Jo-Si Joseph Cowles is the founder of Wu-Wei Gung Fu. The roots of Wu-Wei Gung Fu come from Joseph Cowles’ studies with Bruce Lee at the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle, Washington in the early 1960’s.
Wu-Wei Gung Fu is a non-classical, closed discipline of combat-oriented teaching
and techniques. It is designed for reality in self-defense encounters. It is an
art because it promotes the expression of one’s self in disciplined, honest
training, self-exploration, and research of experience. The final objective is
to realize the development of art as natural movement.
The discipline of Wu-Wei Gung Fu is not for the tournament square. Those who desire sport, tournaments, and championships should look elsewhere for their training. Our belief is ...that the closer one’s affiliation is with the sport arena the farther he is from the martial arts. The basic idea of martial arts is preparedness and discipline, with respect for others. The real issue is not whether one can win a trophy in the sport arena, or be looked upon as a champion or famous, but whether he or she can defend themselves (or the defenseless) in a given situation.
We are not, however, condemning or scorning the sport arena. Sport has its place and it is exciting and interesting. Nevertheless winning a sporting contest requires psyching up the ego to be “the best champion” of this or that title. The aim is toward self-glory and fame. But the aim of this school is exactly the opposite. The influence of inner strength of character and ability is one of our main goals. “The sword is a treasure in its sheath.”
We enjoy sporting events as much as anyone does, and we have our favorite athletes and fighters too. But for our personal training and development, our goals and methods are different. Our competition is with ourselves, so we may say after a period of earnest training, "I’m further ahead now than before training, I am learning and progressing, and the art is becoming 'natural' to me."
This encourages self-knowledge and reality in our experience. When we speak of self, we are not speaking of flaunting the ego, but rather of exploring ourselves and our experience, and expressing ourselves in our own real personalities and capabilities — without pretense.
“Wu-Wei” signifies a concept of spontaneous action without wasted movements. And we would like to emphasize that it is the concept, not the name that is important. In Cantonese it is “Mo-Wai.” The saying, “Mo-wai yee but mo-wai” means “Doing nothing, yet accomplishing everything.” The “doing nothing” does not mean inaction, but, as Bruce Lee put it, it is “a quiet awareness,” being relaxed (physically) while mentally alert to do what is necessary.
In 1970, I moved to Texas, where I had the good fortune of meeting George Brock, a very proficient and highly-ranked Ju-Jitsu Instructor. A great many college students were training under George Brock and his brother Jim, also a Ju-Jitsu teacher. Although George Brock was quite knowledgeable in the martial arts, he was captivated by the moves and theory of Wing Chun as I had been taught by Bruce. As James Lee had done before him, George changed his atemi (striking methods) to add the skills of Wing Chun to his repertoire. Bruce stated that “Simplicity is the natural result of a long and profound study of the ‘way’ of movements,” and that, “If you understand the root, you will know all its blossoming.” In my own method, therefore, Bruce’s teaching is left intact as the “taproots” of movements which develop naturally out of the original teaching. The art, as I teach it, is called Wu-Wei Gung Fu. This is in order to emphasize the concept of wu-wei (as noted on pp. vii-ix), to build upon Bruce’s own original teaching (leaving it unchanged), and not to encroach upon any name or school Bruce had himself established. I do not claim to have originated or invented a “new” martial art. But I do honor and appreciate what Bruce taught me and the concepts he gave to me.
Read more history of Joseph Cowles and Bruce Lee
Soke Joe Purcell, Jr. began his martial arts training during the early 1960s. He initially studied Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Kobu-Jitsu at an early age under notable instructors Satoru Numijiri, “Ace” Sukigara, Vince Tamura and George Brock. Joe spent a number of years with each of these instructors. During this time, he earned several black belts and won six consecutive Texas State Judo championships. This included juniors (16 and under), high school, collegiate, and adult (17 and older) championships. The collegiate state championship was as a member of the Texas Christian University Judo Team coached by Ace Sukigara.
During the early 1970’s, Joe was introduced to Joseph Cowles who recently moved to Texas by his Ju Jitsu instructor, George Brock. Thus began his first experience in non-traditional training in Wu Wei Gung Fu. Sifu Cowles was a student and permanent member of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle during the early sixties. Joe trained with Sifu Cowles and assisted him in teaching classes at the University of Texas-Arlington and also taught hundreds of students at Sam Houston State University while earning his bachelor’s degree there.
After years of training directly under the supervision of Sifu Cowles, he appointed Joe as his Yap-Sut-Dai-Gee (Closed Door Student) then later as his lineal successor. When Jo-Si Cowles retired in 2006 he fulfilled his promise to Joe from many years ago and appointed him as head of Wu Wei Gung Fu and awarded him with his 9th level black sash. Since Joe is of Japanese ancestry and was given the opportunity, he selected the title of Soke (head of the system in Japanese) rather than Si-Jo, the traditional Chinese designation. Eyal Koren was appointed as his equivalent in Israel.
In 1984 Jo-Si Cowles recommended that Joe continue to expand his training. As a result he sought out his first experience in Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Jun Fan Gung Fu, and Muay Thai taught by Sifu Dan Inosanto accompanied by Jo-Si Cowles. Joe still continues his training under Sifu Inosanto, and is now a Senior Associate Instructor in JKD/Jun Fan Gung Fu and the Filipino Martial Arts (Kali –Eskrima- Silat). Due to the training and inspiration provided by Sifu Dan Inosanto, and Sifu Cowles Joe has cross-trained under numerous other instructors. Some of them are as follows: Master Surachai Sirisute – Thai Boxing; Pak Herman Suwanda – Pencak Silat Mande Muda; Jason Webster – Thai Boxing and Krabi – Krabong; Professor Wally Jay – Small Circle Jiu-Jitsu; Larry Hartsell – Jeet Kune Do Grappling; Tuhon Bill McGrath – Pekiti Tirsia, and Guru Richard Crabbe DeBordes – Harimau Minangkabau.
Joe began teaching martial arts in 1972 at the early age of 15, and has taught at numerous colleges and universities. From 1979 to 1981, he taught accredited martial arts classes at Sam Houston State University. He also studied fencing at while attending, and became the fencing instructor the following semester. As an undergraduate, Joe received the “Award for Professional Excellence” from the College of Education for the 1980-81 school year.
Purcell’s Academy of Progressive Martial Arts was founded in 1985 in Dallas, Texas. The following instructors composed the teaching staff: Paul Marrero – Pencak Silat Mande Muda; Lonnie Ross – Judo, Grappling, Wu-Wei Gung Fu; Bill Stutesman – Harimau Minangkabau; Ken Dority – Pencak Silat Mande Muda; Jason Webster – Muay Thai and Krabi – Krabong; Valentine Espiricuate – Doce Pares; Omar Hakim – Pekiti Tirsia, and Andy Webb – Shotokan Karate. Joe taught the Wu Wei Gung Fu, JKD/Jun Fan Gung Fu, and Filipino Martial Arts classes.
Si-Jo Eyal Koren was born August 7th, 1963, in Israel. He became acquainted with the world of martial arts age 12, when he began training in the art of Goju Ryu Karate, followed by the classical Shaolin Kung Fu style of Five Animals. After years of training, he encountered Wu Wei Gung Fu for the first time: a chance encounter with a former student of Jo-Si Joseph Cowles induced him to travel to the US and learn from the founder himself. After a few years of intense training under Jo-Si Cowles, Eyal was granted the rank of head instructor in Europe and Israel.
Training and teaching the art of Wu Wei Gung Fu had since been his main occupation since. He devotes his life to the development of the system, and to adapting its mental and physical concepts to the needs and circumstances of the Israeli reality. Throughout his years as a Wu Wei practitioner, he developed many combat techniques and theories, all of which were approved by Jo-Si Cowles after being tested and proven effective. In 2006, Jo-Si Cowles retired, appointing Si-Jo Koren head of the Wu Wei Gung Fu system world wide and awarding him the 9th degree red sash, a rank reserved exclusively for the head of Wu Wei Gung Fu.
Si-Jo Koren is a lifetime member of the American Black Belt Society and the World Jeet Kune Do Federation. He is certified by the Wingate Institute for trainers in Israel, and has been teaching in Jerusalem since 1986.
He is a father of two.
I once asked Bruce Lee if one technique was better than another technique. His reply was, “Nothing is 'best' it is what fits the moment that is 'best'.” This is “wu-wei.” In the mental/physical aspect of training, Bruce stated that “Simplicity is the natural result of a long and profound study of 'the way of movements'.” A quote from his first book, CHINESE GUNG FU --The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense, gives insight into his own feelings and definition of “wu-wei”:
It has been quite a number of years that I have indulged myself in Wing Chun, the School of Artlessness. My mind is no longer distracted by the opponent, “self”, or formal techniques, etc. I have made my opponent's techniques my techniques; my task is simply to complete the other half of the oneness, and my action is that of Wu-Wei (spontaneous act) which is according to the circumstances without prearrangement. The training of mind and imagination, imagination and Ch'i (breath), breath and energy, etc., are all gone. There is nothing to “try” to do; everything simply flows. (p. 7))
The Gin-Lai or Salutation is performed at the beginning and end of each class. Begin your Wu-Wei Gung Fu training now.