Spirit animal: dragon

Guy Kemp

photo by lovelle harris

If you've ever wanted an opportunity to go toe to toe with Guy Kemp after seeing him toss out a rowdy partier at Ace of Spades, the Monte Carlo Club or Pour House, then sign up for a class at his Moore’s Martial Arts of Citrus Heights studio (6917 Greenback Lane). Just keep in mind, Kemp isn't just a bouncer: He also has a black belt, specializing in shou shu, an ancient seven-system, weapons-free style of combat that reportedly harnesses the power of different animals to develop one's fighting skills. Each system is based on the movements of a particular animal: bear, tiger, mongoose, white crane, praying mantis, cobra and imperial dragon. SN&R chatted with Kemp to learn more about the art of shou shu and brick-breaking videos and, most importantly, to debate the importance of Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris.

What inspired you to get into martial arts?

I grew up in the Bay Area where there's a lot of … Asian culture. [I was also inspired by] watching kung fu movies. Growing up playing baseball and always being an athlete, I wanted to jump into something that was new. A friend of mine told me to look at a [shou shu] school in Hayward, and I fell in love with it. From there, I traveled from Tracy to Stockton to Modesto, Turlock and so on, and it just grew into this huge thing [for me], and it became a career.

Speaking of martial-arts movies, what’s your favorite?

I like Fist of Legend with Jet Li. It's a really good movie, the choreography [is incredible], and I just love the movie—the action, the fight [scenes], the story, everything about it.

Describe shou shu.

It's an unarmed combat system [used] to achieve physical fitness, and it builds confidence in oneself. It's a system of self-defense which combines a vast array of pressure points and joint-locking techniques, [such as] chin na, with kicking, punching, throwing and falling, which is shuai-chiao, and fighting techniques into a dynamic “soft-style,” emphasizing speed, fluidity and power. It's a form of kung fu—it's a Chinese system.

How long have you been practicing?

Since I was 23. I am 35 [now].

Why did you open your own studio?

I just absolutely love teaching, I love helping people. No matter what your age—if you're a kid, you're an open book. Little kids just want to be the ninja, Spider-Man, Batman, you know, and they don't have all the years of experience to cloud their mind. They're just an open book. Then you have those who just want to set a new goal. You have ladies out there who have been attacked. You have young kids who need that confidence [and] adults as well. You have people in their 60s and [older] who just want to do something new and work out. Martial arts just isn't about learning how to fight, it's developing confidence, it's setting new goals and achieving new things in your life.

The videos out there showing people breaking bricks with their heads, is that for real?

Some people can make it a trick, and some people can really do it, and if you're going to learn that, learn how to really do it. To learn that focus takes a lot of discipline. We don't really break bricks at this school. I don't teach you how to break bricks.

What do you say to someone who walks through your studio door for the first time?

It comes down to, “Let me show you what our art is about.” So, I will give you a free lesson or I will give you a week of free lessons to see if you're going to like it or not. Some people are going to love it, and some people are going to say, “Hey, it's not for me.” OK, no problem. … But the major thing is I'm going to teach you lessons to see if you're going to like it or not. You're going to learn how to throw me around, and I'm [6-foot-4] and almost 300 pounds, and I'm going to teach you how to throw me over your shoulder. Once you've walked through that door, you're going to understand that you're becoming a part of a family. You're going to work out, you're going to sweat. You're going to learn how to defend yourself.

Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris?

Wow, that's a good question because I grew up watching both of them. Bruce Lee was that first guy on the film screen that everybody idolized, but Chuck Norris was that guy who could kick butt, you know? And he had the Delta Force movies. I'll say Bruce Lee because of how cool he was, but I do like Chuck Norris.