A site honoring the teachings of Kuo Lien Ying and the magical time that we were able to learn from Si Fu

Portsmouth Square 1965-1985

Kimo Le Pree's Bio

          My name is Kimo LePree.  I am half Native American and half Creole.  My mother was Native American (Sioux) and my father was Creole.  My first name means Truthful Brave in Sioux, James in Hawaiian, Strong Dog in Tibetan.  Oddly enough, I was born in the year of the fire dog.  My last name means The Prize in French. 

            My journey into martial arts began when I was a child.  My father died when I was one year old.  My mother was very ill and I lived with my grandmother for a short period when I was 4 years old.  Since I was the new kid on the block I was always getting into fights with the other kids.  As I went out to play each day the kids would gang up on me. With an innate survival tactic, I would back myself up against a wall so they could only get to me one at a time.  I punched and kicked until I could get enough room to run.  On Saturday and Sunday the high school kids would hold boxing matches on their porches.  I did not have to worry about the other kids ganging up on me because the older kids would not allow it.  Needless to say I made up for what happened during the week.  My mother passed away when I was 6 years old.  I went across town to live with my aunt and uncle.

I boxed from ages 9 thru 12.  I belonged to the Police Athletic League (PAL) where kids were taught to box.  Boxing matches were held on T.V. every Saturday night.  I was on the wrestling team during my 10th grade year.  I left home at 15 and hitchhiked from Pennsylvania to California.  I did not know a single soul.  I enrolled myself into Hollywood High School and worked and supported myself through high school and college.  When I was 16, I started Judo at the Hollywood Y.M.C.A practicing three times a week for a year.  I learned Karate in Junior College with a former Green Beret Vietnam Veteran.  He started me with traditional Karate, then combat fighting.  I practiced with him for 2 years.  I also ran every evening from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier (about 4 miles roundtrip).  During my run one evening, I met a man fencing.  I persuaded him to teach me how to fence.  For 2 years, while attending U.C.L.A., I studied fencing at the beach. 

            While in college I was a body guard for the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Stephen Stills, and Jim Morrison, to name a few.  After college I moved to the Bay Area.  I always told my friend Jeff Williams that I wanted to study Gung Fu.  One day Jeff and Brian Swann told me that they had just joined a Gung Fu class.  I wanted to know what kind of Gung Fu.  Jeff said he was studying Tai Chi and Brian was studying Shaolin.  I had heard of Shaolin but never heard of Tai Chi.  Jeff said it is a really slow Gung Fu.  Then he proceeded to tell me about Tai Chi and Sifu.  He said Sifu is 72 with a 2 year old son. “I said wow”.  I was impressed.  Jeff said “Kimo, I know that you’re bad but you can throw a punch at Sifu and he can block your punch and hit you at the same time”.  I said in a cocky voice, “Aint no 72 year man going to block my punch AND be able to hit me at the same time”.
            I wanted to know the time and place of this class.  They told me it was in San Francisco Chinatown, and the time was 5:00am.  I reminded Jeff when we were in College together he had trouble getting to class at 9:00am. “You’re telling me that you get to a Tai Chi class at 5:00 in the morning?”  He said “yes”.  He invited me to join them since I was up every morning at 5:00am to run anyway.  

            So, that Sunday morning I went to my first Tai Chi class.  Jeff introduced me to Sifu.  (I actually thought his name was Sifu).  Sifu was showing me the second exercise, which is  hip rotating when he bumped me very lightly with his hip and knocked me about 10 to 15 feet away.  I immediately ran back to where he was standing.  I knew if he could knock me that far just with his hip and barely touch me, I definitely had a lot to learn.  When I reached Sifu, the grin on his face was as if to say “you see what a 72 year man can do?”  Looking into my eyes, Sifu and I connected at that moment. We both knew I was convinced and definitely hooked for life.  Sifu said if you miss one day of practice it takes 10 days to make up for it.  Even with my limited math skills I knew I could never make up that one day.  In 36 years of practicing Tai Chi, I have never missed a day. 

          For about the first month I went to class at 5:00am but I noticed that Bing was already there when I arrived, so I started getting there at 4:30am  I saw that Bing and I were getting there at about the same time which inspired me to get there at 4:00am Besides, I wanted to practice more.  I went to class at 4:00am, practiced until 6:30am, left for work, where I practiced for another half hour.  I taught school at that time and when the kids went to the yard to play, I would teach them what I learned.  When the kids played at the gym or park, I practiced.  When I left work at 3:00pm, I would go back to the studio and practice until 7:00-8:00pm then drive home to Oakland.  I waited an hour after dinner to practice for another hour.  For many years I practiced about 12 hours a day.  I was practicing almost every waking hour.

            As a young enthusiast, I was into quantity but now, it is more about quality!  Now, I get up between 3:15-3:30am I begin with 45 minutes to an hour of standing mediation, 45 minutes to an hour of sitting mediation.  Before my 2 hour practice at China Beach, I drink 52 oz. of water while getting dressed.  Three days of the week I practice with a 35 lb weight vest on.  When I finish I run up 106 steps.  4 days a week I also spend an hour in weight training before going to work.  I get much more out of my practice now!  It comes with maturity, knowledge and years of training.  In the evening I drink another 52 oz. of water while I practice my Saxophone for 2 hours.

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