Frequently Asked Questions

Where is my nearest class ? 

Click here for a list of local classes  
We have Black Belts all over the UK  (and a few in Europe) –    not all currently running a class, please use contact form if you can’t find one in your area.

Can I practice San Shou Kuan with another style of martial arts?

Yes, we totally support ‘cross training’, (some of our Black belts teach Aikido, Kempo Karate, BJJ, Defence Labs, Taekwondo, and boxing ). Some styles can complement each other and your sparring ability, however some styles can contradict each other; for example, punching to head is allowed or not allowed in different styles can effect where you hold your ‘guard’.  We are happy to discuss this if you have any concerns or queries and in training we simply expect you to show respect to the instructor and the style you are training in whilst in that respective class.  (Please note: if you’re training in one of the few styles that forbids ‘cross training’ with other styles, you can do trial sessions with us but we will not knowingly support you going against their wishes indefinitely out of professional courtesy and etiquette.)

Is transfer of recognised grades from an existing style and BCCMA membership possible?

Yes, We would need to see your certificates and meet with you to establish a comparable grade. Some styles share the same interpretation of traditional forms as us, e.g. Wu Shu Kwan so typically they have transferred over with the same grade (subject to learning additional self-defence, take downs and ground escapes). Other styles, we can recognise your technical ability and sparring skills and have previously offered a coloured belt grade rather than start as a total beginner.Existing members of BCCMA, e.g. with six months paid membership left; upon joining us, your first annual renewal date will be adjusted to 18 months from now and there after a Standing Order every 12 months for renewal. (All SSK members require SSK membership for insurance purposes.)

MMA Training

We do “stand up” Full Contact sparring and the most common takedowns (syllabus also includes basic ground escapes from a self defence not sport perspective) making it an excellent supplementary training for MMA fighters – Ideally this is suited to men and women wishing to compete in San Shou / Sanda and Thai boxing. (If you want to compete exclusively in MMA we’d suggest you include a style like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Shoot wrestling or other styles of grappling to fully develop your ground game).

Do you enter competitions?

Yes. We also organise our own internal Taolu (forms), Sanda (full contact sparring) and Qinda (semi contact, typically for juniors and veterans) tournaments which are the natural environment for people to gain valuable experience and test themselves under pressure. Graduates from our competitions have done well winning Gold medals and title in external National and International competitions.
(If you are not familar with Sanda, Thai Boxing is the closest comparison, to competitions will typically enter and in National competitions we may also compete on a Leitai – a raised platform or fight area.)

San Shou Kuan the same as body combat / boxercise / thai bo etc

No. However, if this is your background you may be familiar with some of the training which has been taken from boxing and martial art clubs. We are an organization of genuine martial artists who incorporate pad work in training with the emphasis on real techniques and self defence skills and not just as a ‘work out variation’ to help fitness typically taught by aerobic instructors.  Padwork, is an excellent cardio vascular (CV) exercise and even bad technique(!) is burning calories or helping you ‘blow off steam’. However in a practical application, to ‘strike with power not just flick with speed’, be ‘hard to read’ and not wide open to counter attack by your sparring partner (E.g. a good guard and not lifting your elbow before ‘flicking’ your punch) is very important and worth learning correctly.

Who can learn?


Do I have to be fit before I start training?

No you can get fit by training, just start slowly with lots of rests if you are unfit. (Please Resist using this as an excuse to not start, cf. I need to get smart before I start school – said no child ever! ). Walking in the doorway for your first class can be daunting but we have all done it once.

How long does each class last?

Some are 1 hour .  (Youngest children’s class maybe be 45 mins).  Most kickboxing classes are typically two 1 hour sessions back to back, which build on each other. If you are short on time you’re still welcome to do just a single hour.

I am a complete beginner, can I join up and train?

Yes. Take a trial class is simplest way to start. (Tracksuit bottoms/Shorts and T shirt is fine).

Is San Shou Kuan suitable for women and children?

Yes To expand on this, many martial arts were traditionally described as a “hard” (incorporating ‘hard blocks’, meet force with force) or a “soft” (try to avoid a punch, make them miss) style. San Shou Kuan is a blend of both. Understandably, smaller ‘faster’ people tend to move more “best defence don’t be there” and larger ‘slower’ people tend to block more. In sparring your coach should help facilitate using your natural abilities. – ‘One size does not fit all’ ! A point to consider when choosing a martial art, for larger and not just smaller people.  ( Some of our senior members are highly respected female instructors)

How much ?

 click here for Membership prices. Training prices vary slightly, as clubs outside London don’t have same venue costs as Inner London, hence can be cheaper.

How do I join?

Fill in the online membership application and payment details, or ask you local instructor at his/her class.
As we would always suggest you go and watch or even try your local class first. If the martial art style does not allow that or charges a viewing fee – Walk away ! Don’t be fooled by “we have such ‘deadly/superior/secret techniques only members are allowed to know them’ More likely this ‘MacDojo’ school is trying get your money before you learn otherwise. (Schools under the BCCMA Governing Body, have insurance cover for a ‘trail lesson’ – some styles may claim you have to ‘pay up and join first’ before trying a lesson)

How can my child join San Shou Kuan?

The first lesson is free. After the lesson the instructor can have a chat with you and your child to see what they thought, we’d recommend two lessons before you start paying for membership and uniforms for your child. (Our insurance covers up to 2 trial lessons without a membership for children) After that, use the online application form, for that specific class.

Can parents watch their children train?

Yes. In fact we insist on it with the youngest children initially – you might even get asked to hold a pad for them! Eventually children often don’t want ‘mum or dad watching them’ – so why not join an adult class and you can help your children learn whilst you also get fit!

Do you have Junior Black Belts ?

No. We don’t have “Junior Black Belts” The colour of a belt around their waist does not guarantee a small young child wont be physically overwhelmed by an untrained adult solely due to a massive size difference. However, we can teach children the skills, speed, coordination, flexibility, basic physical conditioning, health awareness, self discipline, and self confidence that could enable them to excel at these subsequent tests and passing though at an accelerated rate. They then should be able to cope with an untrained adult or more importantly a trained adult taking a Black Belt grading whilst you are still a teenager .
Children’s classes 5-10 years: focus on developing teamwork, ‘stranger danger’, learning to listen and
concentrate – any self defence skills taught are age appropriate, we don’t glamorise violence to children. They
are learning useful life skills whilst simply having fun and coming home to parents tired!

What is Free sparring?

‘Unscripted’ Sparring is an integral part of all practical martial arts – to some it is their reason for training. Free sparring is typically incorporated at the end of every traditional San Shou Kuan class under the guidance of the instructor, who’s priority is safety of their students.
To describe sparring as ‘fighting’ is to describe ‘splashing around in water’ as swimming! It is a physical and mental test of one’s ability to focus under pressure. Are you a swimmer if you never get wet or only swim when your toes can touch the ground? Sparring for children is only touch contact – and comes later in the syllabus.

What are  Forms?

“Forms or taolu (Chinese: 套路; pinyin: tàolù) in Chinese are a series of predetermined movements combined so they can be practised as a continuous set of movements.”  In other martial arts these might be labelled as Patterns, or Poomsae or Kata in Karate for example.


Do I have to spar?

We are a real Martial Art. Just like getting wet is a requirement for learning to swim, most people would want to Spar at some time to gauge their progress. However, it is not a compulsory element of basic class training. It is a requirement for later coloured belt (blue belt+) gradings. The sparring level is in proportion to you ability/size/age and safely controlled by the instructors – we want to enable you to learn how to defend yourself.

Does San Shou Kuan teach weapons?

Yes. Knife, Staff (Bo), Sword (Jian) and 3 Section Staff (San Jie Gun). These are taught later on in one’s development and can assist the empty hand techniques of the art, they also provide an excellent new challenge as you develop a new skill set.  Our approach to weapon training is with the emphasis on practical application of training  –  some styles eg Wu Shu  may place an emphasis on more gymnastic or theatrical aspects of weapon training.

Will I have to learn Chinese?

No. Just the name of the forms (kata/patterns) for the main belts, learning the Chinese language will not automatically make you a better fighter!

Why do traditional kickboxing classes do basic movements in lines and rows of people?

This is a very simple way for the instructor to spot incorrect technique, slow uncoordinated movements, poor flexibility and a proven method for building up muscle memory. If the entire session was only individual exercises or random padwork with a fellow student, you might spend months developing a habitual bad technique unnoticed. In a fitness class using punching and kicking exercises this might not matter as even bad technique is exercise and burning calories. In a martial arts class, these movements have a practical function i.e. wanting to strike with power not just flick with speed, be ‘hard to read’ or not wide open to counter attack by your sparring opponent – E.g. lifting your elbow before throwing/’flicking’ your punch.

Do you belong to Governing bodies with insurance cover? (see links below)

Yes. The main one we come under is the BCCMA, our instructors are also DBS registered (replaced CRB*). In addition although not a legal requirement for martial arts (!), with our CPD program we are rolling out attendance in First Aid courses for instructors/members and attending the NSPCC Safeguarding and protecting children courses, combined with NGB coaching courses  run by the BCCMA. (Eg. Physical conditioning, Biomechanics & Sports Injuries, Sports Psychology, sports nutrition etc ).

[*The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) have merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). CRB checks are now called DBS checks]. The British Council for Chinese Martial Arts (BCCMA)BCCMA logo EUROPEAN WUSHU FEDERATION International Wushu Federation (IWUF).Currently, the IWUF has 146 members, across 5 continental federations worldwide. The IWUF is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and is also a member of both ARISF and Sport Accord.

Do you have downloadable factsheet showing me prices and how to join?

Yes – we have info starter pack  click on downloads page to access it

How do I tie my martial arts Belt? (or  just ask your instructor!)

martial art belt_tying

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C/O Tokei Centre,
Magdalen Street,
London Bridge,


07446 037 467
07968 282 085