Master Yun Delivers a Kick of Health and Happiness

By Zach Rosen   |   March 14, 2023
Master Yun has dedicated his life to the study of martial arts

Watch most Kung Fu movies and you’re sure to see the protagonist’s “master,” quintessentially depicted as the graying wise man, often cranky and whipping around a long beard. Meet Yun Chao Zhang, or Master Yun as everyone calls him, and he is nothing like those tired clichés, yet he is a master in the truest sense. Eternally youthful and bubbling with energy and enthusiasm for his art, Master Yun is a model of the many health benefits of regularly practicing martial arts. A practice that he has been helping spread locally since 2018 in his studio located at the Las Aves complex at Los Patos Way and E. Cabrillo St.

I first learned about Master Yun’s extensive and impressive martial arts background through writing an article on him and the studio opening for the Santa Barbara Sentinel. Soon after, I attended classes for several months. My first class was intimidating – of the 10 or so students, almost every one of them had been studying martial arts for 10 years or more, many of them having black belts in some discipline. Those feelings quickly dissipated as the warm and inviting atmosphere filled the space. It also became clear that, even with years of experience under one’s black belt, each of us were beginners in comparison to Master Yun’s skill. 

Master Yun began studying martial arts at the age of 6, after he received the rare honor of getting to study with the esteemed Master Wang Qing Zhai, a distant relative. By his teenage years, Master Yun’s dedication and skill led him to touring solo with Master Wang. Over the years, he continued to receive international recognition at competitions, eventually being granted U.S. citizenship by Chinese officials so that he could help bring the rare forms he learned to the West. 

Eventually, Master Yun settled in Ventura, where he would encounter Daniel Nash in 2016 after a chance meeting in a park. Master Yun dropped in on Nash and some others practicing and playing around with martial arts games. The group was instantly impressed with his skill and recognized his mastery of movement. Daniel, who has been practicing martial arts for more than 30 years, immediately asked to be a student – and together they opened the studio in 2018. “I always wanted the school to be like a community, like a family, not just something you do once a week and then forget about,” said Daniel. 

And that sentiment has stayed true, even five years after opening. Longtime Montecitans and both students, Chris and Dori Carter, even proposed their backyard as a place to practice during the pandemic. The park next to the studio offered another refuge for students as well. Today, when a particular class has more students, they can still pop outdoors and take advantage of Santa Barbara’s splendor. After outings or public displays, they’ll often grab food together, and Dori mentioned that they have become friends outside of class, too.

Master Yun’s teaching style focuses more on practicing perfection of form and movement, and less on physical sparring; however, he will regularly go into descriptions of how a particular move is used in a fight, or what purpose it serves, frequently using the (somewhat) willing Daniel as his punching bag to show its application. “That’s the thing. You’re always working towards perfection, as far from it as you actually are in the process. And once we finish, we start up right again,” said Chris. This makes the classes perfect for those looking to develop their strength, coordination, flexibility, balance, and just health in general. Seniors can attend and focus on improving their mobility and worry less about how well they can take a punch. 

Master Yun originally focused on teaching three styles at the studio: Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Wu-style Tai Chi, and Shang-style Xing Yi. He has mastered many more styles than those and has begun offering additional styles, as the studio has grown and longtime students become more experienced. He has even expanded classes into the more-advanced weapons training, as well as a children’s Kung Fu class. Master Yun also now offers both a Chen-style Tai Chi and Praying Mantis Kung Fu class at UCSB’s Rec Cen on Tuesdays.

Check the wellness section of upcoming issues of the MJ, wherein Master Yun will be providing simple practices that you can do at home to hone your balance, dexterity, and flexibility that will not just benefit your own martial arts practice but help your health in everyday life.  

Visit for more information and class schedules.


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