Meet Kung Fu Master Pedro Cepero Yee

Pedro Cepero Yee, in black, teaching at Yee’s Hung Ga International Kung Fu Association in Clifton, New Jersey. (Photo provided by Yee via World Journal)

He is a kung fu master and the director of the Center for Tuina and Qigong Therapy in New Jersey. And he has a Chinese last name. But do not assume he is Chinese. Pedro Cepero Yee, a fourth-generation disciple of the famous kung fu legend Wong Fei Hung, is Latino. He started to learn kung fu when he was a child to protect his mother and sister from his father’s abuse. From there he became fascinated with qi gong tui na, a form of traditional Chinese body therapy. Now Yee, 54, has his own kung fu school and a massage clinic.

“My earliest memory was of my father beating up my mother. He started beating her frequently when I was only 1 and a half years old. I also witnessed my father kicking my sister,” said Yee. So from a very early age, he vowed to protect his family. When he encountered kung fu as a 6-year-old boy, “I knew immediately that it was what I wanted,” Yee said.

In 1983, Yee came to Chinatown in Manhattan to learn from kung fu master Frank Yee. In addition to kung fu, the master also taught him the traditional qi gong tui na. [Editor’s note: In this form of therapy, masters utilize the energy flows within their bodies to enhance the effect of body massages in treating patient ailments.] In 1991, Yee opened his own kung fu school in New Jersey. “I hire three Chinese masters as teachers, and other than Chinese, we have many Latino and Korean students too,” he said. “Many students became interested in kung fu because of kung fu movies, and as they practice kung fu, they often develop a broader interest in the Chinese culture.”

Yee himself went through this path. He even adopted his master’s last name, Yee. After so many years, he still has not forgotten why he started to learn kung fu.

“I hope to train more women so they can protect themselves,” Yee said. However, kung fu is not an easy process, he noted, adding that you have to be prepared to endure challenges and even injuries. “I have had three knee surgeries [because of the injuries],” he said. But he added that practicing over time helped build up his perseverance and break through the limits in his life.

Yee said that non-Chinese are naturally born with bigger bones which is an advantage in practicing kung fu. “But compared to Chinese, non-Chinese are not as good at internal practice,” he said. “Kung fu is not only about the physical training. What’s more important is the mental training. And this is a major challenge for non-Chinese students.”

Yee said regardless of ethnic background, a student of kung fu should “level himself or herself down and learn with modesty and humbleness. Only by doing so can they find different [forms of] enlightenment at different stages of learning,” Yee said.

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One Comment

  1. Wonderful! It’s great to see Latinos in the Martial Arts community being featured, the role of a Sifu isn’t just a martial arts teacher but a pillar of the community and Mr. Yee is also a healer using Traditional Chinese medicine.
    Nicely done!

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