By Davis Jenner
Local Kung Fu school California Academy of Martial Arts, located on the border of Burbank and Toluca Lake, celebrates its 18th Anniversary this July. The martial arts institution focuses on Wing Chun Kung Fu, made famous in America by action star Bruce Lee and his grandmaster Ip Man. They also offer training in other Chinese Kung Fu styles including Tai Chi, popular for its meditative qualities; Shaolin Kung Fu, which develops discipline and strength; weaponry, popular among actors studying for roles; and cardio kickboxing for students with weight loss and fitness goals.
Unlike at most martial arts schools, the curriculum emphasizes realistic self-defense strategies rather than tournament-friendly techniques. The school’s Chief Instructor, Todd Shawn Tei, appeared as the resident Martial Arts Expert on four seasons of Spike TV’s cult favorite 1000 Ways to Die and also works as a fight choreographer for film and TV. His passion for teaching real world skills extends beyond self-defense and into the life skills his programs advocate for all ages. “It’s pointless for kids to know a bunch of anti-bullying or anti-kidnapping techniques if they lack the confidence to use them,” says Tei. “Our programs teach kids when to say ‘no’ or ‘leave me alone’ so that bullies stop targeting them. If they learn how to stand up for themselves verbally, the chances of them needing to defend themselves physically are slim.”
The school’s adult/teen students also benefit from Wing Chun’s streetwise outlook. According to Tei, “With our adults, if they have the confidence and training to protect themselves, they’ll act as such. They tend to stand a little taller as their skills improve with time and practice. Criminals look for weak targets, so usually they’ll just move on rather than risk tangling with someone who’s going to put up a fight. And as their physical fitness improves, that can only help their daily lives also … in the workplace, relationships, their overall health … it’s all connected.”
Since opening in 1995, the school has taught thousands of adults and children, including a number of celebrities. Notable names to pass through for training include Jackie Chan, a Wing Chun enthusiast who hired Tei as his bodyguard after their encounter; Sammo Hung, the Chinese action star who choreographed the blockbuster Ip Man film and appeared in Ip Man 2 as a rival teacher; and George Lopez, who filmed a popular episode of his talk show Lopez Tonight with some of the Academy’s young students.
Age-appropriate programs are offered for children ages 2 through Adult. Classes for kids and adults are available 7 days a week and no Martial Arts experience is necessary. To inquire about their martial arts programs, call (818) 843-7916 or visit kungfuwingchun.com. California Academy of Martial Arts is located at
521-A N. Hollywood Way in Burbank.