Bruce Lee’s Accupunch

Bruce Lee’s Accupunch

LJF
Joined: December 6th, 2014, 3:05 am

August 5th, 2015, 7:09 am #1

There was a post on “Accupunch” posted in this forum some years ago. However, it only covers a portion of it. Many fans only know Bruce’s famous one-inch punch and have seldom heard about his “Accupunch” until Bruce’s martial arts associate and personal friend, Grandmaster Jhoon Ree revealed it in his book, “Bruce Lee And I” which he mentioned about learning this special arts from Bruce and later he taught Muhammad Ali.

Jhoon Ree Taught Ali
====================
According to Rhee, he first met Muhammad Ali in 1975, before his “Thrilla in Manila” championship fight with Joe Frazier. Rhee knew that Ali and Bruce Lee never had the chance to meet, so he took the opportunity to show Ali a punch that Rhee had learned from Bruce Lee, and for which Rhee had coined a name: the “Accupunch.” An extraordinarily fast punch that is almost impossible to block, the Accupunch is based on human reaction time — the idea is to finish the execution of the punch before the opponent can complete the brain-to-wrist communication. When Rhee demonstrated the punch to Ali, Ali was unable to block it.

So, at Ali’s request, Rhee taught him the punch, which he used in his fight against Frazier. Later, Ali also used the Accupunch in a bout with the British champion Richard Dunn — for a knockout blow. During an interview on national TV, a reporter showed Ali a slow-motion replay of the punch and asked about its origin. “That is Mr. Jhoon Rhee’s Accupunch,” Ali explained. He later elaborated, “I learned the Accupunch from Mr. Jhoon Rhee. It acts at the exact moment you decide to hit, and there is no lag time at all. It is instantaneous. It moves at tremendous speed with no warning and accelerates like a bullet in flight. You can hardly see it.”

Rhee also worked as Ali’s head coach for a rare Boxing v.s. Wrestling match in Japan, against the famous Wrestling Champion Inoki. Rhee taught Ali how to prevent his feet from being swept and caught by the wrestler. Ali picked up many advices from Rhee and continued to attain his successive victories. If Bruce was Rhee’s master in Accupunch and Ali, in turn learnt it from Master Rhee. Then, in that sense, Bruce Lee could be considered as the “Grandmaster” of Ali.

Accupunch In Action
===================
Rhee said, “Accupunch is a punch with your body and mind as one. This combination creates a tremendous acceleration and increases the punching power. When you decide to punch, you’ve already punched. I’ve demonstrated my punching power, breaking three boards dangling. If you don’t have really explosive punching speed, you will push (dangling boards) and they will not break. But, I always break them.”

Bruce Lee had demonstrated his punching cum kicking power in HK-TVB and HK-RTV on 9th and 10th April 1970 respectively. The one which he broke few pieces of boards held tight by 2 Karate men was the famous “one-inch punch.” The ones which he broke by snapping 1-2 pieces of boards without support and kicking 5-6 pieces of boards dangling were the Accupunch and Accukick respectively. Bruce’s explosive punching/kicking (“Chi” – internal energy) broke the unsupported dangling boards easily. These performances made both the audience and the host in awe.
Bruce’s Accupunch may be considered the advanced version of the One-Inch Punch. It is more dangerous and unpredictable as compared to One-Inch Punch which is limit to a close range of striking. Accupunch is non-telegraphic. It can be punched from any angles, directions and at a further and wider range during the launching of the unprecedented attacks on the opponents. However, it requires the combination of mind, will, power and body at work which would then deliver the desired result.

Yuen Wah’s on Bruce’s Accukick
==============================
According to Yuen Wah’s 2011 interview in “Macau Daily,” He and other stuntmen had a taste of Bruce’s real Kung Fu many times during their training sessions. Once, Bruce got 1 stuntman to hold a protective shield and 4-5 men held him from behind. When Bruce moved forward and kicked the front guy with the shield, all of them were thrown backwards and fell to the floor in various directions, just like a bowling strike. The 4-5 guys standing behind actually got a greater hit from the impact generated from the kick than the front guy holding the shield. The force penetrated from the first person then went all the way to the rest behind liked a drill. The tighter or harder the guys behind held or resisted, the greater the injury they would incur. This concept is similar to Bruce’s explanation to his demo on host Ivan Ho during Bruce’s interview on 5th July 1973.

According to Master Xu Hao-Feng (a well-known Internal Style Master from Mainland China), although Bruce’s martial arts foundation was Southern school’s Kung Fu (Wing Chun, Hung-Gar, Choy Li Fut etc.) but he saw the substance of Yi-Chuen (Northern school Kung Fu) and other forms of internal style appearing in his skills. Master Xu said we should never judge Bruce’s side kick and straight punch superficially. There is in fact, more substance to it, something which are far more solid and powerful in Bruce’s martial arts skills, i.e. internal strength.

Origin of The Accupunch/ kick
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Below is the excerpt of the article published in the 395th Issue of New Martial Hero in 2013, edited by Master Liang’s student - Bernard Kwan on 29th Nov. 2013

Master Liang Zi-Peng aka Leung Tsz-Pang (1900-1974), an internal style master and the Kung Fu teacher of Lee Hoi-Cheun, father of Bruce Lee, to whom he was said to have instructed “Taji Chuen,” “Liu-He-Ba-Fa Chuen” (aka Water Boxing) and “Yi-Chuen”. Bruce first learnt Taiji from his father at age 7 and later enrolled under Yip Man’s school to learn Wing Chun. Subsequently, his father suggested that Bruce should meet his teacher, Master Liang.
Bruce first saw Master Liang teaching his students in King’s park and stood aside to watch. He then saw Mater Liang threw 3-4 students (at a standing stance) back several feet with just a “mild” force. This enlightened method which was able to knock people down and throw people back several feet greatly shocked Bruce and widened his perspective. Bruce appreciated the power of “Yi-Chuen” and “Liu-He-Ba-Fa” Chuen (aka “Water Boxing” or “Six Harmonies Eight Ways Boxing”). He became very interested in what Master Liang was teaching and wanted to learn from him.

However, being skeptical about Bruce’s learning Kung Fu to fight on the street, Master Liang who was also an expert in Eagle Claw Kung Fu, was only willing to teach Bruce the concepts and principles of the internal style. Bruce was a Kung Fu enthusiast and he would often go to Master Liang's house, which was at number 18, Austin Road in Jordan Way, to listen to his lectures. Bruce was a talented martial arts student, he shortly grasped the true meanings behind the concepts of “Yi-Chuen” and “Liu-He-Ba-Fa Chuen” besides the Taiji’s theory he learnt from his father.
Bruce had an in-depth understanding of these theories especially Liu-He-Ba-Fa Chuen and Lao-Tsu’s Taodejing (Taoism teachings) which share similar theory on water. Thus, Lee was able to absorbed, combined and applied his “water theory” very well. Later, he gave his famous quote - “Be Water” in the TV series – “Longstreet” and in the Pierre Berton’s interview (1971).

Master Liang used the principles of Yi Chuen to correct his students’ mistakes while explaining the applications at the same time and demonstrated how to absorb and use the opponent’s movements to throw the opponent backwards (a technique aka "Si-liang-bo-qian-jin"). He was much different from many teachers at the time who only taught the forms but never stressed how to apply the movements. Master Liang also corrected Bruce’s Taji movements as well as helped Bruce to sort out, induct and rectify those unsystematic and disorganised Kung Fu techniques which he had learnt previously. This “disorganised mess” which was once regarded as “waste” then transformed into “treasures." Bruce appreciated it very much and when he was teaching his Jun Fan Kung Fu in U.S., he often mentioned about Master Liang.

Master Liang had many martial arts books in his possession. He loved to read martial arts manuals, and would underline the important points with a red pen. He gave two books, “Ortohodox Zimen Style” and “Chang Nai-Zhou's Boxing Manual” to Bruce, reminding him to study them diligently. Bruce was an avid reader. He studied these 2 books thoroughly and analysed the traditional inner style concepts in these books extensively. It is because of comprehening the internal style’s principle and theories, and through self-learning and practising the internal style, Bruce was able to accumulate enormous strength from his body and execute his JKD’s punch and kick with devastating power which was totally different from the Karate and Tae Kwon Do practitioners.

In real fighting, Bruce’s waist and hips were always in a relaxed mode. His kick usually would not go beyond his waist unless on exceptional case. In case of high kicking, Bruce would spring-jumped using supports from his legs. The kicking force relies on his butt shear, both legs scissored-folded reciprocal as the roots, the kick resulted an enormous amount of vibrating force liked sabrecut which would lead to injury of the tissues and broken bones of his opponent. This is an extremely high level skill in martial arts.

Tony Lau/Liu once said in his interview that Bruce practiced “Ngang Gung” or “Hard Chi Gung” (both referred to internal style or internal power Kung Fu) which was the reason why Bruce was able to generate such an enormous power for his one-inch punch and accupunch at such a short time given his small body frame.

Excerpts on The Yi-Chuen absorbed by Bruce Lee
==============================================
Although the time Bruce spent learning Yi-Chuen was short, the philosophy of Yi-Chuen and Liu-He-Ba-Fa Chuen deeply influenced the framework and principles of his Jeet Kuen Do.

1. Experience the flow of “Chi” (internal power)
One must constantly reflect, stand and experience the flow of “Chi” (energy) in the body, and understand the smallest changes in the muscles of the body, the impact of the external weather and environment on one's thoughts and emotions, seek movement in stillness and calmly react to change.

2. Softness can overcome hardness (similar to Taiji’s Yin-Yang Theory)
Only when the muscles are relaxed, can one's movements be fast and react with explosive energy.

3. Throw the opponent several feet away
When Bruce studied martial arts in the past, it was to beat people. Yi-Chuen uses the whole frame of the body to throw the opponent flying. This led Bruce to later tried developing his One-Inch Punch and Accupunch with the similar concept and motive.

4. Utilise the whole body strength
In the past, Bruce would use his attack to cause pain to the opponent, but he began to understand the importance of full body power through Yi-Chuen. Using the whole body framework, even if the opponent resists, the whole body power will rise up to break the opponent, leaving him no way to block or deflect.

5. Practical and Effective
Every time you attack, it needs to be accurate, brutal and effective. It has to be a practical, real attack and not a fake flowery movement. Every movement has its usefulness, and one has to maintain the balance and frame, using the full power.

Continuous Self-Development
===========================
However, to Bruce, it does not matter whether it is Accupunch or One-Inch Punch, Accukick or Snap Kick, they are just “Names” only. Important thing is how martial arts practitioners could utilise their tools to the maximum. Although the concept is the same, the execution and power of Ali’s Accupunch might be different from Jhoon Rhee and Rhee’s might be different from Bruce because of their diverse martial arts backgrounds. More importantly is the final result of its effectiveness.
If One-Inch Punch was derived and improved from Wing Chun’s “Jat-zi Power Punch,” then both the Accupunch and Accukick were Bruce’s own developed personal weapons that would takes time to master. They were meant more for advanced martial arts learners because of the complex theory and skills involved in mastering these techniques. From the “Iron Palm” Kung Fu he learnt from James Y. Lee to the “One-Inch Iron Finger” Kung Fu he was practicing in the early 70s etc, Bruce was no doubt constantly absorbing nutrition from various kinds of martial arts and improvising his JKD. Like he always said, “Running water never grows stale, you’ve to keep on flowing….”

Ali, Rhee and Lee photos: http://postimg.org/image/m0d95rh7b/

From One-Inch Punch to Accupunch photos: http://postimg.org/image/9rwb9xag9/



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Joined: July 16th, 2003, 11:43 am

August 5th, 2015, 1:17 pm #2

Thanks for sharing. Here's an old article.

Bruce Lee Underestimated by Patrick Strong.

Just the other day I received word from a European writer who has written a number of articles on Jeet Kune Do and, having known many of JKD's top people, is now completing a book on Bruce Lee and his Jeet Kune Do. I enjoyed the discussion, but there was something in the writer’s reporting that troubled me. It was the notion that Bruce Lee has been overestimated. Boy, how many times on different JKD forums have I read that very same thing.

My response was just the opposite. I maintained that Bruce was not overestimated but, in fact, that he was grossly UNDERESTIMATED! I went on to say that Bruce has never really received proper credit for the TRUE DEPTH of his KNOWLEDGE. What he has been credited for was an amazing exhibition of skills, breaking tradition, and the forming of a new martial art; and while these thoughts can be appreciated and are certainly true, they are, at very best, very shallow. In truth, Bruce had a scientific approach to martial art that began with a proven body of knowledge containing a host of pragmatic principles and startling mechanical advantages.

As a researcher, he was not only interested in experimenting with new ideas and concepts, but actually putting them to test and proving them out. As a young student of Wing Chun Gung Fu, he was driven to prove that what he learned in the kwoon would work in the street. In Hong Kong, Bruce Lee, his close friend and training partner, Hawkins Cheung, and a few other young men gained deserving reputations as "The Rooftop Fighters". When not fighting in the street, Bruce and Hawkins would meet go out of their way to meet other stylists on either a rooftop or is some darkened garage, as such fights in Hong Kong were illegal.
Whenever either one of them would run into a problem in a fight they would not rest until they figured out how to solve the problem. Fortunately, they had two wonderful sources to draw from. There was Wong Sheung Leung (Hawkins says he was known as, "Crazy Leung"), who was the most notorious battler of the Wing Chun clan, and one of the original Rooftop Fighters. Leung was older than Bruce and Hawkins, but he took an interest in them. Bruce and Hawkins, in turn, hung out with Leung to learn everything they could about real combat. Leung had been so respected as a fighter that even though he was a wing chun man, fighters from the other systems welcomed him as a referee even when fighting Wing Chun fighters. At the same time, Bruce and Hawkins would go to Master, Yip Man who, behind closed doors, would analyze their queries and give them special pointers to take into the street.

When Bruce packed his bags and left Hong Kong, he brought with him a unique fighting ability, based on a set of highly unique principles and mechanics. So unique were they, that martial artists in America would be amazed by his effectiveness. In 1959, Bruce gave a demonstration at Edison Technical School in Seattle where he met James DeMille, a former U.S. Army Heavy Weight boxing champion with over 100 fights in the ring. At 225 lbs, James was also a highly reputed and feared street fighter, yet he was no match for Bruce at around 135 lbs who could tie him knots and shut him down in an instant.

I remember when a karate sensei came over from Japan and challenged Bruce to a fight. After the fight, the Sensei explained his injuries as being in a car accident. It is reported that Bruce, after his fight with Won Jack Man, had been displeased with his performance and that is why he began to change his art. I recall having had dinner with Bruce shortly after that fight. At that moment, he had been most pleased with himself, considering that Won Jack Man was so very difficult to hit because he kept running and spinning and way from Bruce’s attack. It wasn't until Bruce was finally able to catch up to Man that they went to the ground where Bruce finished the fight. Knowing Bruce, I give Won Jack Man tremendous credit for his skills in avoidance. I think he was smart not to stand his ground with someone the likes of Bruce. At this period in Bruce’s life, he believed in ending the fight quick within the first few seconds. But this fight went on a bit with Bruce chasing his adversary with chain punches (straight blast). Anyone who has ever thrown bunches of chain punches knows how easy it is to tire quickly, since the activity requires involvement of Type II, Fast Twitch B muscle fibers for explosive outburst. Those type of fibers do indeed tire quickly before giving over to Type II, Fast Twitch A fibers, that also tire fast. Nevertheless, the outcome of a somewhat prolonged fight would have been adequate reason for Bruce Lee to more closely examine his method. Obviously, he viewed it as a problem and, like in the past, he set out to solve the problem.

I have told the story of how when in 1964 Ed Parker presented his first International Karate Tournament in Long Beach, where he invited a young and virtually unknown Bruce Lee to come and demonstrate his gung fu. For his demonstrators and forms competitors, Ed had had made available a special room where they could rehearse. In the room surveying the talent was Sensei Oshima, direct descendent of Funakoshi. Accompanying Sensei, Oshima was his highest ranking black belt, Caylor Atkins, a legend in his own right, who told me this story. At the time, neither Oshima nor Caylor had ever heard of Bruce Lee, nor had just about anyone else in the auditorium. Only Ed Parker knew of Bruce's economy of motion, speed, and power that were so incredibly unbelievable. Oshima and Atkins were standing in the center of the room when Oshima's eyes fastened on a handsome young man. As Bruce walked past, Oshima pointed his finger and said, "That one.. He is the only one here who can do anything"! Without having before ever seen Bruce Lee, Oshima was able to sense the young man’s ability simply by the way he carried his body. My friends, this was in 1964. Jeet Kune Do, as such, had not yet been invented.

Shortly before Bruce has left Hong Kong, he and Hawkins went to train with an old man who had mastered a number of gung fu styles. Although Bruce was only nineteen when he left Hong Kong he had already developed himself as a martial artist and a fighter. In Seattle, he would go on to train with an old man who had belonged to a Chinese ballet troupe (gung fu) and, who would take on all challengers whenever the troupe had entered a new town. The old man, among his other skills, was a Master of Red Boat Wing Chun. Bruce was already quite extraordinary. At 135 lbs., he could easily handle a 225 lb., U.S. Army Heavy Weight Boxing Champion/street fighter, not to mention the other four boxers in the original Seattle group, and the three judoka, one of which was a U.S. Judo Champion, Charlie Woo.

However, it was not Bruce the fighter that I feel is so much underestimated, rather Bruce the martial artist. Bruce has been underestimated because the level of his knowledge has been underestimated. Whatever people think JKD is all about, I can assure them that Bruce had his personal JKD that consisted of a lot more than strong side forward, straight lead, straight blast, some footwork, kicking, timing, etc. A lot more, indeed! In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, page 24, is one of my favorite sentences: “It is not difficult to trim and hack off the non-essentials in outward physical structure; however, to shun away, to minimize inwardly is another matter. “Inwardly,” wrote Bruce. For a great deal of his personal training was to dig deep within himself. It was not technique that mattered, but how the tools, themselves, worked in relation to the body’s structure. To dig this deep he had to feel, explore, and analyze. He had to turn his study within to best learn how to maximize forces without resorting to using muscular strength. He taught himself how to use the short arcs of the joints, tendons, and bones for maximizing power. He eliminated intention in his initial movement, because with it he would not be as fast. He eliminated choice reaction, because it not only hamper his speed, but sacrificed the all-important beat in his timing. Instead, he would make his opponent make the choices. This was the foundation for what he called his “Fistic Law,” a worthwhile study unto itself. Bruce had gone within to study how to eliminate tension. Tension at the wrong time could become a dangerous tool for the opponent to use against you. A tense arm, shoulder, or body could act like a handle on a t-cup, giving the opponent a tool to disrupt you. Bruce’s way was to not create a handle within himself, but instead create the tool in his opponent.

How often have I heard knowledgeable martial artists and even kinesologists attribute Bruce Lee’s amazing speed to having superior genetics, claiming that he must have been born rich with the right kind of muscle fibers. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. To be sure, Bruce Lee was faster than thought. Aside from the fact that he was in a trained state of physical condition, his lightning speed was not the result of the proportion of genetically prescribed, different types of muscle fibers. Rather, his speed was the direct result of unique martial principles and mechanics, heightened by his own internal discoveries. In the scene with the young monk in Enter the Dragon, Bruce slaps him on the forehead, telling him to feel or he will miss all of that heavenly glory. Hawkins Cheung likes to call Bruce, "The fastest gun fighter". Before Bruce came to the U.S. he was already greased lightning. Consider that there are four kinds of speed: start speed, body speed, hand speed, and reaction speed. Bruce's greatest speed was his start speed. Incredibly, it is the start speed where others are slow. Start speed is how fast can you move from zero. In Enter the Dragon Bruce demonstrates his start speed in the scene with O'hara (Bob Wall). The editor who cut the film watched the scene over and over again and was not able to detect the beginning of Bruce's movement. It was as though Bruce had finished without ever having started. He was just there! Bruce had fast hands and fast reaction speed, but not the fastest by his own estimation. His fast hands were once again the result of proper principles and mechanics, while his reaction speed was largely based on his ability to read his opponent's intention. Joe Lewis has said that Bruce was the fastest man that ever stood before him. After over 41 years in martial arts, I attest to the same.

Shortly before Bruce's death, Bruce and his old friend, Hawkins were able to spend some time together. Of course, every second was dedicated to their love of fighting. As he had done before, Bruce updated Hawkins on his own development. Finally, Hawkins asked him exactly what was JKD? Bruce smiled and said, "Pak sao and hip". Pak sao and hip! That was Bruce's own definition of Jeet Kune Do to his close friend and long time training partner, speaking in Cantonese, and at a mutually very high level that few could arise to, or even begin to understand.

So then, what is pak sao? Translated, pak sao means "slapping hand". However, pak doesn't really slap, at all. In reality, the technique of pak sao involves a great deal of information learned by close attention to details. Be sure, pak and slap do not share the same energies, nor even the same results. You may execute a slap, but not Bruce. His was pak! Nevertheless, pak sao has still another meaning in wing chun. It's in the nature of the meaning whereby Bruce spoke when he defined Jeet Kune Do as, "pak sao and hip". Pak sao's nature is to intercept. Thus, the name Jeet Kune Do, The Way of the Intercepting Fist. Actually, there are only three ways to intercept. Ahead of the opponent's beat, at the same time as his beat, or behind his beat. We call this a half-beat ahead, same beat, or half- beat behind. To go a half-beat ahead is to go at his intention, before he actually fires his muscles. In pak sao it means to cut off his movement. It means to SHUT HIM DOWN! Translated, Jeet also means "to cut off". This cutting off was Bruce Lee's #1 speciality.

Bruce could shut you down before you could go. You couldn't start because he already hit at the very instant you intended to start. To go at the same beat as your opponent is to start at the same time. The interception takes place in the area generally half-way between you and the opponent, a little ahead or behind depending on the speed differences between you. This is a good time to avoid, intersect, jam, dissolve, disrupt. To go a half-beat behind is good for slipping, countering, and going to a takedown. All are within the concept of pak sao. The Five Ways of Attack are based on these three timings. To go between the beats is to go behind one beat and head of the other. Bruce said, "pak sao and hip". So what exactly did he mean by hip? It is the action of the hip and all mechanics that effect it based on a unique set of principles learned and studied in Wing Chun. People have said that Bruce Lee abandoned his Wing Chun. They say this simply because they are not able to see the Wing Chun inside his Jeet Kune Do. Nevertheless, the Wing Chun is there. And, it could be felt!

Bruce's Wing Chun was in its principles and mechanics that were at the beginning and in the final end of his punch, kick, trap, jam, or whatever. It was the way his body worked as a unit, externally and internally. It was at the very core of all that he did. It is how he hit so fast, so hard. It was why he could shut down and overpower bigger and stronger men with relative ease. It was why his traps worked when so many others claim that trapping does not work. Ask James DeMille, the heavy weight boxer whether or not Bruce’s trapping worked. You may have all seen the photograph of Bruce doing an isometric exercise on the Smith machine where it appears that he was strengthening his forearms and biceps. In actuality, Bruce was training the structure of his hip. It was because of this structure of the hip that he could raise huge dumbbells straight out in front of him like no weightlifter could possibly dream of doing. Bruce modified his Wing Chun stance to the Jun Fan stance, and then to the Jeet Kune Do stance, yet all shared the same hip structure for applying huge forces with minimal effort, and with only the slightest adjustments. For the JKD'er who has not trained the hip structure, he can never hope to achieve the same efficiency rating as did Bruce, when using his methodology.

Bruce's start speed came from “Non-intention,” as he called it. Non-intention is NOT the same as non-telegraph. I am always amazed at how Bruce came to figure out non-intention whose origin came from Wing Chun. However, Bruce took Non-intention to another level. Bruce would often demonstrate incredible feats of strength, power, and speed based on nothing more than mere mechanical advantages. So incredible were the performances that onlookers could only doubt their authenticity. The truth is that these extraordinary feats can be performed by almost anyone, aside from two finger pushups and some his abdominal feats, but those too with practice.

At the core of Bruce's art, is what I refer to as his inner game. This is the part that you don’t see, but it’s the part that makes everything work as well as it does. It involves, among other things, how structure can work in two separate modes, independently or together. The first mode is the Physical Structure, the hip and tools. Second is what I call the Vital Structure. It is when the Physical Structure is compromised that the Vital Structure must take over.

Bruce researched every avenue for improving himself. He also had the faculty to explore his own kinesthetic awareness. In other words, he took the time to feel and analyze what he felt. He not only looked to the outside, but he dared look to the inside where he reached not only for answers, but for the very questions, themselves. And what came out of all of this was truly stunning. Bruce had developed more than a martial art. He developed extraordinary means and certainties by which an average person could aspire to and reach a true level of mastery. One last thing, to learn to get to his personal truth, Bruce did not have to compete in the ring. He did it on rooftops and in the street.
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Joined: July 16th, 2003, 11:43 am

August 5th, 2015, 1:21 pm #3

NSIDE KUNG FU’S 4-PART INTERVIEW WITH HAWKINS CHEUNG

By Hawkins Cheung, as told to Robert Chu, in Inside Kung-Fu November 1991
Beginning in November 1991, Inside Kung-Fu published the following four-part interview with Hawkins Cheung. The articles detail his history growing up in Hong Kong with Bruce Lee, learning Wing Chun from Yip Man, and trace Bruce’s development of his own technique from Wing Chun principles.


Part 1: Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong Years

Hawkins Cheung began his training in 1953 under the late grandmaster Yip Man. He attended high school with the legendary Bruce Lee and during evenings, the two would diligently practice wing chun together. To gain combat experience, they would engage in challenge matches; when they didn’t have opponents to fight, they fought each other. They were later separated when Bruce went to college in the U.S. and Hawkins attended college in Australia. Throughout the years, the two kept in touch through letters and phone calls. Bruce would detail his martial arts development through their conversations and correspondence using Cheung as a sounding board. Hawkins Cheung is one of the few individuals who experienced the progression that Lee went through in his martial art development from wing chun to Jun Fan to jeet kune do. The two were reunited in Hong Kong in 1970, when Lee returned home to make movies. The two shared and exchanged fighting experiences and training methods. They remained in close contact until Bruce’s death in 1973. Hawkins also is well schooled in other martial arts styles. He is particularly skilled in the Wu style of tai chi but he is familiar with the Yang, Chen and Sun styles as well. Master Cheung has also gained experience in Japanese karate-do and currently holds a fourth-degree black belt. In 1978, Cheung immigrated to the U.S. to promote wing chun. He is currently head instructor of the Hawkins Cheung Asian Martial Arts Academy in Los Angeles. He has appeared in several issues of Inside Kung-Fu magazine, given numerous public demonstrations, and appeared on television. He has always been low key about his relationship with Bruce Lee. Now that his friend has died, he finds that many of Bruce’s followers are distorting the real meaning of his jeet kune do. In this four-part series on Bruce Lee and jeet kune do, Cheung examines Bruce’s development, from his early days in Hong Kong to his final days as a film star, his creation of JKD, and the characteristics of the now-famous art.

Hong Kong in the l95Os was a depressed place. Post-World War II Hong Kong had suffered from unemployment, a poor economy, over-crowding, homelessness, and people taking advantage of each other. Gangs roamed the street, and juvenile delinquents ran rampant.

I met Bruce in intermediate school; he had been expelled from the famous European LaSalle Intermediate School to the Eurasian Francis Xavier Intermediate School which I attended. I used to make fun of him and call him “Bad Boy” because he was expelled. That was the beginning of our friendship. There was a real political situation in 195Os Hong Kong. The British led the colony and would sometimes treat the Chinese like dogs. Bruce wasn’t a big star then, he was just an ordinary guy. We started to learn wing chun to survive. When we weren’t fighting others, we fought each other. We would argue about our wing chun training, and would argue about our personal experience and knowledge. Everyone wanted to be top dog. We would purposely hold back information that we gathered. Everyone had to find his own source, and not let the others know what we learned. We would purposely hide a trick that we would get from Yip Man, the Seniors, or friends from other styles. We weren’t concerned about how good the gung-fu looked, just whether it worked. Everyone wanted to know how to get the job done.

We were good buddies. We wouldn’t openly share our knowledge, but we tried to steal each other’s card. Whenever we learned a new method or technique, we would add it to our repertoire. Bruce would use a new trick on me, the next time I would throw it back to him first. We always asked ourselves where was the other’s source?

Against outsiders we were allies, but with no one to fight against, we fought each other. To test and see Bruce’s skill, I would purposely instigate or set up a fight. I would watch Bruce fight, and be a bystander to see how well he did. He would do the same. If he won, we would laugh; but if he lost, he would lose face and work harder to find a better means of beating an opponent. We would play tricks on our opponents to psyche them out, sometimes hiding our best techniques. What someone would throw to us, we’d throw the technique right back to him.

Our competitive spirit was not only in martial arts, but extended in daily life. Everyone knew that Bruce was good at dancing the cha-cha. At school, I knew some Filipino friends who were pretty good too, so I would pick up steps to show up Bruce. The next time I saw Bruce, he had a bunch of new steps! I questioned my friend to see if he had taught Bruce those new steps, but he denied any knowledge. I later found out that he went to my Filipino friend’s dance instructor to learn more steps! That was our character—to always look for a new source. I later went to the same dance instructor and tried to persuade him not to teach Bruce.

William Cheung and Wong Shun Leung were Bruce’s source of information on wing chun. They were our seniors, but we couldn’t openly let them know what level we were at for fear they wouldn’t show us more. If a senior got into a street fight, however, and lost, we could find out his standard. If we couldn’t figure out a problem, we would have to ask the old man (Yip Man) from different angles. When we matured, we began to share more openly.

I lived a couple of blocks from Bruce. Being from well-to-do families, we would sometimes have our driver pick up one another, if we wanted to hang out we would sometimes spend a weekend at each other’s home. When we had final exams, we would study together. We still kept up our old game. We would play tricks on an unsuspecting participant, one guy playing “good guy,” the other being the “bad guy.” One time, we persuaded two younger European classmates to fight each other. They were a grade younger than us and were good friends. Bruce and I separated them, and to find out who was the better instructor, we each picked one and trained him to beat each other up.

Bruce’s nickname at school was “Gorilla,” because he was muscular and walked around with his arms at his sides. Everyone feared him, but I was the only one who called him “Chicken legs.” He’d get really mad and chase me all over the school yard. Our friendship was very close.

Our school was the best in soccer, but Bruce and I never participated in any team sports. One day, there was an announcement that there was an inter-school boxing championship. The all English Saint George Intermediate school held the championship. Our school didn’t have a boxing team. Someone in our school suggested that we get a boxing team together. We had a reputation in the school as being the naughtiest, so someone suggested that Bruce and I get involved.

The night of the match, I went into the champ’s dressing room. He was my friend’s brother. Bruce was supposed to face him. I spoke to the champ and warned him that he was facing the Gorilla now, who was an expert in gung-fu, not boxing, so he’d better watch out!

The champ was intimidated, because he heard that Bruce and I practiced gung-fu together. Bruce, on the other hand, was concerned that we never boxed before. At the beginning of the fight, Bruce attacked his opponent from the inside with a tan da and cut to his opponent’s center. The champ was psychologically unbalanced, while Bruce continued to use tan da with a follow-up of straight punches to the champ’s face, and blew him out. Bruce won the championship!

The next match was myself and another for the lightweight championship. I was disqualified for using pak da, which the judges considered against the rules. In 1958, we graduated from high school. Bruce said that he was going to the U.S. upon his father’s request. Bruce didn’t want to go, but his father forced him. Bruce feared his father and had to comply. I was deciding to attend college in Australia. I asked Bruce what he wanted to study. Bruce replied he was going to be a dentist. I cracked up and laughed in his face! “You, a dentist?” I said, ‘Your patients would lose all their teeth.”

Bruce said that his father would support him and pay for his expenses in the U.S., but he wanted to be independent. To make money on the side, he said he would teach wing chun. I replied that he didn’t have much to teach at that time; we had both only learned up to the second wing chun form, chum kiu, and 40 movements on the dummy. We had a friend whom we called “Uncle Shiu” (Shiu Hon Sang), who taught northern styles of gung-fu. Bruce thought it would be a good idea to learn some of the more pretty, showy styles before he left. Bruce learned northern style for showmanship. In the late 195Os, Bruce had already planned to hide his art. Many were looking for the showmanship, not the killer. Bruce would give them what they wanted.

We went to Uncle Shin’s gung-fu club at seven every morning. We began to learn lam ad (a basic northern style gung-fu set). I hated master Shin’s dog, and his dog hated me equally, as he would bark at me every time I visited. Finally, the early mornings and the loud dog made me drop out. Bruce continued for two months more and learned gung lik kuen (training power fist set), bung bo kuen (a basic praying mantis set), and jeet kuen (quick fist), all northern style sets.

Prior to any Hong Kong resident leaving for a new country, you had to check with the police station to make sure your record was clean. Bruce applied for this certificate, and found that our names were on a blacklist of known juvenile delinquents. He called me at home. “Hawkins, big trouble,” Bruce exclaimed. “Our names are on a known gangster list. I’m going down to the police station to clear my name, and while I’m there, I’ll clear yours, too.”, I thanked him.

A few days later, a police investigator came to my house and questioned me about gang relations. Bruce’s efforts to clear me actually got me more in trouble. My father had to pay off this investigator to have my name wiped from the record, or else I wouldn’t have been able to attend college in Australia. I hated Bruce for that!

The day he left, I escorted him to the dock. After many years of being as close as twins, we would be apart for the first time. It would be many years before our paths would again cross.

art 2: Bruce Lee Discovers Jeet Kuen Do

After Bruce left Hong Kong, I went to Australia to attend college. We still stayed in touch by writing to each other. He told me he was working part time at Ruby Chow’s restaurant in Seattle and teaching a few students wing chun as well as some of Uncle Shiu’s northern style kung-fu high kicks. He wrote that he loved wing chun very much and he wanted to go back to Hong Kong to learn the rest of the system.

He told me to carry on with wing chun and not to give up. Actually I didn’t have the time to give up my wing chun. I arrived in Sidney, Australia, in the late 195Os. Just 14 years after World War II, Australia had suffered much from the Japanese occupation. I found myself involved in fights because at that time there was a great resentment for Japanese. They always confused the Chinese for Japanese. Sometimes, I had to fight against people twice my size to stay alive. Many Southeast Asians also attended the university in Australia. At times, racial tension and cultural differences would result in violence. Fights would start up without warning. I had trouble with a few Thai boxers.

They would call themselves “prize-fighters” — they fought for prizes, I fought for my life. The Thai’s were hard to fight because they seemed to have four hands. I wrote Bruce about these fighting experiences. I learned how to apply my wing chun against multicultural martial arts. Bruce told me if had any problems in Australia to come to the United States and study. He would take care of me.

I returned to Hong Kong in 1964. One day, as I was ready to drive my car out of my parking space in the street, I saw someone toward my left window. I couldn’t see this person’s face. I thought that this person was loocking for trouble, and I opened the car door ready to fight. I then saw it was Bruce. I was so happy to see him, and just as I was about to say “Hello!” he said’ “Hawkins, stand here, I have something to show you.” Bruce stepped back two steps and suddenly charged in very quickly. I was surprised that his movement was so fast.

Another surprise was that Bruce’s character hadn’t changed at all. He still wanted to be top dog. He still wanted to show off. If he liked you, he would always tell you what was on his mind.

If he didn’t like you, he’d be very tricky to deal with. Bruce had that rare ability to draw your attention somewhere else. Sometimes you didn’t know what he was thinking. I was often suspicious if Bruce was too nice; it meant he wanted something or was about to take advantage of you. This character made people like him, and at the same time, made it easy for me to trick him.

I asked him how he developed the ability to close in that quickly. He said’ “Look, Hawkins, in the United States you don’t have any good training partners to practice wing chun with. You can say that my wing chun is better than any so called wing chun masters there. I can’t go any further. But I have had a lot of challenge fights. My opponents are fast, so I have to be faster; they’re strong, so I have to he stronger than them. There’s no other way, because in the U.S., I’m a ‘gung-fu’ guy. Because my wing chun is limited and my structure can’t hold up against larger opponents, I have to use no way as the way, no limitation as the limitation.”

That was the first time I heard Bruce say that. There is a Chinese saying Called, “Bik fu tiu cheung,” meaning, “The cornered tiger has to jump over a wall.” It is the equivalent of saying, “Having no way out” in English. I realized that Bruce felt frustration in his martial arts training. Although Bruce was becoming Westernized, he still felt pride that he was Chinese and he never wanted to appear inferior when comparing Chinese gung-fu with other nations’ martial arts.

Bruce continued: “I have to train very hard to beat my opponents. So I’ve come back to further my training in wing chun, and I hope to learn more of the dummy techniques from the old man (Yip Man). Hopefully, sifu will let me film him on 8mm so that I may show my students in the U.S.” Bruce said his acting career was beginning to take off. “By the way,” he noted, “I just signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to do a ‘Charlie Chan’ movie (it later turned out to be the “Green Hornet” series). I’m on my way to see the old man now.” I knew that when he wanted to accomplish a task, I’d better not get in his way, so I left.

A few days later, Bruce gave a demonstration on a popular talk show on television. Bruce didn’t mention anything about wing chun, but referred to his art simply as “gung-fu.” I realized that something must have happened between Bruce and Yip Man. I knew Bruce’s character, and when he desired or wanted something accomplished, no one could stop him. If not, Bruce would go out on his own to get the job done. Bruce would then come back and show you and try to embarrass you.

I found out that the “old man” refused his request to be filmed doing the dummy set. I knew that the “old man” was very Chinese tradition minded and that Bruce was very direct and Western in his thinking. Bruce wanted to learn everything overnight, but the ‘old man” felt you had to train to get it. Later on, I found that Bruce formed his own method and called it ‘jeet kune do.”

During 1966, a friend and I were involved in bringing Japanese karate to Hong Kong. I found myself having to change when sparring with the Japanese karate instructors; their attacks were very fast with emotionally charged quickness. They would attack and disappear as quickly as they came. Their punches were so quick that when I attempted to pak sao, they would retract their punch and I couldn’t connect. When I tried to step in, they would use a front kick. I found that defensively, I was fine, because they found it difficult to land on me. But when it came to attacking, I was unable to score. I became frustrated with this type of sport fighting. It differed from real fighting in that it emphasized skill, not just guts and endurance.

I remembered what Bruce had said about his “opponents being fast, but he had to be faster; opponents being strong, and he having to being stronger.” Then I thought, these Japanese karate instructors train years to develop their speed and power. If I were to train as Bruce did, I would have to spend two or three times as much time to beat them at their own game. But I also had a limitation of power because of my size. If I sped up my wing chun straight punch, I found myself unable to reach my opponent because I was used to the wing chun back horse stance. And if I utilized karate’s front stance, I could reach my opponents, but in turn, I lost my wing chun structure. I found myself in a dilemma, as I would literally throw myself forward to reach my opponent. This may have worked well against a one-punch kill stylist, but I often wondered what would happen if I fought another gung-fu stylist or a street-fighter and they could take my best punch. If I managed to land my best punch and the opponent kept coming, I would certainly be in big trouble.

I wanted to keep my wing chun structure. I asked myself how could I hold back or stop a bigger opponent charging at me without that structure? The structure was also important to handle combination-type fighters. I also asked myself what would happen when I get older and my speed and power have decreased? It would mean that I would have nothing when I’m old.

I couldn’t take my dilemma to my wing chun seniors. They didn’t like the fact that I practiced karate. They didn’t understand that while I practiced karate, I could sharpen my skills against a legal opponent. Karate’s sparring allowed me to get legal fight experience. (In the old days, Chinese martial artists would test out their skills in illegal fights termed “gong sao”- which literally meant “talking hands.” Outsiders who watched me thought that I was doing karate; the instructors didn’t realize I used wing chun to combat my karate opponents. later on, I found a way to adapt my wing chun to their way of fighting. Bruce would throw his power hand out with his high speed and timing to intercept the opponent’s punch or kick. I thought, why don’t I throw my wing chun structure forward with one hand intercepting while the other attacked at the same time? My time training in karate gave me a good chance to develop my new method. Every year, Japan sent new Japanese instructors to Hong Kong to teach. I was always the first guy to fight with the new Japanese instructors. They knew me in the school as the “Chinese boxer.”

Thanks to Bruce’s ideas’ I learned how to handle my opponents. My way didn’t mean other wing chun practitioners did the same; but I developed my way to satisfy myself and keep my beloved wing chun style. I was able to make the wing chun style alive and understand the wing chun concept in combat. Bruce’s way of the intercepting fist (jeet kune do) is one of the principles of wing chun. Bruce’s standard was limited; he made intercepting into his concept because of the circumstances he told me of during his last Stay in Hong Kong. Before he died, he told me that “jeet kune” meant Pak sao in wing chun or intercepting an opponent’s punch before it landed on you. I asked him if he meant to create another style. Bruce firmly told me, “No! It is only the expression of the motion! You can say it is my expression of the pak sao in wing chun (note: Pak sao is one of the fundamental movements from wing chun and depending upon circumstance, it may be offensive or defensive in nature.) I didn’t betray sifu, I didn’t betray Chinese martial arts. I wanted to show others the application way of jeet kune. I wanted to prove I could stop their fast attacks coming at me.”

I knew Bruce’s character. I knew he wanted to prove what he said was right and that he would prove it to wing chun people as well as the world, that he was top dog. Bruce would always change his way of fighting to improve himself to be the best. I never read his books or books that others wrote about him, but I would watch his application whenever I could in his real fights or as an actor in his movies. I found his martial arts to have two versions: one in real life and one in his movies. In real life, Bruce’s speed and power would scare his opponents and would prove what he called “jeet kune.” His movie version would show his showmanship with fancy movements to satisfy his fans. I didn’t see his “jeet kune” action in his movies.

I believe those who knew Bruce Personally could tell his moves were sharp, clear and to the point. People who didn’t know Bruce in person were attracted by his action movies and philosophy. I have been in the U.S. for 12 years now. I have seen many of Bruce’s students and grand students change a lot of his way, even when they didn’t even understand what the original meaning or essence of his “jeet kune do.” Some have even gone on to teach jeet kune do as a style! Some of them claim to be teaching jeet kune do and add their own personal style, calling it “JKD so-and-so.”

To my memory, Bruce explained that jeet kune do was the method of intercepting or cutting off an opponent’s action. So jeet kune do was the method of striking an opponent as the opponent attacked. The concept of intercepting or cutting is used in all systems of martial arts. if you don’t want to get hit, you’d better cut off or block an attack without running from or skipping away. Each style or person will demonstrate intercepting in a different manner. Bruce demonstrated in his personal attitude because of his emotional anger and hunger for winning character. He simply wanted to be the best and would accept nothing else. That is the trademark of Bruce’s style or action in entry. Only Bruce could do that.

Bruce changed his methods for the job on hand, not for you or me. He became an expert in intercepting or cutting off an opponent’s attack. He had to continually train to prove what he said about “jeet kune.” If Bruce couldn’t intercept, he would have to take back the name “jeet kune do.” But he did prove it. He desired to keep the name “jeet kune do” while he was alive. Since he is now dead, it is up to his students to continue giving Bruce credit. The question is whether they can prove they can “jeet kune” for him and the public.

We don’t care how Bruce’s students change their way; we want to see someone as good or better than Bruce lee in action, not another style or way. If your results are different from what Bruce did you are not preserving jeet kune do. If you keep the name jeet kune do, then you should strive to become an expert in intercepting. Don’t down grade Bruce’s memory with your own way. This is not his creation. Just as wing chun people have recognizable trademark in application, those who follow Bruce’s way should also have a recognizable concept: that of intercepting.

Part 3: Bruce Lee’s Mother Art: Wing Chun

To understand Bruce and his martial art, you have to look at his mother art, wing chun. Wing chun in the 1950s was a popular fighting system because of its reputation in challenge fights with other gung-fu Systems. Wing chun was noted for its simple, direct, economical movement and non-classical style.

Many joined and wanted to learn how to fight. Because of the reputation of wing chun, Bruce and I joined. The thing about wing chun is once you start the first form, you feel frustrated. We questioned, “Why do we have to learn this? How can you fight like this?” Everyone wanted to learn the siu nim tao quickly, so they could move onto the sticking hands exercise. The dan chi sao (single sticking hand) exercise was no fun, so the younger students wanted to get through that even quicker. When you finally learned the double sticking hands exercise, we felt excited and thought, “I can fight now! I know wing chun now!” We liked to copy the seniors. If you could land a punch on your opponent, you felt very excited. “I can beat him now,” was our first thought. So everyone wanted to beat his partner first so he could be the top dog.

Everyone also tried to please the seniors so they would teach us more tricks to beat up the guy you didn’t like or competed with. So students grouped together and created competition with another group. Each group thought it could beat the other. In my opinion, this is how wing chun politics began. Being 100-105 pounds, I had a hard time against opponents bigger than me. During this time I also tried to collect as many new tricks to beat my opponents. Once the opponent knew that trick, you had to find new tricks. When your opponent knew all your tricks, being a small guy, you were in trouble. The old saying of the, “Same game, same way, the bigger guy always wins” applies to every physical sport.

Later, tricks became useless. I always got pushed out because of my limited power when it came to advanced sticking hands practice. I was very frustrated because the opponents knew my tricks and they were stronger than me. If I threw a punch, it was nothing to them; they could take the blow and throw a punch right back. I learned that sticking hands was very different from distance fighting. In distance fighting a lightweight could move faster than a heavyweight. My dilemma was that I was learning wing chun, not a system that emphasized distance fighting.


Yip Man’s Hands

I always got pushed out when I practiced chi sao with my bigger seniors. Everyone who learned wing chun always wanted to prove that they were better than the others. Most of the practitioners concentrated on the offensive side of sticking hands. They tried to learn how to first hit the Opponent. The practice became a sport fighting game. Whoever was stronger would win. Egos ran wild and every one wanted to be the best. There is a wing chun saying, “Don’t speak of who is senior or junior. The one who attains the skill first is the senior.” It meant that, “We don’t have seniors,” because we were better than the seniors. In wing chun we say we don’t have any seniors because we strove to become better than the seniors and even better than the founder. If you look at your art this way, you will certainly improve.

During that period, I had a hard time. I thought of quitting a few times, until I finally went to the old man (grandmaster Yip Man). He always told me, “Relax! Relax! Don’t get excited!” But whenever I practiced chi sao with someone, it was hard to relax, especially when I got hit. I became angry when struck. I wanted to kill my opponent. The sticking hands game became a fight, with both parties getting hurt. The question was who got hurt more. Because I was smaller, I was the one who usually hurt more.

When I saw Yip Man stick hands with others, he was very relaxed and talked to his partner. Sometimes he threw his partner out without having to hit him. When I stuck hands with Yip Man, I always felt my balance controlled by him when I attempted to strike. I was always off balance, with my toes or heels off the ground! I felt my hands rebound when I tried to strike him. It appeared as if Yip Man used my force to hit me. His movement was so slight, it seemed he didn’t do anything, not even extend his hand! When I was thrown back, it was very comfortable, not violent, yet I still could not see his techniques. When I asked him how he did it, he simply said’ “Like this!” as he demonstrated his extension of his hands, which was the same as practice. I saw Yip Man do this to other students, even the seniors. He never landed a blow on his students, but he would put a student in an awkward position and make the fellow students laugh at the sight. He was the funniest old man. I never once saw Yip Man take a step backward during chi sao.

I thought to myself, this old man was my size and weight, how could he control his students so easily? So every time he played chi sao with a student, I kept watching his perfect wing chun body structure. Whenever he took a step forward, his opponent was thrown back. No matter how big the student was, Yip Man never exhibited a killing attitude. The students would swing his hands, and Yip Man would smile and merely control the movements.

I really felt hopeless, so I asked sifu what should I do to further myself. He told me, “Why do you always want to be the same as the others? You know it won’t work, why don’t you change? Do the form more, don’t even play sticking hands for a while. Do the form slower.” I was confused; I wanted to learn wing chun to fight. I wanted new ways and new techniques. After all these years, Yip Man’s advice were these few words. I felt disappointed, yet I couldn’t argue with him. I had the choice to either drop out or do what he said. So I reviewed all the forms with him and he corrected them during private lessons. I did stick hands with him slowly. He just coached me and guided my hands like a baby sitter. In this manner, I learned the softer, defensive side of wing chun.

Who could know Yip Man’s high skill? Yip Man could neutralize his opponent’s force or interrupt his opponent’s motion so that it never landed. If you take an analogy of a big car facing a small car, you can see that the driver of the small car doesn’t have much of a chance. The small car driver has to shut off the engine or interrupt the shift to first gear of the big-car driver. obviously, the big car can just run over a small car and destroy it. The question is how big is your car, and compared with whom?


A larger opponent

When Yip Man faced a larger opponent, his skill was so high that he would shut off his opponent’s engine or never let it start. When you’re old, you have to adapt this way to survive. With my small size, I had to learn this method. I had to be faster than my opponent’s fist or elbow’s extension. I had to see my opponent’s telegraphic body move or see his mind’s intent. Whether in close-range or distance fighting. I have to interrupt my opponent’s engine start or guide his intention elsewhere. Bruce didn’t learn this high level of skill. By Hong Kong standards, he was a big car.

Everyone in wing chun has his opinion or politics. The politics arise when each speaks of the “best” method of entry or attack. The “best entry” or “best attack” is a product which a wing chun exponent chooses to buy. To a wing chun man, every attack is considered an “asking hand.” My fist is a question posed to you. If someone attacks and you solve the problem before it is initiated, how much politics are involved? Politics come from partiality, which is why I say that when wing chun is trained to a high level, there are no techniques. Who realized Yip Man’s skill? All my training brothers respected Yip Man because he never hurt them, nor were they skillful enough to hurt him. Yip Man’s skill in the 1950s was the epitome of sensitivity; he could immediately read his opponent’s intention.

Wing chun is a mental, rather than physical martial art. The system was founded by a lady, and as a result, the art requires mental strategy and physical skill and timing. Wing chun requires that the mental be ahead of the physical. It is a system to develop skill, not a style. I’m not the best, but I know where I stand in this art.

A good wing chun man should practice chi sao all the time. You can tell what sort of individuals you are dealing with, his character, his advantages or disadvantages. You can look at a fighter’s body and also determine if he is a boxer, kicker or wrestler through his muscle condition and by the characteristics of his movement. A fighter’s behavior also determines what sort of fighter you are facing. Of course, this is not 100 percent. When betting on a horse race, an experienced gambler will try to gather all the information he can get on a horse. He will look at a horse and check his statistics to make an intelligent decision. You learn to minimize your risk. This is what chi sao teaches you.

When you do chi sao, you should not attack first, but rather try to collect as much information as you can on your opponent. Many wing chun practitioners want to attack first without gathering information. Attacking first is to give your opponent information on yourself. Sun Tzu advised us, “Know yourself, know your opponent, in 100 battles, a 100 victories.” The forms of wing chun are for you to know yourself; chi sao is the way to knowing others.


Bruce changes

Bruce changed his methods when he came to the U.S. Time and experience caused change, but he had help from wing chun, which hinted which direction to go. Just like my training brothers who express wing chun in their way, Bruce founded a method of teaching his version of wing chun in the U.S. Bruce used the offensive side of wing chun. Bruce said that he supposedly saw the “limitations of wing chun,” but the truth is that there is nothing wrong with wing chun. Wing chun is not a style, but a system of preparation for combat. Wing chun gives you the information to be one step ahead of your opponent. Wing chun is not better than other Systems of martial arts, but it offers a practitioner some unique advantages. No matter what style or system of martial arts, to defeat your opponent you must land your tools. I can fight using wing chun tools. But I express my own Hawkins Cheung style based on my experience. As a martial artist, one must stand on his own credit, not his master’s.

When I teach wing chun tools to my students, I coach them to find which way best fits their character. Some students are very emotional, yet I can’t force them to relax. So I teach them the offensive way of wing chun. When the skill in offensive attacks becomes better and they feel they are not improving and become frustrated, they automatically come to me. They ask how to handle this guy or the others. To me, this means they really want to learn. I explain to them that they should relax and pay attention to the defensive side of wing chun.

Once the feeling in their hands and body is automatic, I let them go on their own to find a higher level. If the students continue asking questions, it means they haven’t yet developed the feeling of that movement. They want my help and I do all that I can to help them.

Wing chun is very simple to learn. The system contains only three forms, a dummy set, the 6 1/2-point staff and the double knives set. It is also very easy to teach. The question is if you have tested it out yourself. Can you use the skills in application? Have you forgotten how many fights or whom you have fought before? Each style of martial arts are defensive, so you use what is useful and reject what is useless for the particular stylist. You have to find what is useful for your style of fighting. It may be useless to other stylists, but you have to change the order of using your wing chun tools according to circumstances.

In my wing chun concept, I like the opponent to start first. I will initiate my timing from my opponent’s start. To my experience, this movement is a trap. When you approach me indirectly, you must have a reason why. I have to first discover your intentions. I just wait calmly. My mind becomes a “referee.” To wait is better than changing. l listen to your own music or rhythm. I pay no attention, and that means that my emotions are not involved in fighting. The big question is when to start. Of course, this takes time to develop.

You will see in the “Westerns,” when there is a gunfight, no one dares to start first. In Japanese samurai movies, during the sword fighting scenes, the opponents may wait for a long time. If you can’t wait, your mind has to find your opponent’s rhythm and starting point. From here you have to find your opponent’s intentions with an “asking hand.”



Wing chun started Bruce on his way. It was the wing chun concepts that he still retained to allow him to customize his personal system of martial arts that he referred to as “Jun Fan.” Wing chun was the gun that Yip Man gave us; the frustrating part was that you had to learn how to aim and shoot. The problem was your target always moved, you couldn’t get a fix on it. Wing chun is a problem solving art. You can say that Bruce and I were given a problem from the “old man” to solve. In fact, the “old man” didn’t explain things unless he saw you work for it.


Wing Chun Development

Every martial arts student has to solve the problem of applying the physical portion. All martial arts styles tend to be theoretical in application. Bruce may have abandoned some wing chun tools’ but he didn’t abandon wing chun development. He changed the art for himself, not for you or me. Bruce used the concept of intercepting and “modified the gun” for his own needs. I kept the traditional gun and made it work for me. Yip Man posed the question, it was up to us to solve the problems. Bruce and I sought for practical application combined with the conceptual. You can say there was a parallel development between us through the years.

In my wing chun concept, I will say that Bruce had weaknesses. If I faced him, I would try to read his intentions. I would allow Bruce to start his broken rhythm, making his rhythm his starting point. At that time, his feet were off the ground I would rush in with a surprise attack. Rushing in is faster than Bruce’s rhythm. With rushing in, I can break his mind’s rhythm, or blank out his mind in a second. I can then follow up with consecutive strikes. I would give him back a problem to solve. The question is whether your “rush-in” timing was quick enough.

There were some tricks we played all the time when we were teenagers looking for a fight. When we would find a “target, “we would just walk up and say, “Hey! I’m talking to you!” or we would go up and touch or pull him. We would make our victim pay attention. If the guy was hot-tempered, he would try to hit us or push our hand away. Once the guy started, we would initiate our timing from his move. If the guy got hurt, we would say, “What’s the matter with you? I was just talking to you, and you tried to hit me first Mr. Chan (fictitious name we made upon the spot)?” The target would say, “I’m not Mr. Chan!” To which we would reply, “We thought you were Mr. Chan and are very sorry we made a mistake!” If our target didn’t pay attention to us, we would curse his mother or sister. We tried to infuriate our unwilling adversary so we could resume the fight. We were real bad guys!

The objective was to force the opponent’s starting point – We would do or say anything to initiate the fight. Bruce even carried this trick in his movie, Return of the Dragon. In the fight scene with Chuck Norris, Bruce would speed up his footwork rhythm. Norris began to follow the same rhythm then Bruce would finish Norris in the end.


A Flexible Art

Many of Bruce’s students refer to what he taught as a “modified version of wing chun” But Bruce’s term, “modify is equivalent to wing chun’s “feeling” or “sensitivity.” Wing chun feeling is to allow modification, to change for the sake of survival. There is no such thing as modified wing chun; a good wing chun practitioner constantly modifies his art based on feeling. Wing chun is a flexible art that allows you to change based upon your feeling. When Bruce borrowed other tools, the way he displayed them made their essence different because Bruce couldn’t discard the reflexes he developed from wing chun. The essence he displayed almost always had retained a wing chun flavor. Bruce’s followers today don’t demonstrate the attributes Bruce displayed and developed over the years.

Bruce used the wing chun methods of start timing, spring energy, sensitivity (through the practice of chi sao) and ging (penetration power). Bruce couldn’t teach the feeling of his art. Just like Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis trying to teach someone how to get off the starting blocks faster, it was a matter of feeling, not mechanics or tools. Bruce’s speed was a result of the wing chun training he practiced for so long. In wing chun, there is a quality that we refer to as “start timing.” It is the ability to start quickly and differs from someone who has fast hands or feet. Start timing is what made him fast. It is not an emotional type of speed. It was Bruce’s use of start timing that made him so fast.

The secret to Bruce’s speed and power was that he combined both physical and mental power. Bruce was an expert in mental intimidation. Bruce demonstrated his emotional anger and hunger for wining character in every tool he delivered. When I asked him how he could get so fast, he explained that he would use his emotional content to speed up his techniques. This was a big departure from wing chun in that the wing chun mind is supposed to be centered and calm.

I remember when we practiced wing chun together as teenagers. Whenever Yip Man taught us new techniques, we would test it out. If it didn’t feel right, we would go back to sifu again, and ask him to show us the technique. One of us would watch his hands, the other would watch his body mechanics. We would then exchange what we observed and put it together. We would go around asking our seniors, too. Bruce and I did the same with them. One would watch the technique, the other the body mechanics. We would ask the seniors who was right or wrong, and how we could correct the movements. We got used to watching the detail in a person’s body mechanics rather than technique. Good or bad techniques were based on good or bad body mechanics or structure. This is the way Bruce and I stole other styles’ techniques, analyzed them and even did it better than the person showing us. Anyone who knew Bruce knew that he had this ability. Bruce would steal others’ techniques, yet because of his “gorilla” upper body and his forearm strength (in wing chun, we call this long bridge arm power, meaning that the power is issued from the forearm down instead of from the body), his punch would have two kinds of power: one from the long bridge force and the other from his body rotation power (body rotation power is what boxers use the most). That is why whatever style or technique that Bruce would steal, he could perform better than the original. His forearm power is what he developed from wing chun through years of training. This is why I say that his followers don’t have what he had.


Strong Arms


Bruce Lee in 1970
I recall when we would chi sao, Bruce’s arms were very strong. He would just extend his arms and you could feel his power. But I knew his lower body part was weak, and I would pull his arm while he extended, and would pull him off balance. He would have to stop his extension to save his balance. I usually used this method to stop his continuous attacks. That was Bruce’s weak point. In the wing chun system, whenever we want to attack, the legs have to step out before you extend your arm or punch, so you won’t lose your balance. If your arm gets interrupted by your opponent’s pressure or power, you can still continue your attack because you body equalizes the pressure placed on you. You can still continue to extend your arm or punch while being intercepted. This is how a good wing chun man can use the power twice in one motion, rather than having to reload the power. You reload by extending the punch.

Because of Bruce’s poor body structure, he was easy to throw off balance. It was also disadvantageous for him if he came up against a larger opponent that would jam him when Bruce punched or extended his arm during sticking hands. Maybe this is what made him give up the wing chun structure. No one could touch his hands while Bruce engaged in a long distance fight. His upper torso strength and body rotation method would create devastating power. It was smart for him to use these attributes to his advantage. In the U.S. Bruce would not fight against wing chun men, so no one knew his weak points!

Bruce’s thin legs put all his energy in his upper torso. This gave him an advantage of quickly moving his legs. It also made him a good dancer when we were younger. Bruce enhanced his leg techniques by learning two months of northern style kung-fu high kicks before he came to the U.S. Good kickers require the energy to be in the upper torso, so Bruce had natural advantages when it came to kicking fast and with timing. This was his advantage in kicking and his disadvantage in wing chun structure.


Wing Chun At Heart

Despite Bruce’s advanced level in the martial arts, he was still a wing chun man. He expounded the use of the centerline principle, as well as simple, direct, non-telegraphic and economical motions. And although he may have borrowed tools from other martial arts systems, he used the techniques to conform to the wing chun way. For example, when Bruce used the wing chun straight punch, he started from the middle, with his elbows down. Although he may have used a northern shaolin side kick, he still issued power with a stomp as a wing chin man. He would stomp into his opponent. His best techniques were his straight punch and side kick. His front and hook kick were fast, but they didn’t have the killing power of his straight punch or side kick. Consequently, he used those tools the most to express his JKD.

When Bruce demonstrated his skill with the kali sticks, you can still see his upright wing chun structure. As previously mentioned, Bruce had the skill to copy anyone’s hand techniques quicker and better than anyone.

When Bruce broke away from wing chun and his classical Jun Fan system, he pursued his own non-classical, personal style. Because Bruce studied wing chun so long, he made his tools into a wing chun product, which is why I say his students don’t have his tools and attributes. To wing chun people, we feel that Bruce is not complete. Wing chun stresses ambidexterity, where as in Bruce’s art, it favors the lead hand.

Bruce’s students are also approaching his art in the wrong manner. Jeet kune do was supposed to be non-classical, but now it has become classical. The practitioners fear to create and would rather obey the dictates of the style. Take the finger jab that Bruce taught. Bruce’s students don’t have the practical application. if it hasn’t been developed or used in application, it is useless. Wing chun backs up its practical application with its sticking hands exercise and uses the partner as a dummy. You have to test your application in practice. I feel that jeet kune do is stepping backward, because of the lack of feel in fighting.

Wing chun’s energy is on the legs more than the upper body. Because the wing chun hands are used to feel the opponent’s hands and read his intentions, the hands must be soft. It is analogous to a baseball catcher. You have to be soft to hold up and receive the incoming pressure. You must feel comfortable. The legs are used to throw the whole body forward, like a hammer striking a nail (a “nail” is your tool striking your opponent). This is what is called the wing chun structure power. If we use the analogy of a hammer and nail, the nail must be positioned in the center of the hammer, other wise your nail will be broken or bent crooked while the hammer hits It. In wing chun, this means the hand is jammed or has no power transference. A good wing chun man first aligns the nail to the target, while the target waits to move. The hammer then follows up. if you think of this, you will see that Bruce gave up the wing chun structure, but wing chun trained his arms to issue power.

Bruce’s advantages were in distance fighting, and he extended his advantage to a high level. When Bruce stated traditional martial arts are classical, it was because he was free from the classical. He had a hard time before he mastered the martial arts.

Without wing chun, he wouldn’t be able to find out his advantage or disadvantage. He didn’t have to create a style, he could express whatever he wanted. Bruce was like the fastest gunslinger, he could kill you in a second, or he could kill you in ten minutes. In the first nine minutes and 59 seconds, he could demonstrate as many fancy motions as he wanted, as long as no one knew his weak points. Sometimes in my classes’ I demonstrate Bruce’s teachings, too. It is fun.


Point to the Moon

Jeet kune do was Bruce’s finger pointing to the moon. Jeet kune do was a goal for which to aspire. Even Bruce couldn’t express jeet kune do all the time. The term “jeet kune do” was created too early. He regretted the term “JKD” in the end, as he couldn’t express the intercepting fist every time. Jun Fan gung-fu was his wing chun. Any of his followers knew that when Bruce taught chi sao (sticking hands, a wing chun sensitivity exercise), he would put his right foot forward. I knew that he tried to cover up his chi sao weakness, which is why he placed his right foot in front. Bruce wouldn’t tell you his weakness, he would tell you something else to cover up his weakness. In distance fighting, Bruce did what we wing chun men do: we put our best side forward. Bruce meant for his chi sao to be right side leading for long-distance fighting. It means that Bruce’s chi sao is meaningless. He would expose his weakness on his left side, whereas his deadly weapon was his right side.

Being friends, I knew his character. Bruce wanted to be the best, and it was his personality that drove him to be the best and come up with his own method. Bruce and I were convinced that offense was the best defense. With my fighting experience and background, I could check and compare his standard. From knowing Bruce and training with him every day for years, I could just about read his mind. In the early 1960s, he was a young, ambitious Chinese gung-fu guy in America against the Japanese- or Korean-trained martial artists. Because of racial tension and being the only Chinese gung-fu guy around, he kept his beloved wing chun gung-fu and was hungry to learn more. He changed the wing chun fighting stance to look a bit more like the karate cat stance to deliver a front kick on am his opponent as part of a counterattack. The purpose of his changing the stance and structure was to handle the one-punch kill attitude. Bruce wanted to prove that gung-fu guys could fight, too. Because of Bruce’s limited knowledge of wing chun, he was forced to use other tools. He created his own classical system called Jun Fan. For his students to attain his level, they have to become free from Jun Fan. Bruce realized jeet kune do when he was finally free from Jun Fan and wing chun rules. He changed to fit into U.S. martial arts, not Asian martial arts. If we use the analogy that wing chun is a car, if you learn to drive in Hong Kong or in the U.S., the rules are different. You have to change and modify your experience to fit your environment. Bruce drove the wing chun car in the U.S. to suit the American way. His Jun Fan is a product of wing chun for America. Jun Fan is not jeet kune do, and Bruce’s followers have the classical Bruce Lee martial art Jun Fan, not jeet kune do. Jeet kune do is a goal for which to aspire. If any of Bruce’s followers intercept in every move, then they are expressing jeet kune do. Jeet kune do was Bruce’s gift to the world’s martial artists. Jeet kune do is just one of the concepts of wing chun. He experimented, did research and development for American martial arts. Just as Wong Shun Leung’s fighting experience is geared toward fighting against gung-fu guys, we all had to develop our own product. We all had to become free from wing chun to master it. If Wong were in the U.S., he too would have to change. Wing chun is frustrating to its practitioners because the system tells you to create your own product. There are no fighting forms in wing chun. The kata or forms of other styles are a product. How many products can one produce with wing chun? A product is partial. Each wing chun practitioner has to make his own product with his two hands, sticking, changing and coordinating. To create a new product, you go back to the center. Your mind must be centered to absorb a new product.

Although Bruce and his personal art are gone, Bruce managed to pass on his knowledge to the whole world, not just his followers. He never passed on his tools, but he passed on the concept. The tools were like a boat designed to cross a river; once you get to the other side, don’t carry the boat. Maybe there can be another “Bruce Lee” someday if they can follow the example he set in training, research and application. Bruce wanted the world to know that you should find out what fits.

Part 4: Bruce’s Classical Mess: Cleaning up the Mess the “Little Dragon” Left Behind

Bruce’s sudden death left behind a classical mess. We can’t deny the impact that Bruce had. Eighteen years since Bruce’s passing, and hundreds of martial artists are still trying to copy Bruce’s movements, punches and kicks. Some learn wing chun simply because wing chun was his mother system. There are now many jeet kune do instructors teaching “his methods.” Eighteen years and many are teaching jeet kune do, but many still don’t know what jeet kune do is, Many of these so called instructors make their art mimic Bruce’s movements. Some instructors have nothing to do with Bruce, but try to relate their teachings to him.

Some of Bruce’s first-generation students came to study from me when I first immigrated here. When I told Bruce of my intent to immigrate to the U.S. before his death, Bruce thought it would be great to have me help out his students, but whether they came to learn or not was another thing.


Different Way

When I touched their hands, I found that Bruce didn’t teach them the way he developed body power from wing chun. So, I tried to teach them the fundamentals of how to develop Bruce’s power. There are no secrets. First, you have to connect your body as one unit. Then you should develop it with a partner who tries to interrupt your unit by pulling, pushing and other types of physical interruptions. If you can manage physical interruption without disrupting your body unit, then you can talk about separating your unit into individual parts. If you don’t like physical interruptions (i.e., punches, kicks, etc.), then you may move your unit away before the punch or kick arrives. If you can do this, you can then move on to attacking techniques. You can also speak of unit attack with the body or either individual parts (arms or legs). For Bruce, every punch or kick had unit or body power behind it. This ability is something that you either have or don’t have.

The reader may ask, what is the difference between unit body power and individual power? When you punch at your partner during practice, your technique is usually delivered with your individual (arm) power. When you punch to destroy your opponent, the technique is delivered with body connection power. Techniques to impress your friends are delivered with speed and timing; techniques to destroy your opponent are delivered with speed, timing and body connection. Again, using my analogy of a hammer and nail, you have your choice. You can throw a nail and injure your opponent, or hammer the nail forward to kill him. When Bruce threw his punches and kicks, he used his body as a hammer.

When Bruce’s first-generation students came to me, I tried to teach them how to develop this unit power. Unfortunately, they did not believe me. Because I did not immediately teach them wing chun techniques, they felt I was keeping the knowledge to myself. Since then, I have kept my mouth shut. Whenever people talk about Bruce, I just walk away. These students wanted wing chun techniques and feeling. To me, the wing chun techniques are of secondary importance. Techniques can be learned from any wing chun teacher. However, without body connection and physical development, the techniques become useless.


Trained to fight

Back in the 195Os, Yip Man trained us to fight, not be technicians. Because we were so young, we didn’t understand the concepts or theories. As he taught us, Yip Man said, “Don’t believe me, as I may be tricking you. Go out and have a fight. Test it out.” In other words, Yip Man taught us the distance applications of wing chun. First he told us to go out and find practitioners of other styles and test our wing chun on them. If we lost, we knew on what we should work. We would go out and test our techniques again. We thought to ourselves, “Got to make that technique work! No excuses!” We learned by getting hit. When you are in a real fight, you find out what techniques are good for you. Just because your technique may work for one person doesn’t guarantee it will work for you. When you test your techniques on someone you don’t know, you experience a different feeling than when training with your friends. If you discover through your own experience, it’s much better than relying on another’s experience. In this way, you won’t be in his trap.

For this reason, physical and strong tool development are more important than the techniques. The way you apply techniques comes from your courage or confidence. You gain courage and confidence through your experience. For application, you have to ask yourself, “How much experience do I have? How many ways can I use this technique?” There is an old Chinese saying that in real fighting, you must have three points: courage, strength, technique. Technique comes last, unless you have superior timing to deliver techniques. These qualities are of personal development; they have nothing to do with styles. Through your fighting experience, you can check your system’s concepts and theories.

As I reflect, I think that if Yip Man first taught us the concepts or theories, we would follow them based on their requirements and rules. We wouldn’t need to test them out, simply because the wing chun system already had generations of testing. We would try to make the art as perfect as Yiin Wing Chun displayed. Perhaps Bruce and I would have become perfect technicians.

We wanted to find out what is important and not important when we fought outsiders. This is why we fought a lot when we were young. Only through application can you prove if the theories are valid. Techniques without timing are dead techniques. Display timing without power and the results are equally disastrous. Nowadays, many wing chun people have the same techniques, but how many wing chun people have gone through Bruce’s and my development?


Make The Art Alive

Some of Bruce’s followers say that wing chun people don’t have what Bruce had. To me, Bruce’s followers don’t have what Bruce had. What they teach is Bruce’s techniques, like his classical Jun Fan gung- fu, which is similar to wing chun. Only the body structure differs. These two classical arts were fixed by their founders. The individual that learns them needs to make the art alive. Both wing chun and Jun Fan’s goals are the same: simple, direct and economical movement to intercept. Wing chun utilizes the centerline as the fastest line of entry. Jun Fan allows their followers to choose whatever line they want to make their movements simple, direct and economical to intercept. Bruce’s followers need Bruce’s superior timing to catch up with wing chun’s centerline concept of intercepting.

Later, Bruce found that his Jun Fan was not direct to the goal of intercepting, so he advanced and improved his way of intercepting and created his jeet kune do. Bruce found that wing chun actually went further in’ terms of intercepting the opponent’s mind. Because Bruce never completed his Tao of Jeet Kune Do, many sections in it are not consistent with what we discussed in Hong Kong. Bruce’s five ways of attack and five ranges of fighting are attempts to systematize his teachings, but they fail. Were he alive today, he would have explained his JKD in detail. Jeet kune do translated into English means the “way of the intercepting fist.” Bruce realized that wing chun was straight to the point for intercepting and embodied the essence of jeet kune do. It was the nucleus of his personal art. Wing chun utilizes one method to close in to the attacker. With wing chun, one way handles all: you rush in to close the gap, intercept the opponent’s attack and finish him. In intercepting, there are no ranges. In wing chun and jeet kune do, there is only one range and goal: to intercept and finish off the opponent.

Bruce had no intention to create a style or system. He just wanted to prove to his sifu, Yip Man, that he could find another route to get the job done. Bruce’s work matches a wing chun saying, “Don’t speak of seniors or juniors. The one that attains first is senior.” We in wing chun have no seniors; we strive to become better than seniors or even the founder.

During Bruce’s last stay in Hong Kong, Bruce and Yip Man met at a dinner party. Bruce asked Yip Man, “Do you still treat me as your student?” Yip Man replied, “Do you still treat me as your sifu?” They both laughed. When Yip Man died, everyone thought that Bruce wouldn’t pay his last respects to his master. But he did show up, like one of us, to pay his final respects to his sifu.

Each martial arts style or system goes into battle believing it has all the answers. Any classical style deals with the imparting of fixed knowledge that becomes alive when it is mastered. It is up to the disciple to use that knowledge to develop and carry that knowledge to the point of free expression. Bruce did that. Every martial art master created something new and alive. His followers, later changed the system, intentionally or unintentionally, and made it deviate from the founder’s original intention. What was passed on from then was a dead system.

With wing chun, you still have the tools and concepts intact. Some individual in each generation that applies the tools and concepts will make wing chun alive. No one can say he has the “original wing chun,” as it has undergone generations of refinement, but if you apply the tools and concepts and can use it in combat, then you are using “live wing chun.” In applying wing chun, you have to change to keep up with your opponent’s change; your target is always moving. Wing chun is a system that has no particular style. We wait for the opponent’s style or way to show, and then we start from there to create our own style. You don’t waste time. You just react naturally to your opponent’s action. When Bruce said, “Your technique is my technique,” it is an example of his high understanding of wing chun.

There are now many so-called jeet kune do instructors teaching “jeet kune do-this” and “jeet kune do-that.” Everyone claims he is Bruce reincarnated. To me, all these claims are outdated, because Bruce had regretted naming jeet kune do. Jeet kune do was not designed for public consumption. Bruce said, “Jeet kune do doesn’t mean adding more, it means to minimize. In other words, to hack away from the non-essentials. It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease.” Some jeet kune do people are flow adding more ways, telling the public that this is Bruce’s way.

This is against Bruce’s way.

Jeet kune do is an advanced-level martial art: the question is whether beginners in martial arts can learn it without a proper foundation. Are they ready for it? You do a “daily decrease” only after you’ve studied and sorted out your background and what you have collected and have done the research to know what fits you.

When I teach wing chun, I don’t teach the Hawkins Cheung style. Each student has to customize the art based on his character, size, strengths, etc., and refine his personal style of wing chun. Bruce chose the simple, direct and economical way to express his style. What Bruce meant by jeet kune do is that it is not a style, but rather a process of refinement. It can’t be packaged. This is why he regretted naming ‘jeet kune do.” Those teaching “jeet kune do” and saying that this is the “original Bruce Lee art,” are turning a non classical art into a classical art. This is not what he meant by jeet kune do.


Real jeet kune do

Real jeet kune do was not at all like what he presented on the screen. What he displayed on the screen was his showmanship. People were awed by his ability and skill, but it wasn’t his real art. Jeet kune do was Bruce’s personal art. Now Bruce’s followers can be grouped in one of four categories: Those who teach the screen version; those who teach the “Bruce lee classical;” those who teach the search and development to create their own jeet kune do; and those who teach their own art and label it “JKD so and so.” The goal of jeet kune do is to add your own personal style to your martial art and decrease the extraneous. One day when you’ve sorted out your own martial arts, you’ll understand what Bruce meant by jeet kune do. If you are still in the process of collecting and developing. you haven’t yet attained jeet kune do. You have to find what fits with your background, not Bruce’s. That is jeet kune do. Ask yourself— What is your goal?

Bruce left behind the means to test your martial art. I know Bruce’s wing chun background and know what Bruce decreased for himself. But I don’t know the background of Bruce’s followers, so I ask: What are they decreasing? Have they tested out what they have? Why do you have to add more? What is the problem? Bruce changed for his own reasons. Myself? Rather than changing, I solved the problem of making my wing chun alive. Now some of Bruce’s followers are adding more and more to their art. They are losing the way.

You fight with your hands and feet, not your memory. When your mind becomes boggled with too many fighting systems, you find it difficult to know which to discard and which to keep. In actual fighting, you win or lose in a few seconds, not like a gung-fu movie where the actors fight for a half-hour. In those few seconds, you make up in your mind which style you will use. Every style is good, if you have trained for it. Every style can be useful, but you have to train to develop its usefulness in combat. Bruce was fond of saying, “Take what is useful, reject what is useless.” What you kept in your system is what is best. If you have too many styles, in real fighting, you can hardly decide which one to use under mental pressure. How can you finish the fight in a second if you haven’t decided which method to use?


Bruce’s Trap

Many are caught in Bruce’s trap; even Bruce was caught in his own trap. Bruce decided to name his art jeet kune do based on his personal ideas without testing it in combat. Whatever is created by man can be destroyed. Before Bruce made jeet kune do, he fought a lot. After he created jeet kune do, he said this is the way to fight, but without testing it in combat, how do we know the art is alive? Bruce’s jeet kune do concepts are simplicity, directness, and economy of motion. Bruce stressed “non-classical” motion, which is your way of expressing the tools that you deliver. But some of Bruce’s followers are going in the opposite direction. They are collecting more tools, more ways to display their martial arts.

When Bruce Stated, “Take what is useful, reject was is useless,” he meant that you must already have the tools. The tools were whatever you have learned from your classical style or way. You have to put those tools into testing and finding out what is useful. if you are still increasing or gathering tools, it means that you’re not ready to reject the useless. You’re not up to jeet kune do yet. You must ask yourself if you are increasing for the goal of intercepting, for Showmanship, or some other personal goal. “Reject what is useless” is for the fighter to throw away unessential movements or change with whatever circumstances in which to survive. At this stage a person is beginning to do jeet kune do to personalize the art for his needs.

Every martial art system has its useful parts, otherwise it would become extinct. Bruce’s followers are taking what is useful from this style, another style and so on, and becoming collectors of “useful styles.” But all the while, they have no time to test out those “useful styles” in competition or combat. Meanwhile, there are still other “useful styles” out there which they haven’t learned. Where is jeet kune do’s home? Jeet kune do doesn’t have any specialty techniques that make it a unique martial art. Boxers box, wrestlers grapple, wing chun people in-fight and stick and trap, but where is jeet kune do’s home or specialty? Jeet kune do means the way of the intercepting fist, but how do Bruce’s followers attain that?

Any expert in his system or style has spent years continuously training the basic movements to discover the most effective movement. Every expert has to find a way to make his movements simple, direct and economical. if you have a lot of fundamental movements, you have to test out each movement to discover how to refine them and make them simple, direct and economical. This process will take years and years to refine.

When Bruce formed jeet kune do, he stated in a magazine article that “99 percent of oriental self-defense is baloney!” It really shocked me that Bruce was so blatant. It seemed that he meant to challenge the whole world! if he said that in Hong Kong, martial artists would line up at his front door to challenge him. He was in the U.S. at that time. The wing chun clan in Hong Kong just smiled and sat back to watch the show, because we knew the gun wasn’t pointed at us. We knew that Bruce was trying to stir up trouble!

In our youth, during the 1950s, we did the same to other gung-fu systems. That was how wing chun’s name spread. Now Bruce was doing the same in the U.S., but with his personal credit and name. if he won the challenges, he gained fame. if he lost, it was his personal style that suffered, not wing chun. The question was, who dared to test out Bruce to see his bottom card? That was the same game we played from the old days.

When the “Green Hornet” and “Longstreet” series played on TV, people liked the characters Bruce played. His fans loved the series, martial artists loved it, and gung-fu guys loved it. It starred a Chinese gung-fu guy, so maybe people forgot what he said. He made it. Later on, when his movies premiered, the characters he played spoke out for all martial artists. Bruce made his opponents become his friends when he became a hero. The challenges were over, and he won the world over to his side.


The Real Enemy

Bruce’s real enemy was his mind. When he became successful, his fans wanted more. He continued to work out very hard, but no longer had people challenging him. Before he died, I saw Bruce on TV. He looked exhausted, he lost weight and was ill-tempered. He wasn’t the Bruce I knew before. Bruce had strayed too far from the center. We always said, “When you play the game, it’s very exciting. But when you’re controlled by the game, you have no way out. It’s terrible, you have to pay for it.”

In wing chun, the term “centerline” not only refers to the line in fighting, it also refers to your mind, the things you do, the problems you solve, the way that you live your life. If you stray too far to the right or left, it takes some time to return to the center. The center has no opinion.

To Confucius, the centered mind sees clearly. In life, your yin and yang must be balanced for you to be in the center. Bruce’s followers should know that his main theme or center of his art is intercepting.

Whenever anyone says he teaches Bruce’s art, he is making it a classical art. This was against the jeet kune do founder’s rules. Remember the essence of Bruce’s jeet kune do is embodied in the three qualities of simplicity, directness and economy of motion in entering the target. Bruce said it was a daily decrease, not a daily increase. His followers are not supposed to mimic the way he moved, but use their fighting knowledge to represent the three qualities. If any martial artist expresses these three qualities, he is doing jeet kune do. Bruce’s followers do not own jeet kune do. If you can express the three qualities and intercept in combat, you can say you are doing jeet kune do.

Bruce didn’t leave tools behind to support the concept of jeet kune do. Bruce was a wing chun man. His research was to prove the wing chun concept of the centerline, which is the fastest line of entry. Bruce’s speed and timing were an expression of that concept. Again, I say Bruce’s followers lack his physical ability because they fall short in his mother art, wing chun.

Wing chun was born out of frustration to find the quickest, most efficient way to fight. The founder of wing chun must have found no way out. Wing chun is designed as a combat system. For this reason, the system emphasizes confidence, timing, intercepting, capturing the centerline, shocking the opponent, setting up for consecutive strikes, and trapping. Jeet kune do was born out of Bruce’s frustration. That frustration made him search, experiment and develop into the legend that he is today.


Conclusion

In writing this series, I hoped to have proved that Bruce’s jeet kune do is research and development. Some of Bruce’s followers are teaching JKD incorrectly. Jeet kune do is the art of using simple, direct, economical motions to intercept in one beat. Jeet kune do is not a style or system, and does not feature unique tools; it is a means to check your current system to refine it further and monitor your progress. JKD custom-tailors your martial arts with your own “non-classical” movement.

Bruce left behind a martial arts system or systems, but they are not jeet kune do. Many call their art jeet kune do, but are teaching their personal interpretation which may or may not have anything to do with Bruce’s jeet kune do. Finally, jeet kune do was a means for Bruce to check and prove the wing chun concept of the centerline. He finally proved to Yip Man that he could achieve this without staying in the classical system.

My intention here is to help Bruce’s followers and clarify jeet kune do, not destroy or downgrade them. In this way, we can preserve Bruce’s ideas and memory for all time. I don’t want to cause political problems. I just want people to evaluate their efforts in promoting jeet kune do.

I was Bruce’s close friend and training partner. I came here in 1978 to promote wing chun. I have been pretty low key about my relationship with him. The public always knew we were close friends, but I never discussed much about his martial arts. The goal of these articles was also to clarify the connection between wing chun and Bruce’s jeet kune do. If I have frustrated any of Bruce’s followers, it is because I want them to question themselves and analyze their efforts. Jeet kune do was born out of Bruce’s frustration, but I don’t think many of Bruce’s followers suffered that same frustration. It was that suffering and frustration that made Bruce aspire to greater heights. Too many of Bruce’s followers have deviated from Bruce’s original intention.

These articles were written with the hope of helping my dear lifelong friend cleanup the mess he left behind. May we all let Bruce Lee rest in peace.
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Chuan Jun Fan
Chuan Jun Fan

August 5th, 2015, 10:47 pm #4

From the Hawkins Cheung article: Bruce continued: “I have to train very hard to beat my opponents. So I’ve come back to further my training in wing chun, and I hope to learn more of the dummy techniques from the old man (Yip Man). Hopefully, sifu will let me film him on 8mm so that I may show my students in the U.S.” Bruce said his acting career was beginning to take off. “By the way,” he noted, “I just signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to do a ‘Charlie Chan’ movie (it later turned out to be the “Green Hornet” series). I’m on my way to see the old man now.” I knew that when he wanted to accomplish a task, I’d better not get in his way, so I left.

A few days later, Bruce gave a demonstration on a popular talk show on television. Bruce didn’t mention anything about wing chun, but referred to his art simply as “gung-fu.” I realized that something must have happened between Bruce and Yip Man."

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LJF
Joined: December 6th, 2014, 3:05 am

August 6th, 2015, 2:16 am #5

HKTVB was founded in 1967 and in its record, Bruce first appeared in EYT show on 9 Apr 1970.

Hawkins should be referring to 2 incidents: 1) Ip Man's incident in 1965 2) Bruce's TV demo in 1970
Readers sure would be confused and got mixed up by "A few days later...."
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LJF
Joined: December 6th, 2014, 3:05 am

August 6th, 2015, 2:31 am #6

NSIDE KUNG FU’S 4-PART INTERVIEW WITH HAWKINS CHEUNG

By Hawkins Cheung, as told to Robert Chu, in Inside Kung-Fu November 1991
Beginning in November 1991, Inside Kung-Fu published the following four-part interview with Hawkins Cheung. The articles detail his history growing up in Hong Kong with Bruce Lee, learning Wing Chun from Yip Man, and trace Bruce’s development of his own technique from Wing Chun principles.


Part 1: Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong Years

Hawkins Cheung began his training in 1953 under the late grandmaster Yip Man. He attended high school with the legendary Bruce Lee and during evenings, the two would diligently practice wing chun together. To gain combat experience, they would engage in challenge matches; when they didn’t have opponents to fight, they fought each other. They were later separated when Bruce went to college in the U.S. and Hawkins attended college in Australia. Throughout the years, the two kept in touch through letters and phone calls. Bruce would detail his martial arts development through their conversations and correspondence using Cheung as a sounding board. Hawkins Cheung is one of the few individuals who experienced the progression that Lee went through in his martial art development from wing chun to Jun Fan to jeet kune do. The two were reunited in Hong Kong in 1970, when Lee returned home to make movies. The two shared and exchanged fighting experiences and training methods. They remained in close contact until Bruce’s death in 1973. Hawkins also is well schooled in other martial arts styles. He is particularly skilled in the Wu style of tai chi but he is familiar with the Yang, Chen and Sun styles as well. Master Cheung has also gained experience in Japanese karate-do and currently holds a fourth-degree black belt. In 1978, Cheung immigrated to the U.S. to promote wing chun. He is currently head instructor of the Hawkins Cheung Asian Martial Arts Academy in Los Angeles. He has appeared in several issues of Inside Kung-Fu magazine, given numerous public demonstrations, and appeared on television. He has always been low key about his relationship with Bruce Lee. Now that his friend has died, he finds that many of Bruce’s followers are distorting the real meaning of his jeet kune do. In this four-part series on Bruce Lee and jeet kune do, Cheung examines Bruce’s development, from his early days in Hong Kong to his final days as a film star, his creation of JKD, and the characteristics of the now-famous art.

Hong Kong in the l95Os was a depressed place. Post-World War II Hong Kong had suffered from unemployment, a poor economy, over-crowding, homelessness, and people taking advantage of each other. Gangs roamed the street, and juvenile delinquents ran rampant.

I met Bruce in intermediate school; he had been expelled from the famous European LaSalle Intermediate School to the Eurasian Francis Xavier Intermediate School which I attended. I used to make fun of him and call him “Bad Boy” because he was expelled. That was the beginning of our friendship. There was a real political situation in 195Os Hong Kong. The British led the colony and would sometimes treat the Chinese like dogs. Bruce wasn’t a big star then, he was just an ordinary guy. We started to learn wing chun to survive. When we weren’t fighting others, we fought each other. We would argue about our wing chun training, and would argue about our personal experience and knowledge. Everyone wanted to be top dog. We would purposely hold back information that we gathered. Everyone had to find his own source, and not let the others know what we learned. We would purposely hide a trick that we would get from Yip Man, the Seniors, or friends from other styles. We weren’t concerned about how good the gung-fu looked, just whether it worked. Everyone wanted to know how to get the job done.

We were good buddies. We wouldn’t openly share our knowledge, but we tried to steal each other’s card. Whenever we learned a new method or technique, we would add it to our repertoire. Bruce would use a new trick on me, the next time I would throw it back to him first. We always asked ourselves where was the other’s source?

Against outsiders we were allies, but with no one to fight against, we fought each other. To test and see Bruce’s skill, I would purposely instigate or set up a fight. I would watch Bruce fight, and be a bystander to see how well he did. He would do the same. If he won, we would laugh; but if he lost, he would lose face and work harder to find a better means of beating an opponent. We would play tricks on our opponents to psyche them out, sometimes hiding our best techniques. What someone would throw to us, we’d throw the technique right back to him.

Our competitive spirit was not only in martial arts, but extended in daily life. Everyone knew that Bruce was good at dancing the cha-cha. At school, I knew some Filipino friends who were pretty good too, so I would pick up steps to show up Bruce. The next time I saw Bruce, he had a bunch of new steps! I questioned my friend to see if he had taught Bruce those new steps, but he denied any knowledge. I later found out that he went to my Filipino friend’s dance instructor to learn more steps! That was our character—to always look for a new source. I later went to the same dance instructor and tried to persuade him not to teach Bruce.

William Cheung and Wong Shun Leung were Bruce’s source of information on wing chun. They were our seniors, but we couldn’t openly let them know what level we were at for fear they wouldn’t show us more. If a senior got into a street fight, however, and lost, we could find out his standard. If we couldn’t figure out a problem, we would have to ask the old man (Yip Man) from different angles. When we matured, we began to share more openly.

I lived a couple of blocks from Bruce. Being from well-to-do families, we would sometimes have our driver pick up one another, if we wanted to hang out we would sometimes spend a weekend at each other’s home. When we had final exams, we would study together. We still kept up our old game. We would play tricks on an unsuspecting participant, one guy playing “good guy,” the other being the “bad guy.” One time, we persuaded two younger European classmates to fight each other. They were a grade younger than us and were good friends. Bruce and I separated them, and to find out who was the better instructor, we each picked one and trained him to beat each other up.

Bruce’s nickname at school was “Gorilla,” because he was muscular and walked around with his arms at his sides. Everyone feared him, but I was the only one who called him “Chicken legs.” He’d get really mad and chase me all over the school yard. Our friendship was very close.

Our school was the best in soccer, but Bruce and I never participated in any team sports. One day, there was an announcement that there was an inter-school boxing championship. The all English Saint George Intermediate school held the championship. Our school didn’t have a boxing team. Someone in our school suggested that we get a boxing team together. We had a reputation in the school as being the naughtiest, so someone suggested that Bruce and I get involved.

The night of the match, I went into the champ’s dressing room. He was my friend’s brother. Bruce was supposed to face him. I spoke to the champ and warned him that he was facing the Gorilla now, who was an expert in gung-fu, not boxing, so he’d better watch out!

The champ was intimidated, because he heard that Bruce and I practiced gung-fu together. Bruce, on the other hand, was concerned that we never boxed before. At the beginning of the fight, Bruce attacked his opponent from the inside with a tan da and cut to his opponent’s center. The champ was psychologically unbalanced, while Bruce continued to use tan da with a follow-up of straight punches to the champ’s face, and blew him out. Bruce won the championship!

The next match was myself and another for the lightweight championship. I was disqualified for using pak da, which the judges considered against the rules. In 1958, we graduated from high school. Bruce said that he was going to the U.S. upon his father’s request. Bruce didn’t want to go, but his father forced him. Bruce feared his father and had to comply. I was deciding to attend college in Australia. I asked Bruce what he wanted to study. Bruce replied he was going to be a dentist. I cracked up and laughed in his face! “You, a dentist?” I said, ‘Your patients would lose all their teeth.”

Bruce said that his father would support him and pay for his expenses in the U.S., but he wanted to be independent. To make money on the side, he said he would teach wing chun. I replied that he didn’t have much to teach at that time; we had both only learned up to the second wing chun form, chum kiu, and 40 movements on the dummy. We had a friend whom we called “Uncle Shiu” (Shiu Hon Sang), who taught northern styles of gung-fu. Bruce thought it would be a good idea to learn some of the more pretty, showy styles before he left. Bruce learned northern style for showmanship. In the late 195Os, Bruce had already planned to hide his art. Many were looking for the showmanship, not the killer. Bruce would give them what they wanted.

We went to Uncle Shin’s gung-fu club at seven every morning. We began to learn lam ad (a basic northern style gung-fu set). I hated master Shin’s dog, and his dog hated me equally, as he would bark at me every time I visited. Finally, the early mornings and the loud dog made me drop out. Bruce continued for two months more and learned gung lik kuen (training power fist set), bung bo kuen (a basic praying mantis set), and jeet kuen (quick fist), all northern style sets.

Prior to any Hong Kong resident leaving for a new country, you had to check with the police station to make sure your record was clean. Bruce applied for this certificate, and found that our names were on a blacklist of known juvenile delinquents. He called me at home. “Hawkins, big trouble,” Bruce exclaimed. “Our names are on a known gangster list. I’m going down to the police station to clear my name, and while I’m there, I’ll clear yours, too.”, I thanked him.

A few days later, a police investigator came to my house and questioned me about gang relations. Bruce’s efforts to clear me actually got me more in trouble. My father had to pay off this investigator to have my name wiped from the record, or else I wouldn’t have been able to attend college in Australia. I hated Bruce for that!

The day he left, I escorted him to the dock. After many years of being as close as twins, we would be apart for the first time. It would be many years before our paths would again cross.

art 2: Bruce Lee Discovers Jeet Kuen Do

After Bruce left Hong Kong, I went to Australia to attend college. We still stayed in touch by writing to each other. He told me he was working part time at Ruby Chow’s restaurant in Seattle and teaching a few students wing chun as well as some of Uncle Shiu’s northern style kung-fu high kicks. He wrote that he loved wing chun very much and he wanted to go back to Hong Kong to learn the rest of the system.

He told me to carry on with wing chun and not to give up. Actually I didn’t have the time to give up my wing chun. I arrived in Sidney, Australia, in the late 195Os. Just 14 years after World War II, Australia had suffered much from the Japanese occupation. I found myself involved in fights because at that time there was a great resentment for Japanese. They always confused the Chinese for Japanese. Sometimes, I had to fight against people twice my size to stay alive. Many Southeast Asians also attended the university in Australia. At times, racial tension and cultural differences would result in violence. Fights would start up without warning. I had trouble with a few Thai boxers.

They would call themselves “prize-fighters” — they fought for prizes, I fought for my life. The Thai’s were hard to fight because they seemed to have four hands. I wrote Bruce about these fighting experiences. I learned how to apply my wing chun against multicultural martial arts. Bruce told me if had any problems in Australia to come to the United States and study. He would take care of me.

I returned to Hong Kong in 1964. One day, as I was ready to drive my car out of my parking space in the street, I saw someone toward my left window. I couldn’t see this person’s face. I thought that this person was loocking for trouble, and I opened the car door ready to fight. I then saw it was Bruce. I was so happy to see him, and just as I was about to say “Hello!” he said’ “Hawkins, stand here, I have something to show you.” Bruce stepped back two steps and suddenly charged in very quickly. I was surprised that his movement was so fast.

Another surprise was that Bruce’s character hadn’t changed at all. He still wanted to be top dog. He still wanted to show off. If he liked you, he would always tell you what was on his mind.

If he didn’t like you, he’d be very tricky to deal with. Bruce had that rare ability to draw your attention somewhere else. Sometimes you didn’t know what he was thinking. I was often suspicious if Bruce was too nice; it meant he wanted something or was about to take advantage of you. This character made people like him, and at the same time, made it easy for me to trick him.

I asked him how he developed the ability to close in that quickly. He said’ “Look, Hawkins, in the United States you don’t have any good training partners to practice wing chun with. You can say that my wing chun is better than any so called wing chun masters there. I can’t go any further. But I have had a lot of challenge fights. My opponents are fast, so I have to be faster; they’re strong, so I have to he stronger than them. There’s no other way, because in the U.S., I’m a ‘gung-fu’ guy. Because my wing chun is limited and my structure can’t hold up against larger opponents, I have to use no way as the way, no limitation as the limitation.”

That was the first time I heard Bruce say that. There is a Chinese saying Called, “Bik fu tiu cheung,” meaning, “The cornered tiger has to jump over a wall.” It is the equivalent of saying, “Having no way out” in English. I realized that Bruce felt frustration in his martial arts training. Although Bruce was becoming Westernized, he still felt pride that he was Chinese and he never wanted to appear inferior when comparing Chinese gung-fu with other nations’ martial arts.

Bruce continued: “I have to train very hard to beat my opponents. So I’ve come back to further my training in wing chun, and I hope to learn more of the dummy techniques from the old man (Yip Man). Hopefully, sifu will let me film him on 8mm so that I may show my students in the U.S.” Bruce said his acting career was beginning to take off. “By the way,” he noted, “I just signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to do a ‘Charlie Chan’ movie (it later turned out to be the “Green Hornet” series). I’m on my way to see the old man now.” I knew that when he wanted to accomplish a task, I’d better not get in his way, so I left.

A few days later, Bruce gave a demonstration on a popular talk show on television. Bruce didn’t mention anything about wing chun, but referred to his art simply as “gung-fu.” I realized that something must have happened between Bruce and Yip Man. I knew Bruce’s character, and when he desired or wanted something accomplished, no one could stop him. If not, Bruce would go out on his own to get the job done. Bruce would then come back and show you and try to embarrass you.

I found out that the “old man” refused his request to be filmed doing the dummy set. I knew that the “old man” was very Chinese tradition minded and that Bruce was very direct and Western in his thinking. Bruce wanted to learn everything overnight, but the ‘old man” felt you had to train to get it. Later on, I found that Bruce formed his own method and called it ‘jeet kune do.”

During 1966, a friend and I were involved in bringing Japanese karate to Hong Kong. I found myself having to change when sparring with the Japanese karate instructors; their attacks were very fast with emotionally charged quickness. They would attack and disappear as quickly as they came. Their punches were so quick that when I attempted to pak sao, they would retract their punch and I couldn’t connect. When I tried to step in, they would use a front kick. I found that defensively, I was fine, because they found it difficult to land on me. But when it came to attacking, I was unable to score. I became frustrated with this type of sport fighting. It differed from real fighting in that it emphasized skill, not just guts and endurance.

I remembered what Bruce had said about his “opponents being fast, but he had to be faster; opponents being strong, and he having to being stronger.” Then I thought, these Japanese karate instructors train years to develop their speed and power. If I were to train as Bruce did, I would have to spend two or three times as much time to beat them at their own game. But I also had a limitation of power because of my size. If I sped up my wing chun straight punch, I found myself unable to reach my opponent because I was used to the wing chun back horse stance. And if I utilized karate’s front stance, I could reach my opponents, but in turn, I lost my wing chun structure. I found myself in a dilemma, as I would literally throw myself forward to reach my opponent. This may have worked well against a one-punch kill stylist, but I often wondered what would happen if I fought another gung-fu stylist or a street-fighter and they could take my best punch. If I managed to land my best punch and the opponent kept coming, I would certainly be in big trouble.

I wanted to keep my wing chun structure. I asked myself how could I hold back or stop a bigger opponent charging at me without that structure? The structure was also important to handle combination-type fighters. I also asked myself what would happen when I get older and my speed and power have decreased? It would mean that I would have nothing when I’m old.

I couldn’t take my dilemma to my wing chun seniors. They didn’t like the fact that I practiced karate. They didn’t understand that while I practiced karate, I could sharpen my skills against a legal opponent. Karate’s sparring allowed me to get legal fight experience. (In the old days, Chinese martial artists would test out their skills in illegal fights termed “gong sao”- which literally meant “talking hands.” Outsiders who watched me thought that I was doing karate; the instructors didn’t realize I used wing chun to combat my karate opponents. later on, I found a way to adapt my wing chun to their way of fighting. Bruce would throw his power hand out with his high speed and timing to intercept the opponent’s punch or kick. I thought, why don’t I throw my wing chun structure forward with one hand intercepting while the other attacked at the same time? My time training in karate gave me a good chance to develop my new method. Every year, Japan sent new Japanese instructors to Hong Kong to teach. I was always the first guy to fight with the new Japanese instructors. They knew me in the school as the “Chinese boxer.”

Thanks to Bruce’s ideas’ I learned how to handle my opponents. My way didn’t mean other wing chun practitioners did the same; but I developed my way to satisfy myself and keep my beloved wing chun style. I was able to make the wing chun style alive and understand the wing chun concept in combat. Bruce’s way of the intercepting fist (jeet kune do) is one of the principles of wing chun. Bruce’s standard was limited; he made intercepting into his concept because of the circumstances he told me of during his last Stay in Hong Kong. Before he died, he told me that “jeet kune” meant Pak sao in wing chun or intercepting an opponent’s punch before it landed on you. I asked him if he meant to create another style. Bruce firmly told me, “No! It is only the expression of the motion! You can say it is my expression of the pak sao in wing chun (note: Pak sao is one of the fundamental movements from wing chun and depending upon circumstance, it may be offensive or defensive in nature.) I didn’t betray sifu, I didn’t betray Chinese martial arts. I wanted to show others the application way of jeet kune. I wanted to prove I could stop their fast attacks coming at me.”

I knew Bruce’s character. I knew he wanted to prove what he said was right and that he would prove it to wing chun people as well as the world, that he was top dog. Bruce would always change his way of fighting to improve himself to be the best. I never read his books or books that others wrote about him, but I would watch his application whenever I could in his real fights or as an actor in his movies. I found his martial arts to have two versions: one in real life and one in his movies. In real life, Bruce’s speed and power would scare his opponents and would prove what he called “jeet kune.” His movie version would show his showmanship with fancy movements to satisfy his fans. I didn’t see his “jeet kune” action in his movies.

I believe those who knew Bruce Personally could tell his moves were sharp, clear and to the point. People who didn’t know Bruce in person were attracted by his action movies and philosophy. I have been in the U.S. for 12 years now. I have seen many of Bruce’s students and grand students change a lot of his way, even when they didn’t even understand what the original meaning or essence of his “jeet kune do.” Some have even gone on to teach jeet kune do as a style! Some of them claim to be teaching jeet kune do and add their own personal style, calling it “JKD so-and-so.”

To my memory, Bruce explained that jeet kune do was the method of intercepting or cutting off an opponent’s action. So jeet kune do was the method of striking an opponent as the opponent attacked. The concept of intercepting or cutting is used in all systems of martial arts. if you don’t want to get hit, you’d better cut off or block an attack without running from or skipping away. Each style or person will demonstrate intercepting in a different manner. Bruce demonstrated in his personal attitude because of his emotional anger and hunger for winning character. He simply wanted to be the best and would accept nothing else. That is the trademark of Bruce’s style or action in entry. Only Bruce could do that.

Bruce changed his methods for the job on hand, not for you or me. He became an expert in intercepting or cutting off an opponent’s attack. He had to continually train to prove what he said about “jeet kune.” If Bruce couldn’t intercept, he would have to take back the name “jeet kune do.” But he did prove it. He desired to keep the name “jeet kune do” while he was alive. Since he is now dead, it is up to his students to continue giving Bruce credit. The question is whether they can prove they can “jeet kune” for him and the public.

We don’t care how Bruce’s students change their way; we want to see someone as good or better than Bruce lee in action, not another style or way. If your results are different from what Bruce did you are not preserving jeet kune do. If you keep the name jeet kune do, then you should strive to become an expert in intercepting. Don’t down grade Bruce’s memory with your own way. This is not his creation. Just as wing chun people have recognizable trademark in application, those who follow Bruce’s way should also have a recognizable concept: that of intercepting.

Part 3: Bruce Lee’s Mother Art: Wing Chun

To understand Bruce and his martial art, you have to look at his mother art, wing chun. Wing chun in the 1950s was a popular fighting system because of its reputation in challenge fights with other gung-fu Systems. Wing chun was noted for its simple, direct, economical movement and non-classical style.

Many joined and wanted to learn how to fight. Because of the reputation of wing chun, Bruce and I joined. The thing about wing chun is once you start the first form, you feel frustrated. We questioned, “Why do we have to learn this? How can you fight like this?” Everyone wanted to learn the siu nim tao quickly, so they could move onto the sticking hands exercise. The dan chi sao (single sticking hand) exercise was no fun, so the younger students wanted to get through that even quicker. When you finally learned the double sticking hands exercise, we felt excited and thought, “I can fight now! I know wing chun now!” We liked to copy the seniors. If you could land a punch on your opponent, you felt very excited. “I can beat him now,” was our first thought. So everyone wanted to beat his partner first so he could be the top dog.

Everyone also tried to please the seniors so they would teach us more tricks to beat up the guy you didn’t like or competed with. So students grouped together and created competition with another group. Each group thought it could beat the other. In my opinion, this is how wing chun politics began. Being 100-105 pounds, I had a hard time against opponents bigger than me. During this time I also tried to collect as many new tricks to beat my opponents. Once the opponent knew that trick, you had to find new tricks. When your opponent knew all your tricks, being a small guy, you were in trouble. The old saying of the, “Same game, same way, the bigger guy always wins” applies to every physical sport.

Later, tricks became useless. I always got pushed out because of my limited power when it came to advanced sticking hands practice. I was very frustrated because the opponents knew my tricks and they were stronger than me. If I threw a punch, it was nothing to them; they could take the blow and throw a punch right back. I learned that sticking hands was very different from distance fighting. In distance fighting a lightweight could move faster than a heavyweight. My dilemma was that I was learning wing chun, not a system that emphasized distance fighting.


Yip Man’s Hands

I always got pushed out when I practiced chi sao with my bigger seniors. Everyone who learned wing chun always wanted to prove that they were better than the others. Most of the practitioners concentrated on the offensive side of sticking hands. They tried to learn how to first hit the Opponent. The practice became a sport fighting game. Whoever was stronger would win. Egos ran wild and every one wanted to be the best. There is a wing chun saying, “Don’t speak of who is senior or junior. The one who attains the skill first is the senior.” It meant that, “We don’t have seniors,” because we were better than the seniors. In wing chun we say we don’t have any seniors because we strove to become better than the seniors and even better than the founder. If you look at your art this way, you will certainly improve.

During that period, I had a hard time. I thought of quitting a few times, until I finally went to the old man (grandmaster Yip Man). He always told me, “Relax! Relax! Don’t get excited!” But whenever I practiced chi sao with someone, it was hard to relax, especially when I got hit. I became angry when struck. I wanted to kill my opponent. The sticking hands game became a fight, with both parties getting hurt. The question was who got hurt more. Because I was smaller, I was the one who usually hurt more.

When I saw Yip Man stick hands with others, he was very relaxed and talked to his partner. Sometimes he threw his partner out without having to hit him. When I stuck hands with Yip Man, I always felt my balance controlled by him when I attempted to strike. I was always off balance, with my toes or heels off the ground! I felt my hands rebound when I tried to strike him. It appeared as if Yip Man used my force to hit me. His movement was so slight, it seemed he didn’t do anything, not even extend his hand! When I was thrown back, it was very comfortable, not violent, yet I still could not see his techniques. When I asked him how he did it, he simply said’ “Like this!” as he demonstrated his extension of his hands, which was the same as practice. I saw Yip Man do this to other students, even the seniors. He never landed a blow on his students, but he would put a student in an awkward position and make the fellow students laugh at the sight. He was the funniest old man. I never once saw Yip Man take a step backward during chi sao.

I thought to myself, this old man was my size and weight, how could he control his students so easily? So every time he played chi sao with a student, I kept watching his perfect wing chun body structure. Whenever he took a step forward, his opponent was thrown back. No matter how big the student was, Yip Man never exhibited a killing attitude. The students would swing his hands, and Yip Man would smile and merely control the movements.

I really felt hopeless, so I asked sifu what should I do to further myself. He told me, “Why do you always want to be the same as the others? You know it won’t work, why don’t you change? Do the form more, don’t even play sticking hands for a while. Do the form slower.” I was confused; I wanted to learn wing chun to fight. I wanted new ways and new techniques. After all these years, Yip Man’s advice were these few words. I felt disappointed, yet I couldn’t argue with him. I had the choice to either drop out or do what he said. So I reviewed all the forms with him and he corrected them during private lessons. I did stick hands with him slowly. He just coached me and guided my hands like a baby sitter. In this manner, I learned the softer, defensive side of wing chun.

Who could know Yip Man’s high skill? Yip Man could neutralize his opponent’s force or interrupt his opponent’s motion so that it never landed. If you take an analogy of a big car facing a small car, you can see that the driver of the small car doesn’t have much of a chance. The small car driver has to shut off the engine or interrupt the shift to first gear of the big-car driver. obviously, the big car can just run over a small car and destroy it. The question is how big is your car, and compared with whom?


A larger opponent

When Yip Man faced a larger opponent, his skill was so high that he would shut off his opponent’s engine or never let it start. When you’re old, you have to adapt this way to survive. With my small size, I had to learn this method. I had to be faster than my opponent’s fist or elbow’s extension. I had to see my opponent’s telegraphic body move or see his mind’s intent. Whether in close-range or distance fighting. I have to interrupt my opponent’s engine start or guide his intention elsewhere. Bruce didn’t learn this high level of skill. By Hong Kong standards, he was a big car.

Everyone in wing chun has his opinion or politics. The politics arise when each speaks of the “best” method of entry or attack. The “best entry” or “best attack” is a product which a wing chun exponent chooses to buy. To a wing chun man, every attack is considered an “asking hand.” My fist is a question posed to you. If someone attacks and you solve the problem before it is initiated, how much politics are involved? Politics come from partiality, which is why I say that when wing chun is trained to a high level, there are no techniques. Who realized Yip Man’s skill? All my training brothers respected Yip Man because he never hurt them, nor were they skillful enough to hurt him. Yip Man’s skill in the 1950s was the epitome of sensitivity; he could immediately read his opponent’s intention.

Wing chun is a mental, rather than physical martial art. The system was founded by a lady, and as a result, the art requires mental strategy and physical skill and timing. Wing chun requires that the mental be ahead of the physical. It is a system to develop skill, not a style. I’m not the best, but I know where I stand in this art.

A good wing chun man should practice chi sao all the time. You can tell what sort of individuals you are dealing with, his character, his advantages or disadvantages. You can look at a fighter’s body and also determine if he is a boxer, kicker or wrestler through his muscle condition and by the characteristics of his movement. A fighter’s behavior also determines what sort of fighter you are facing. Of course, this is not 100 percent. When betting on a horse race, an experienced gambler will try to gather all the information he can get on a horse. He will look at a horse and check his statistics to make an intelligent decision. You learn to minimize your risk. This is what chi sao teaches you.

When you do chi sao, you should not attack first, but rather try to collect as much information as you can on your opponent. Many wing chun practitioners want to attack first without gathering information. Attacking first is to give your opponent information on yourself. Sun Tzu advised us, “Know yourself, know your opponent, in 100 battles, a 100 victories.” The forms of wing chun are for you to know yourself; chi sao is the way to knowing others.


Bruce changes

Bruce changed his methods when he came to the U.S. Time and experience caused change, but he had help from wing chun, which hinted which direction to go. Just like my training brothers who express wing chun in their way, Bruce founded a method of teaching his version of wing chun in the U.S. Bruce used the offensive side of wing chun. Bruce said that he supposedly saw the “limitations of wing chun,” but the truth is that there is nothing wrong with wing chun. Wing chun is not a style, but a system of preparation for combat. Wing chun gives you the information to be one step ahead of your opponent. Wing chun is not better than other Systems of martial arts, but it offers a practitioner some unique advantages. No matter what style or system of martial arts, to defeat your opponent you must land your tools. I can fight using wing chun tools. But I express my own Hawkins Cheung style based on my experience. As a martial artist, one must stand on his own credit, not his master’s.

When I teach wing chun tools to my students, I coach them to find which way best fits their character. Some students are very emotional, yet I can’t force them to relax. So I teach them the offensive way of wing chun. When the skill in offensive attacks becomes better and they feel they are not improving and become frustrated, they automatically come to me. They ask how to handle this guy or the others. To me, this means they really want to learn. I explain to them that they should relax and pay attention to the defensive side of wing chun.

Once the feeling in their hands and body is automatic, I let them go on their own to find a higher level. If the students continue asking questions, it means they haven’t yet developed the feeling of that movement. They want my help and I do all that I can to help them.

Wing chun is very simple to learn. The system contains only three forms, a dummy set, the 6 1/2-point staff and the double knives set. It is also very easy to teach. The question is if you have tested it out yourself. Can you use the skills in application? Have you forgotten how many fights or whom you have fought before? Each style of martial arts are defensive, so you use what is useful and reject what is useless for the particular stylist. You have to find what is useful for your style of fighting. It may be useless to other stylists, but you have to change the order of using your wing chun tools according to circumstances.

In my wing chun concept, I like the opponent to start first. I will initiate my timing from my opponent’s start. To my experience, this movement is a trap. When you approach me indirectly, you must have a reason why. I have to first discover your intentions. I just wait calmly. My mind becomes a “referee.” To wait is better than changing. l listen to your own music or rhythm. I pay no attention, and that means that my emotions are not involved in fighting. The big question is when to start. Of course, this takes time to develop.

You will see in the “Westerns,” when there is a gunfight, no one dares to start first. In Japanese samurai movies, during the sword fighting scenes, the opponents may wait for a long time. If you can’t wait, your mind has to find your opponent’s rhythm and starting point. From here you have to find your opponent’s intentions with an “asking hand.”



Wing chun started Bruce on his way. It was the wing chun concepts that he still retained to allow him to customize his personal system of martial arts that he referred to as “Jun Fan.” Wing chun was the gun that Yip Man gave us; the frustrating part was that you had to learn how to aim and shoot. The problem was your target always moved, you couldn’t get a fix on it. Wing chun is a problem solving art. You can say that Bruce and I were given a problem from the “old man” to solve. In fact, the “old man” didn’t explain things unless he saw you work for it.


Wing Chun Development

Every martial arts student has to solve the problem of applying the physical portion. All martial arts styles tend to be theoretical in application. Bruce may have abandoned some wing chun tools’ but he didn’t abandon wing chun development. He changed the art for himself, not for you or me. Bruce used the concept of intercepting and “modified the gun” for his own needs. I kept the traditional gun and made it work for me. Yip Man posed the question, it was up to us to solve the problems. Bruce and I sought for practical application combined with the conceptual. You can say there was a parallel development between us through the years.

In my wing chun concept, I will say that Bruce had weaknesses. If I faced him, I would try to read his intentions. I would allow Bruce to start his broken rhythm, making his rhythm his starting point. At that time, his feet were off the ground I would rush in with a surprise attack. Rushing in is faster than Bruce’s rhythm. With rushing in, I can break his mind’s rhythm, or blank out his mind in a second. I can then follow up with consecutive strikes. I would give him back a problem to solve. The question is whether your “rush-in” timing was quick enough.

There were some tricks we played all the time when we were teenagers looking for a fight. When we would find a “target, “we would just walk up and say, “Hey! I’m talking to you!” or we would go up and touch or pull him. We would make our victim pay attention. If the guy was hot-tempered, he would try to hit us or push our hand away. Once the guy started, we would initiate our timing from his move. If the guy got hurt, we would say, “What’s the matter with you? I was just talking to you, and you tried to hit me first Mr. Chan (fictitious name we made upon the spot)?” The target would say, “I’m not Mr. Chan!” To which we would reply, “We thought you were Mr. Chan and are very sorry we made a mistake!” If our target didn’t pay attention to us, we would curse his mother or sister. We tried to infuriate our unwilling adversary so we could resume the fight. We were real bad guys!

The objective was to force the opponent’s starting point – We would do or say anything to initiate the fight. Bruce even carried this trick in his movie, Return of the Dragon. In the fight scene with Chuck Norris, Bruce would speed up his footwork rhythm. Norris began to follow the same rhythm then Bruce would finish Norris in the end.


A Flexible Art

Many of Bruce’s students refer to what he taught as a “modified version of wing chun” But Bruce’s term, “modify is equivalent to wing chun’s “feeling” or “sensitivity.” Wing chun feeling is to allow modification, to change for the sake of survival. There is no such thing as modified wing chun; a good wing chun practitioner constantly modifies his art based on feeling. Wing chun is a flexible art that allows you to change based upon your feeling. When Bruce borrowed other tools, the way he displayed them made their essence different because Bruce couldn’t discard the reflexes he developed from wing chun. The essence he displayed almost always had retained a wing chun flavor. Bruce’s followers today don’t demonstrate the attributes Bruce displayed and developed over the years.

Bruce used the wing chun methods of start timing, spring energy, sensitivity (through the practice of chi sao) and ging (penetration power). Bruce couldn’t teach the feeling of his art. Just like Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis trying to teach someone how to get off the starting blocks faster, it was a matter of feeling, not mechanics or tools. Bruce’s speed was a result of the wing chun training he practiced for so long. In wing chun, there is a quality that we refer to as “start timing.” It is the ability to start quickly and differs from someone who has fast hands or feet. Start timing is what made him fast. It is not an emotional type of speed. It was Bruce’s use of start timing that made him so fast.

The secret to Bruce’s speed and power was that he combined both physical and mental power. Bruce was an expert in mental intimidation. Bruce demonstrated his emotional anger and hunger for wining character in every tool he delivered. When I asked him how he could get so fast, he explained that he would use his emotional content to speed up his techniques. This was a big departure from wing chun in that the wing chun mind is supposed to be centered and calm.

I remember when we practiced wing chun together as teenagers. Whenever Yip Man taught us new techniques, we would test it out. If it didn’t feel right, we would go back to sifu again, and ask him to show us the technique. One of us would watch his hands, the other would watch his body mechanics. We would then exchange what we observed and put it together. We would go around asking our seniors, too. Bruce and I did the same with them. One would watch the technique, the other the body mechanics. We would ask the seniors who was right or wrong, and how we could correct the movements. We got used to watching the detail in a person’s body mechanics rather than technique. Good or bad techniques were based on good or bad body mechanics or structure. This is the way Bruce and I stole other styles’ techniques, analyzed them and even did it better than the person showing us. Anyone who knew Bruce knew that he had this ability. Bruce would steal others’ techniques, yet because of his “gorilla” upper body and his forearm strength (in wing chun, we call this long bridge arm power, meaning that the power is issued from the forearm down instead of from the body), his punch would have two kinds of power: one from the long bridge force and the other from his body rotation power (body rotation power is what boxers use the most). That is why whatever style or technique that Bruce would steal, he could perform better than the original. His forearm power is what he developed from wing chun through years of training. This is why I say that his followers don’t have what he had.


Strong Arms


Bruce Lee in 1970
I recall when we would chi sao, Bruce’s arms were very strong. He would just extend his arms and you could feel his power. But I knew his lower body part was weak, and I would pull his arm while he extended, and would pull him off balance. He would have to stop his extension to save his balance. I usually used this method to stop his continuous attacks. That was Bruce’s weak point. In the wing chun system, whenever we want to attack, the legs have to step out before you extend your arm or punch, so you won’t lose your balance. If your arm gets interrupted by your opponent’s pressure or power, you can still continue your attack because you body equalizes the pressure placed on you. You can still continue to extend your arm or punch while being intercepted. This is how a good wing chun man can use the power twice in one motion, rather than having to reload the power. You reload by extending the punch.

Because of Bruce’s poor body structure, he was easy to throw off balance. It was also disadvantageous for him if he came up against a larger opponent that would jam him when Bruce punched or extended his arm during sticking hands. Maybe this is what made him give up the wing chun structure. No one could touch his hands while Bruce engaged in a long distance fight. His upper torso strength and body rotation method would create devastating power. It was smart for him to use these attributes to his advantage. In the U.S. Bruce would not fight against wing chun men, so no one knew his weak points!

Bruce’s thin legs put all his energy in his upper torso. This gave him an advantage of quickly moving his legs. It also made him a good dancer when we were younger. Bruce enhanced his leg techniques by learning two months of northern style kung-fu high kicks before he came to the U.S. Good kickers require the energy to be in the upper torso, so Bruce had natural advantages when it came to kicking fast and with timing. This was his advantage in kicking and his disadvantage in wing chun structure.


Wing Chun At Heart

Despite Bruce’s advanced level in the martial arts, he was still a wing chun man. He expounded the use of the centerline principle, as well as simple, direct, non-telegraphic and economical motions. And although he may have borrowed tools from other martial arts systems, he used the techniques to conform to the wing chun way. For example, when Bruce used the wing chun straight punch, he started from the middle, with his elbows down. Although he may have used a northern shaolin side kick, he still issued power with a stomp as a wing chin man. He would stomp into his opponent. His best techniques were his straight punch and side kick. His front and hook kick were fast, but they didn’t have the killing power of his straight punch or side kick. Consequently, he used those tools the most to express his JKD.

When Bruce demonstrated his skill with the kali sticks, you can still see his upright wing chun structure. As previously mentioned, Bruce had the skill to copy anyone’s hand techniques quicker and better than anyone.

When Bruce broke away from wing chun and his classical Jun Fan system, he pursued his own non-classical, personal style. Because Bruce studied wing chun so long, he made his tools into a wing chun product, which is why I say his students don’t have his tools and attributes. To wing chun people, we feel that Bruce is not complete. Wing chun stresses ambidexterity, where as in Bruce’s art, it favors the lead hand.

Bruce’s students are also approaching his art in the wrong manner. Jeet kune do was supposed to be non-classical, but now it has become classical. The practitioners fear to create and would rather obey the dictates of the style. Take the finger jab that Bruce taught. Bruce’s students don’t have the practical application. if it hasn’t been developed or used in application, it is useless. Wing chun backs up its practical application with its sticking hands exercise and uses the partner as a dummy. You have to test your application in practice. I feel that jeet kune do is stepping backward, because of the lack of feel in fighting.

Wing chun’s energy is on the legs more than the upper body. Because the wing chun hands are used to feel the opponent’s hands and read his intentions, the hands must be soft. It is analogous to a baseball catcher. You have to be soft to hold up and receive the incoming pressure. You must feel comfortable. The legs are used to throw the whole body forward, like a hammer striking a nail (a “nail” is your tool striking your opponent). This is what is called the wing chun structure power. If we use the analogy of a hammer and nail, the nail must be positioned in the center of the hammer, other wise your nail will be broken or bent crooked while the hammer hits It. In wing chun, this means the hand is jammed or has no power transference. A good wing chun man first aligns the nail to the target, while the target waits to move. The hammer then follows up. if you think of this, you will see that Bruce gave up the wing chun structure, but wing chun trained his arms to issue power.

Bruce’s advantages were in distance fighting, and he extended his advantage to a high level. When Bruce stated traditional martial arts are classical, it was because he was free from the classical. He had a hard time before he mastered the martial arts.

Without wing chun, he wouldn’t be able to find out his advantage or disadvantage. He didn’t have to create a style, he could express whatever he wanted. Bruce was like the fastest gunslinger, he could kill you in a second, or he could kill you in ten minutes. In the first nine minutes and 59 seconds, he could demonstrate as many fancy motions as he wanted, as long as no one knew his weak points. Sometimes in my classes’ I demonstrate Bruce’s teachings, too. It is fun.


Point to the Moon

Jeet kune do was Bruce’s finger pointing to the moon. Jeet kune do was a goal for which to aspire. Even Bruce couldn’t express jeet kune do all the time. The term “jeet kune do” was created too early. He regretted the term “JKD” in the end, as he couldn’t express the intercepting fist every time. Jun Fan gung-fu was his wing chun. Any of his followers knew that when Bruce taught chi sao (sticking hands, a wing chun sensitivity exercise), he would put his right foot forward. I knew that he tried to cover up his chi sao weakness, which is why he placed his right foot in front. Bruce wouldn’t tell you his weakness, he would tell you something else to cover up his weakness. In distance fighting, Bruce did what we wing chun men do: we put our best side forward. Bruce meant for his chi sao to be right side leading for long-distance fighting. It means that Bruce’s chi sao is meaningless. He would expose his weakness on his left side, whereas his deadly weapon was his right side.

Being friends, I knew his character. Bruce wanted to be the best, and it was his personality that drove him to be the best and come up with his own method. Bruce and I were convinced that offense was the best defense. With my fighting experience and background, I could check and compare his standard. From knowing Bruce and training with him every day for years, I could just about read his mind. In the early 1960s, he was a young, ambitious Chinese gung-fu guy in America against the Japanese- or Korean-trained martial artists. Because of racial tension and being the only Chinese gung-fu guy around, he kept his beloved wing chun gung-fu and was hungry to learn more. He changed the wing chun fighting stance to look a bit more like the karate cat stance to deliver a front kick on am his opponent as part of a counterattack. The purpose of his changing the stance and structure was to handle the one-punch kill attitude. Bruce wanted to prove that gung-fu guys could fight, too. Because of Bruce’s limited knowledge of wing chun, he was forced to use other tools. He created his own classical system called Jun Fan. For his students to attain his level, they have to become free from Jun Fan. Bruce realized jeet kune do when he was finally free from Jun Fan and wing chun rules. He changed to fit into U.S. martial arts, not Asian martial arts. If we use the analogy that wing chun is a car, if you learn to drive in Hong Kong or in the U.S., the rules are different. You have to change and modify your experience to fit your environment. Bruce drove the wing chun car in the U.S. to suit the American way. His Jun Fan is a product of wing chun for America. Jun Fan is not jeet kune do, and Bruce’s followers have the classical Bruce Lee martial art Jun Fan, not jeet kune do. Jeet kune do is a goal for which to aspire. If any of Bruce’s followers intercept in every move, then they are expressing jeet kune do. Jeet kune do was Bruce’s gift to the world’s martial artists. Jeet kune do is just one of the concepts of wing chun. He experimented, did research and development for American martial arts. Just as Wong Shun Leung’s fighting experience is geared toward fighting against gung-fu guys, we all had to develop our own product. We all had to become free from wing chun to master it. If Wong were in the U.S., he too would have to change. Wing chun is frustrating to its practitioners because the system tells you to create your own product. There are no fighting forms in wing chun. The kata or forms of other styles are a product. How many products can one produce with wing chun? A product is partial. Each wing chun practitioner has to make his own product with his two hands, sticking, changing and coordinating. To create a new product, you go back to the center. Your mind must be centered to absorb a new product.

Although Bruce and his personal art are gone, Bruce managed to pass on his knowledge to the whole world, not just his followers. He never passed on his tools, but he passed on the concept. The tools were like a boat designed to cross a river; once you get to the other side, don’t carry the boat. Maybe there can be another “Bruce Lee” someday if they can follow the example he set in training, research and application. Bruce wanted the world to know that you should find out what fits.

Part 4: Bruce’s Classical Mess: Cleaning up the Mess the “Little Dragon” Left Behind

Bruce’s sudden death left behind a classical mess. We can’t deny the impact that Bruce had. Eighteen years since Bruce’s passing, and hundreds of martial artists are still trying to copy Bruce’s movements, punches and kicks. Some learn wing chun simply because wing chun was his mother system. There are now many jeet kune do instructors teaching “his methods.” Eighteen years and many are teaching jeet kune do, but many still don’t know what jeet kune do is, Many of these so called instructors make their art mimic Bruce’s movements. Some instructors have nothing to do with Bruce, but try to relate their teachings to him.

Some of Bruce’s first-generation students came to study from me when I first immigrated here. When I told Bruce of my intent to immigrate to the U.S. before his death, Bruce thought it would be great to have me help out his students, but whether they came to learn or not was another thing.


Different Way

When I touched their hands, I found that Bruce didn’t teach them the way he developed body power from wing chun. So, I tried to teach them the fundamentals of how to develop Bruce’s power. There are no secrets. First, you have to connect your body as one unit. Then you should develop it with a partner who tries to interrupt your unit by pulling, pushing and other types of physical interruptions. If you can manage physical interruption without disrupting your body unit, then you can talk about separating your unit into individual parts. If you don’t like physical interruptions (i.e., punches, kicks, etc.), then you may move your unit away before the punch or kick arrives. If you can do this, you can then move on to attacking techniques. You can also speak of unit attack with the body or either individual parts (arms or legs). For Bruce, every punch or kick had unit or body power behind it. This ability is something that you either have or don’t have.

The reader may ask, what is the difference between unit body power and individual power? When you punch at your partner during practice, your technique is usually delivered with your individual (arm) power. When you punch to destroy your opponent, the technique is delivered with body connection power. Techniques to impress your friends are delivered with speed and timing; techniques to destroy your opponent are delivered with speed, timing and body connection. Again, using my analogy of a hammer and nail, you have your choice. You can throw a nail and injure your opponent, or hammer the nail forward to kill him. When Bruce threw his punches and kicks, he used his body as a hammer.

When Bruce’s first-generation students came to me, I tried to teach them how to develop this unit power. Unfortunately, they did not believe me. Because I did not immediately teach them wing chun techniques, they felt I was keeping the knowledge to myself. Since then, I have kept my mouth shut. Whenever people talk about Bruce, I just walk away. These students wanted wing chun techniques and feeling. To me, the wing chun techniques are of secondary importance. Techniques can be learned from any wing chun teacher. However, without body connection and physical development, the techniques become useless.


Trained to fight

Back in the 195Os, Yip Man trained us to fight, not be technicians. Because we were so young, we didn’t understand the concepts or theories. As he taught us, Yip Man said, “Don’t believe me, as I may be tricking you. Go out and have a fight. Test it out.” In other words, Yip Man taught us the distance applications of wing chun. First he told us to go out and find practitioners of other styles and test our wing chun on them. If we lost, we knew on what we should work. We would go out and test our techniques again. We thought to ourselves, “Got to make that technique work! No excuses!” We learned by getting hit. When you are in a real fight, you find out what techniques are good for you. Just because your technique may work for one person doesn’t guarantee it will work for you. When you test your techniques on someone you don’t know, you experience a different feeling than when training with your friends. If you discover through your own experience, it’s much better than relying on another’s experience. In this way, you won’t be in his trap.

For this reason, physical and strong tool development are more important than the techniques. The way you apply techniques comes from your courage or confidence. You gain courage and confidence through your experience. For application, you have to ask yourself, “How much experience do I have? How many ways can I use this technique?” There is an old Chinese saying that in real fighting, you must have three points: courage, strength, technique. Technique comes last, unless you have superior timing to deliver techniques. These qualities are of personal development; they have nothing to do with styles. Through your fighting experience, you can check your system’s concepts and theories.

As I reflect, I think that if Yip Man first taught us the concepts or theories, we would follow them based on their requirements and rules. We wouldn’t need to test them out, simply because the wing chun system already had generations of testing. We would try to make the art as perfect as Yiin Wing Chun displayed. Perhaps Bruce and I would have become perfect technicians.

We wanted to find out what is important and not important when we fought outsiders. This is why we fought a lot when we were young. Only through application can you prove if the theories are valid. Techniques without timing are dead techniques. Display timing without power and the results are equally disastrous. Nowadays, many wing chun people have the same techniques, but how many wing chun people have gone through Bruce’s and my development?


Make The Art Alive

Some of Bruce’s followers say that wing chun people don’t have what Bruce had. To me, Bruce’s followers don’t have what Bruce had. What they teach is Bruce’s techniques, like his classical Jun Fan gung- fu, which is similar to wing chun. Only the body structure differs. These two classical arts were fixed by their founders. The individual that learns them needs to make the art alive. Both wing chun and Jun Fan’s goals are the same: simple, direct and economical movement to intercept. Wing chun utilizes the centerline as the fastest line of entry. Jun Fan allows their followers to choose whatever line they want to make their movements simple, direct and economical to intercept. Bruce’s followers need Bruce’s superior timing to catch up with wing chun’s centerline concept of intercepting.

Later, Bruce found that his Jun Fan was not direct to the goal of intercepting, so he advanced and improved his way of intercepting and created his jeet kune do. Bruce found that wing chun actually went further in’ terms of intercepting the opponent’s mind. Because Bruce never completed his Tao of Jeet Kune Do, many sections in it are not consistent with what we discussed in Hong Kong. Bruce’s five ways of attack and five ranges of fighting are attempts to systematize his teachings, but they fail. Were he alive today, he would have explained his JKD in detail. Jeet kune do translated into English means the “way of the intercepting fist.” Bruce realized that wing chun was straight to the point for intercepting and embodied the essence of jeet kune do. It was the nucleus of his personal art. Wing chun utilizes one method to close in to the attacker. With wing chun, one way handles all: you rush in to close the gap, intercept the opponent’s attack and finish him. In intercepting, there are no ranges. In wing chun and jeet kune do, there is only one range and goal: to intercept and finish off the opponent.

Bruce had no intention to create a style or system. He just wanted to prove to his sifu, Yip Man, that he could find another route to get the job done. Bruce’s work matches a wing chun saying, “Don’t speak of seniors or juniors. The one that attains first is senior.” We in wing chun have no seniors; we strive to become better than seniors or even the founder.

During Bruce’s last stay in Hong Kong, Bruce and Yip Man met at a dinner party. Bruce asked Yip Man, “Do you still treat me as your student?” Yip Man replied, “Do you still treat me as your sifu?” They both laughed. When Yip Man died, everyone thought that Bruce wouldn’t pay his last respects to his master. But he did show up, like one of us, to pay his final respects to his sifu.

Each martial arts style or system goes into battle believing it has all the answers. Any classical style deals with the imparting of fixed knowledge that becomes alive when it is mastered. It is up to the disciple to use that knowledge to develop and carry that knowledge to the point of free expression. Bruce did that. Every martial art master created something new and alive. His followers, later changed the system, intentionally or unintentionally, and made it deviate from the founder’s original intention. What was passed on from then was a dead system.

With wing chun, you still have the tools and concepts intact. Some individual in each generation that applies the tools and concepts will make wing chun alive. No one can say he has the “original wing chun,” as it has undergone generations of refinement, but if you apply the tools and concepts and can use it in combat, then you are using “live wing chun.” In applying wing chun, you have to change to keep up with your opponent’s change; your target is always moving. Wing chun is a system that has no particular style. We wait for the opponent’s style or way to show, and then we start from there to create our own style. You don’t waste time. You just react naturally to your opponent’s action. When Bruce said, “Your technique is my technique,” it is an example of his high understanding of wing chun.

There are now many so-called jeet kune do instructors teaching “jeet kune do-this” and “jeet kune do-that.” Everyone claims he is Bruce reincarnated. To me, all these claims are outdated, because Bruce had regretted naming jeet kune do. Jeet kune do was not designed for public consumption. Bruce said, “Jeet kune do doesn’t mean adding more, it means to minimize. In other words, to hack away from the non-essentials. It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease.” Some jeet kune do people are flow adding more ways, telling the public that this is Bruce’s way.

This is against Bruce’s way.

Jeet kune do is an advanced-level martial art: the question is whether beginners in martial arts can learn it without a proper foundation. Are they ready for it? You do a “daily decrease” only after you’ve studied and sorted out your background and what you have collected and have done the research to know what fits you.

When I teach wing chun, I don’t teach the Hawkins Cheung style. Each student has to customize the art based on his character, size, strengths, etc., and refine his personal style of wing chun. Bruce chose the simple, direct and economical way to express his style. What Bruce meant by jeet kune do is that it is not a style, but rather a process of refinement. It can’t be packaged. This is why he regretted naming ‘jeet kune do.” Those teaching “jeet kune do” and saying that this is the “original Bruce Lee art,” are turning a non classical art into a classical art. This is not what he meant by jeet kune do.


Real jeet kune do

Real jeet kune do was not at all like what he presented on the screen. What he displayed on the screen was his showmanship. People were awed by his ability and skill, but it wasn’t his real art. Jeet kune do was Bruce’s personal art. Now Bruce’s followers can be grouped in one of four categories: Those who teach the screen version; those who teach the “Bruce lee classical;” those who teach the search and development to create their own jeet kune do; and those who teach their own art and label it “JKD so and so.” The goal of jeet kune do is to add your own personal style to your martial art and decrease the extraneous. One day when you’ve sorted out your own martial arts, you’ll understand what Bruce meant by jeet kune do. If you are still in the process of collecting and developing. you haven’t yet attained jeet kune do. You have to find what fits with your background, not Bruce’s. That is jeet kune do. Ask yourself— What is your goal?

Bruce left behind the means to test your martial art. I know Bruce’s wing chun background and know what Bruce decreased for himself. But I don’t know the background of Bruce’s followers, so I ask: What are they decreasing? Have they tested out what they have? Why do you have to add more? What is the problem? Bruce changed for his own reasons. Myself? Rather than changing, I solved the problem of making my wing chun alive. Now some of Bruce’s followers are adding more and more to their art. They are losing the way.

You fight with your hands and feet, not your memory. When your mind becomes boggled with too many fighting systems, you find it difficult to know which to discard and which to keep. In actual fighting, you win or lose in a few seconds, not like a gung-fu movie where the actors fight for a half-hour. In those few seconds, you make up in your mind which style you will use. Every style is good, if you have trained for it. Every style can be useful, but you have to train to develop its usefulness in combat. Bruce was fond of saying, “Take what is useful, reject what is useless.” What you kept in your system is what is best. If you have too many styles, in real fighting, you can hardly decide which one to use under mental pressure. How can you finish the fight in a second if you haven’t decided which method to use?


Bruce’s Trap

Many are caught in Bruce’s trap; even Bruce was caught in his own trap. Bruce decided to name his art jeet kune do based on his personal ideas without testing it in combat. Whatever is created by man can be destroyed. Before Bruce made jeet kune do, he fought a lot. After he created jeet kune do, he said this is the way to fight, but without testing it in combat, how do we know the art is alive? Bruce’s jeet kune do concepts are simplicity, directness, and economy of motion. Bruce stressed “non-classical” motion, which is your way of expressing the tools that you deliver. But some of Bruce’s followers are going in the opposite direction. They are collecting more tools, more ways to display their martial arts.

When Bruce Stated, “Take what is useful, reject was is useless,” he meant that you must already have the tools. The tools were whatever you have learned from your classical style or way. You have to put those tools into testing and finding out what is useful. if you are still increasing or gathering tools, it means that you’re not ready to reject the useless. You’re not up to jeet kune do yet. You must ask yourself if you are increasing for the goal of intercepting, for Showmanship, or some other personal goal. “Reject what is useless” is for the fighter to throw away unessential movements or change with whatever circumstances in which to survive. At this stage a person is beginning to do jeet kune do to personalize the art for his needs.

Every martial art system has its useful parts, otherwise it would become extinct. Bruce’s followers are taking what is useful from this style, another style and so on, and becoming collectors of “useful styles.” But all the while, they have no time to test out those “useful styles” in competition or combat. Meanwhile, there are still other “useful styles” out there which they haven’t learned. Where is jeet kune do’s home? Jeet kune do doesn’t have any specialty techniques that make it a unique martial art. Boxers box, wrestlers grapple, wing chun people in-fight and stick and trap, but where is jeet kune do’s home or specialty? Jeet kune do means the way of the intercepting fist, but how do Bruce’s followers attain that?

Any expert in his system or style has spent years continuously training the basic movements to discover the most effective movement. Every expert has to find a way to make his movements simple, direct and economical. if you have a lot of fundamental movements, you have to test out each movement to discover how to refine them and make them simple, direct and economical. This process will take years and years to refine.

When Bruce formed jeet kune do, he stated in a magazine article that “99 percent of oriental self-defense is baloney!” It really shocked me that Bruce was so blatant. It seemed that he meant to challenge the whole world! if he said that in Hong Kong, martial artists would line up at his front door to challenge him. He was in the U.S. at that time. The wing chun clan in Hong Kong just smiled and sat back to watch the show, because we knew the gun wasn’t pointed at us. We knew that Bruce was trying to stir up trouble!

In our youth, during the 1950s, we did the same to other gung-fu systems. That was how wing chun’s name spread. Now Bruce was doing the same in the U.S., but with his personal credit and name. if he won the challenges, he gained fame. if he lost, it was his personal style that suffered, not wing chun. The question was, who dared to test out Bruce to see his bottom card? That was the same game we played from the old days.

When the “Green Hornet” and “Longstreet” series played on TV, people liked the characters Bruce played. His fans loved the series, martial artists loved it, and gung-fu guys loved it. It starred a Chinese gung-fu guy, so maybe people forgot what he said. He made it. Later on, when his movies premiered, the characters he played spoke out for all martial artists. Bruce made his opponents become his friends when he became a hero. The challenges were over, and he won the world over to his side.


The Real Enemy

Bruce’s real enemy was his mind. When he became successful, his fans wanted more. He continued to work out very hard, but no longer had people challenging him. Before he died, I saw Bruce on TV. He looked exhausted, he lost weight and was ill-tempered. He wasn’t the Bruce I knew before. Bruce had strayed too far from the center. We always said, “When you play the game, it’s very exciting. But when you’re controlled by the game, you have no way out. It’s terrible, you have to pay for it.”

In wing chun, the term “centerline” not only refers to the line in fighting, it also refers to your mind, the things you do, the problems you solve, the way that you live your life. If you stray too far to the right or left, it takes some time to return to the center. The center has no opinion.

To Confucius, the centered mind sees clearly. In life, your yin and yang must be balanced for you to be in the center. Bruce’s followers should know that his main theme or center of his art is intercepting.

Whenever anyone says he teaches Bruce’s art, he is making it a classical art. This was against the jeet kune do founder’s rules. Remember the essence of Bruce’s jeet kune do is embodied in the three qualities of simplicity, directness and economy of motion in entering the target. Bruce said it was a daily decrease, not a daily increase. His followers are not supposed to mimic the way he moved, but use their fighting knowledge to represent the three qualities. If any martial artist expresses these three qualities, he is doing jeet kune do. Bruce’s followers do not own jeet kune do. If you can express the three qualities and intercept in combat, you can say you are doing jeet kune do.

Bruce didn’t leave tools behind to support the concept of jeet kune do. Bruce was a wing chun man. His research was to prove the wing chun concept of the centerline, which is the fastest line of entry. Bruce’s speed and timing were an expression of that concept. Again, I say Bruce’s followers lack his physical ability because they fall short in his mother art, wing chun.

Wing chun was born out of frustration to find the quickest, most efficient way to fight. The founder of wing chun must have found no way out. Wing chun is designed as a combat system. For this reason, the system emphasizes confidence, timing, intercepting, capturing the centerline, shocking the opponent, setting up for consecutive strikes, and trapping. Jeet kune do was born out of Bruce’s frustration. That frustration made him search, experiment and develop into the legend that he is today.


Conclusion

In writing this series, I hoped to have proved that Bruce’s jeet kune do is research and development. Some of Bruce’s followers are teaching JKD incorrectly. Jeet kune do is the art of using simple, direct, economical motions to intercept in one beat. Jeet kune do is not a style or system, and does not feature unique tools; it is a means to check your current system to refine it further and monitor your progress. JKD custom-tailors your martial arts with your own “non-classical” movement.

Bruce left behind a martial arts system or systems, but they are not jeet kune do. Many call their art jeet kune do, but are teaching their personal interpretation which may or may not have anything to do with Bruce’s jeet kune do. Finally, jeet kune do was a means for Bruce to check and prove the wing chun concept of the centerline. He finally proved to Yip Man that he could achieve this without staying in the classical system.

My intention here is to help Bruce’s followers and clarify jeet kune do, not destroy or downgrade them. In this way, we can preserve Bruce’s ideas and memory for all time. I don’t want to cause political problems. I just want people to evaluate their efforts in promoting jeet kune do.

I was Bruce’s close friend and training partner. I came here in 1978 to promote wing chun. I have been pretty low key about my relationship with him. The public always knew we were close friends, but I never discussed much about his martial arts. The goal of these articles was also to clarify the connection between wing chun and Bruce’s jeet kune do. If I have frustrated any of Bruce’s followers, it is because I want them to question themselves and analyze their efforts. Jeet kune do was born out of Bruce’s frustration, but I don’t think many of Bruce’s followers suffered that same frustration. It was that suffering and frustration that made Bruce aspire to greater heights. Too many of Bruce’s followers have deviated from Bruce’s original intention.

These articles were written with the hope of helping my dear lifelong friend cleanup the mess he left behind. May we all let Bruce Lee rest in peace.
Nick, thanks for the 2 great articles. Really enjoyed reading them again.

Great articles are really worth reading more than once.

It's just so easy to criticise someone like Bruce than to contribute like what Bruce had done for the martial arts world. Guess, it's the same in the real world.

Thanks again, Nick.
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LJF
Joined: December 6th, 2014, 3:05 am

August 6th, 2015, 3:49 am #7

HKTVB was founded in 1967 and in its record, Bruce first appeared in EYT show on 9 Apr 1970.

Hawkins should be referring to 2 incidents: 1) Ip Man's incident in 1965 2) Bruce's TV demo in 1970
Readers sure would be confused and got mixed up by "A few days later...."
"A few days later..." should be a typo error. It should be "A few years later..." which will be make more sense.
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TopCrusader
TopCrusader

August 6th, 2015, 12:04 pm #8

While back in HK in 1965, Bruce was part of some type of radio program that was hosted by Siu Hon Sang.
Here is a quote from Siu:

“Bruce and I were intimate friends. I’m his uncle. I tried my best to explain the meaning of the Ching-wu school to him. Later, Bruce absorbed foreign martial arts, reformed it and formed his own unique school of martial arts. But he did not forget his masters. In 1965, when he came back to Hong Kong accompanied by his wife, he often came to visit me and have a chat. He had also remembered the boxing forms that I had taught him and gave us a demonstration. He not only made no mistake in his performance, but he was very acquainted with it. In 1967, he came back again. Because he had to perform on TVB, he practiced in my institute and his opponent was Unicorn.”

LJF, any idea which event he is talking about with unicorn - what date? thanks
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Joined: July 16th, 2003, 11:43 am

August 6th, 2015, 5:41 pm #9

Nick, thanks for the 2 great articles. Really enjoyed reading them again.

Great articles are really worth reading more than once.

It's just so easy to criticise someone like Bruce than to contribute like what Bruce had done for the martial arts world. Guess, it's the same in the real world.

Thanks again, Nick.
That was 1970 see pic below. Unicorn helped Bruce get the interview with Shaws to do movies so he returned the favour - see George Tan pic. In 1965 Bruce wanted to film Ip Man but he refused.





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Joined: July 16th, 2003, 11:43 am

August 6th, 2015, 11:35 pm #10

Nick, thanks for the 2 great articles. Really enjoyed reading them again.

Great articles are really worth reading more than once.

It's just so easy to criticise someone like Bruce than to contribute like what Bruce had done for the martial arts world. Guess, it's the same in the real world.

Thanks again, Nick.
Thanks LJF. Loving the info you are kindly sharing with us. Have you found any old interviews/articles with Bruce's assistant director on WAY (probably co-director) Ricky Chik (Chik Yiu-Cheong)?

1973 Enter the Dragon (assistant director)
1972 Way of the Dragon (assistant director - as Chih Yao Chang)
1972 Fist of Fury (assistant director - as Chih Yao Ching)
1971 The Big Boss (assistant director - as Chih Yao Chung)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0151657/









Last edited by pathfinder73 on August 6th, 2015, 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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