfect delivery one-handed whilst holding a drink in the other hand.
Master Plewes eventually started a class which grew rapidly and he expanded to three locations. He was soon featured on SBS TV Japan and started teaching at the TV station’s training center for more than 12 years.
Life started to become good in Japan and Master Plewes remarried and started a family and felt comfortable and at home in Japan. After seriously reconsidering moving back to America, Master Plewes decided life would be better and safer for his family in Japan. Now 22 years and counting.
Chuntian Academy International was formed when the Japan branch opened.
In a nutshell, we teach the original and old fundamental 5-Animal/Form (Wuxing) Kung fu that is augmented with Wing Chun Blocking and drills, with the logic and freedom of Jeet Kune Do CONCEPTS to adjust and grow with modern day needs. We are not one style or another, we are a school.(Chuntian Academy International- CAI), A Kung fu based school. Abbreviated: CAI Kung Fu.