It gives me great sadness to announce the passing of Howard Williams ex-Oakland student of Bruce and James Lee. RIP Howard!
I remember Howard at the 1990 Tracking the Dragon convention with fond memories. Here's is a transcript of a video interview with Howard that he did at that time :-
(1990 interview transcribed from video by Andreas)
T H E W A Y O F T H E I N T E R C E P T I N G F I S T
by HOWARD WILLIAMS
The Art of Fighting Without Fighting - Running Time 90 minutes
Howard Williams was a student of Bruce Lee and James Lee in Oakland. He studied under Bruce and James for 5 years and as a dedicated disciple he was forged by Bruce and James Lee into an awesome streetfighter following the strict principles and concepts of JKD as Bruce and James taught it, pure and undistorted as he has never studied any other style. In this interview he talks about Bruce and James as he knew them and the way JKD has been misinterpreted today.
Question: Howard, tell me, what is the meaning of JKD? Can you explain what it really means?
Howard Williams: Yes, JKD means "The Way of the Intercepting Fist".
Q: Does it relate to Wing Chun, this JKD?
HW: Only in the fact that it has its roots, its beginnings in Wing Chun.
Q: Is this a collection of different martial arts skills that Bruce
HW: You could say that. It's a combination of anything and all things that would work and you could put together to come up with something that is functional and practical and that anybody can learn, and can use.
Q: I remember Bruce used the same term in "Longstreet", the TV-series "The Intercepting Fist" which he done. It was written by (Stirling) Siliphant. What did he mean by "The Intercepting Fist"? Did he have a lot of philosophy, and took his own philosophy and projected it on the screen?
HW: Well, to intercept ones emotional intent - meaning to hit him on his first move. He was good at that, and that was the main thing that he wanted us to learn to do. Intercept, destroy, then you do whatever comes natural from that part. A lot of it was creativity also, but within the frameworks of what we were taught.
Q: He had trouble in the beginning with his Wing Chun, and the power. He thought he was lacking in power. When did he begin to change?
HW: When he realized that what he had before in Wing Chun had its limitations, and power was one of them. He then began to explore and do things that would give him power, but basically he modified the art, so that it would be more adaptable to himself as a martial artist. And then that's where he used Wing Chun that became a springboard so to speak to other things.
Q: He had a number of encounters with different fighters which made him thinking, then he would change, now the "The Intercepting Fist" by what it says. Does it really means to truly intercept an opponents move?
HW: Yes, it does. It really means that when a man moves toward you, he makes a certain gesture towards you, whether he blinks his eye, touches his nose, or makes some move - whatever he does, you intercept his emotional intent. You already know that he wants to fight. So you don't have to wait for anything else. If he makes some move, you do it. You intercept, destroy - or you can destroy him before he makes his move.
Q: Was it true Bruce Lee developed skills without telegraphing his
HW.: That was one of his fortes , his specialities.
Q: Cause all you could see was the jump on the other guy?
HW: Exactly! It's like you can almost read the intent and motive of the other fighter, but though that we are not able to read minds, he had flawless non-telegraphic moves which allowed him to just intercept your emotional intent.
Q: Does that come by practising in front of the mirrors for endless hours, looking at body-telegraphing before movement?
HW: Form is very important, not form as in classical form as in traditional Gung Fu, but form as in proper application in the art. Being able to intercept and being able to research body-movement, the body in motion, and when you do that then you're able to determine the things that you need to know that gives off signals. And once the signal is given - Bam! It's over!
Q: What do you think of JKD that is taught today around the world? Is this the same JKD that Bruce Lee taught?
HW: No, no, no, no! By far it doesn't resemble anything similar to what Bruce was trying to get his students in the first generation to learn.
Q: What is the difference?
HW.: The biggest difference is that there's a lot of gross telegraphing
moves, there's a lot of unnecessary trapping movements, the wrong application of the trapping movements, and the footwork is bad - and the actual timing and the fighting, there's no sparring. There's a whole lot of things that have been watered-down. It's like having a fine wine that has been watered-down to have the coloring, but the flavor is missing.
Q: Had Bruce been alive, do you think he would approval what is taught
HW: No, by no means. He couldn't approve of this, because this is not what he was trying to get across the people today. In those days either. He in fact would probably be so disturbed by the whole thing that he would shut everything down!
Q: Has anyone tried to teach JKD when Bruce was alive, to other students, so to like to open another club in his name?
HW: No, because he wanted to make sure that things were taught and controlled the way they were supposed to be. So there were only three schools known back in those days. One in Seattle, one in Oakland, which I am from, and the other one in Los Angeles, where Danny Inosanto and his gang is.
Q: What was his attitude to JKD being mixed with other styles?
HW: No, no, no, he was totally against that, sort like trying to mix water and oil together, you know. You could put it together, shake it up and it appears to go, but when you set it down, what happens is that it separates. If it sits there long enough, it will separate.
Q: So did you do any other martial art before you joined up with
HW: No, this is all I know, this is the only thing that I know - its Jeet Kune Do. Never took any other art.
Q: Can you tell me something about the power of JKD, because we've seen
many of his other students, and they seemed to be lacking the power that
Bruce had, and also the speed. Can you explain why that is?
HW: In other arts?
Q: In JKD.
HW: In JKD, within JKD?
Q: The first generation JKD.
HW: Okay. Well, the first generation JKD, we did possess power, we
were trained to have power, and we practised those things which would
give us the power, but of course - as time went on, some of us drifted off in the power, then of course drifts off with you, but then those of us who kept it up. The power remained, and you got stronger - and faster.
Q: Is there any JKD student from Bruce, the first generation student, that have this power and speed that you talked about - in your opinion?
HW: Well, power...there are those of us who were pretty strong back in those days, but as far as now time has taken his toll on a lot of them, and I would say, the only person that may have any kind of power probably now, would be Bob Baker (who played the evil russian in "Fist of Fury"). But as far as myself I'm the only one that was able to, from that generation, to keep it up, and to develop it without losing anything.
Q: You tell me about the principles of JKD?
HW: The principles of JKD is to maintain a level of proficiency that would stop your opponent in his first move, intercept him and destroy him, and utterly make sure that he can not get up and continue to fly at your throat. - Straight forward and to the point, that's what it's about.
Q: There's not many teachers teaching this today, because everyone expect that students to turn out like Bruce Lee, to get Bruce-like skills. Why isn't there any teacher out there, teaching his students in that way, and developing that students in that way?
HW: Because they themselves don't have the skills. How can you teach someone something you don't possess? (laughing...)
Q: Can you tell me about the truth in JKD, what the truth means?
HW: As it applies to what?
Q: As it applies to martial arts.
HW: To martial arts? The truth in JKD is that it is fast, powerful and deceptive. And it will stop you cold.
Q: Howard, after all these years, why have you decided to come out now?
HW: Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, I was talked, kind of coached into it, and then I had to re-think about it - and, find reasons within myself for why I wanted to come out. I was going to go head on and just be content, just keep the art to myself, because I wasn't one for looking for limelight, glory or any of this, I knew how to fight. That's there problem if they didn't. I was being so selfish about it. But the more I heard of the things and the cancerous disease that was being taught and spread to the public, the more it got to me and more angry I became and sometimes I could just hardly wait to get out there and tell the truth about what real Jeet Kune Do is all about. And the people who helped me to make this decision were Bob Baker, Ted Wong and Jerry Poteet.
Q: At what age did you start learn in JKD?
HW: At the ripe old age of 15.
Q: So take it you was the youngest member in the class?
HW: Yeah, not only was I the youngest one, I felt so out of place, because I was thrown into the advanced class, so to like 'You sink or swim, do or die'. James told me, he said "Don't worry about it, because we gonna be doing the same things over enough times where you will catch on, believe me.", and I got the chance to see how natural things were, and it didn't really take that long at all, because it was what came natural to me.
Q: In your memory, what was the relationship between James Lee and Bruce Lee, because they were both your teachers. They both taught you...
HW: Yes, they both taught me. Well, they were more like brothers, father and son, and best friends.
Q: Do you saying that Bruce looked to James as a father figure?
HW: Yeah, because of the age factor, and brother because of the closeness, and best friend because they hung out all the time. And he was always up there with Jimmy, at his house, so to like he wanted to impress upon him his latest development, how much he has developed. And everything that he'd shown Jimmy, Jimmy made sure that we got. There was no gap between the teachings.
Q: So Bruce did often come to the school?
HW: He was up there almost every other week.
Q: So, I'm willing to talk about when Bruce came along and said "No more JKD!", right?
HW: Well, I was at the time that...
Q: Wait, wait, wait! What was it he was teaching before? He was teaching "Intercepting Fist" or what was his teaching before?
HW: No, he was always...
Q: He was teaching JKD?
HW: Yeah, but it was Wing Chun before.
Q: Wing Chun he was teaching?
HW: Yeah, in the Seattle years. Then, by the time he came....it was always Jeet Kune Do.
Q: It was always Jeet Kune Do, and he changed, he stopped teaching JKD?
HW: NO, he never stopped teaching JKD.
Q: Well, you said this time he came in and he said "Today we gonna do
this, no more JKD." Or Jun Fan?
HW: Jun Fan, yeah.
Q: He was teaching Jun Fan?
HW: Alright, he was teaching Jun Fan, and then all of a sudden he changed and said "It's JKD, The Way of the Intercepting Fist".
Q: You was there that day?
HW: Right, and I was there that day that the stances changed, from this way (Wing Chun fighting stance) to this way (JKD fighting stance).
Q: Howard, we have on record that Bruce used to teach Jun Fan. Can you
explain what that is?
HW: Yes, Jun Fan was actually Bruces own style, he just used his name to teach another form of Gung Fu. That's all. It was nothing special, it was already tailor-made to Bruce, but he recognised the limitations within that way of teaching, so he even went further.
Q: What it did consists of, this Jun Fan?
HW: Well, mostly it consists of traditional kicks, some basic Gung Fu moves that were within the Wing Chun system.
Q: What happened in 1965?
HW: Well, in 1965 when I came into the school, he was just in transition. I guess he understood the limitations of what he had, and had to take it a step further. And when he did, it changed from this (Wing Chun fighting stance) to this (JKD fighting stance). So, and that was more economical, too. It was a lot smoother, the transition, more mobility, and then, what James did to help make it sink into us - was that he would use the classical version, and then showed us the revised version, so that we could appreciate the difference between the two styles.
Q: So, you was there the first day that Bruce decided to
change from Jun Fan, from Jun Fan....?
HW: Yes, Jun Fan.
Q:...and take it that you was there the first day when Bruce decided to
change from Jun Fan which he'd been teaching for many years to JKD.
Q: Can you tell me what happened that day?
HW: Well, James all of a sudden said "Well, everybody, we gonna change up now, so - listen up! Bruce had made a new development." And we said "What could that be?" We looked at each other, you know, and all of a sudden he showed us this new stance, and we all thought that it was boxing, you know. And I remember the way it was even called kickboxing at first, but it was called "Jeet Kune Do". And that's where it had its first roots right there, I remember changing it over and then, I began to feel more at home, because I knew the boxing part of it, and thare was more mobility in it, and then we still used the trappings and the things that were carried over. There were still some resemblance of the old art, but the speed and the power were much greater than the old stuff.
Q: In your training sessions did you use to fight for real, did you have protective equipment?
HW: We didn't use protective equipment back in those days. The only thing that protected us a lot of times was just the hand held over the face. And we were at the mercy of the other person at all times.
Q: Can you tell me what happened in your first meeting with Bruce?
HW.: That was an awesome experience, it really was. I never forget the time he showed us his sidekick, his newest development called the burning-step. I was in front of that one, that kick, because I was what Bruce called "Rugged", which I may explain to you later...I don't know. But I was in front of that kick, and he told me he was gonna kick me. And I stood there and he told me when I saw it coming to try to get out of the way. And I did the best I could to get out of the way, and believe me, it was a hopeless situation. By the time the kick had gotten to me, it stopped right on my chest, and I couldn't move back - it was too late to even think about moving, it was already there. And I felt the awesome power, I had a different respect for Bruce from that point on, because I realised the power that was coming from his kick. And it was really an amazing feeling to see something like that first hand, and we were all eager. I think that was the time that I was just determined to develop my kicks to be like Bruces. You know, we all go through those stages we want to be like our teachers, but I was just determined to develop my kicks. And I did! That's where the power comes from today in my kicks, from that one experience I had with Bruce.
Q: Around that time he was doing filmswork on the "Green Hornet" set. Did you see him during that period?
HW: Well, he used to come up between breaks and between shots, and thanks for that time period he and his family came up and he would continue to show Jimmy some more new development. It was not really a real vacation. It was just more of a visit, you know, it was family. And he visited our school. We were his students so to speak.
Q: We hear a lot about Bruces lightning speed. Is JKD really that fast as far as other martial arts?
HW: Oh yes. Yes, it is. I had to detest to that. But, we have to
understand that Jeet Kune Do is tailor-made to the individual. So speed is relative to the person himself. You have to have structural speed -- well, I take that back...Jeet Kune Do is a structurally fast art to begin with, and if you're a slow person, you have no place in Jeet Kune Do. But, then again, everyone can develop a certain amount of speed. But whatever you develop within Jeet Kune Do, you can apply that same day.
Q: Was Bruce Lee impressed with you as a student?
HW.: Well, he used to look at me and called me "Rugged", and I guess that meant something to me. I didn't know what it meant. I guess he meant physical toughness, so whatever he did, he took this lump of clay, me, and chiselled me down to what he wanted me to be, between him and James, so I am what I am today.
Q: What was James Lee's opinion of you, as a student?
HW: As a student he was quite proud of my development, he said I had natural attributes. The things that came natural for me, I remember him saying that Bruce had to work at. It's all in genetics, I believe it is, but I still had a long way to go. So that's when I got the name "Rugged", cause when James told Bruce these things, Bruce would then come to me and look at me and just keep saying "Rugged". And, from that point he just chiselled me down to what he wanted me to be. I was clay in their hands.
Q: In the Oakland school, would you say that Bruce was developing
fighters, real fighters, or just a keep fit workout?
HW.: No, no. This was not just an exercise for just keeping fit, although that was part of it. But he was developing real fighters, believe me, people that wanted to go out there and really stop a person, people who were prepared to fight and to defend themselves, not the little mickey mouse--things. You wanted to stay fit - you go to an aerobics gym, you wanted to dance - you go to a dance school, you want to learn to fight - you come to Jimmys school.
Q: Now the JKD that exists today, do you think it has the speed that Bruce had?
HW: Hm, the speed that Bruce had?
Q: Does it teach you to develop the speed that Bruce had?
HW: Schools that are nowadays?
HW: No - no way!
Q: Does it teach you to develop the power that Bruce had?
HW: No way!
Q: Why is this ?
HW: Because they lack the attributes, they lack the tools that it takes to develop such skills. They don't have the skills to hone in on developing, so how can they teach their students?
Q: Right. Tell me about projection. What do you mean by projection in JKD?
HW.: When I say project, I mean to be able to put into you what I want you to feel. It's emotional content or contact. It's what you feel, to bring it out of you, to be able to express yourself through your art, through your hands and feet.
Q: Is a lot of JKD mental? Like in most martial arts adhere it's 70% mental, 30% physical. Does that apply to JKD also?
HW: Well, yeah, but it depends on what you're thinking. You see, it's not so much the meditation or transcendental 'this or that'. It's being able to take what's inside your heart, what you feel, and being able to apply and project it through your hands and your feet, through your martial arts. Just like a painter - there's mechanics in everything that we do, but there's always a time when it becomes so natural. You feel so good about what you're doing that you can just paint it across the canvas, and they don't have to even hear a word you say, and know exactly what you mean.
Q: It seems a very heavy burden after all these years, to take on, you know, the responsibility of Bruce Lee's art - to continue it and develop it further. How do you feel about this, having that burden on your shoulder, because you yourself have decided to take this on?
HW: Well, it's something that must be done, or the art will die. The misconception that people have today is so sad when it comes to Jeet Kune Do. It's almost embarrassing to be associated with it - the way it stands today. But I'm determined that I will set the record straight, and those who are willing to learn and truly understand, I'm here to help. Otherwise, those who don't will be cast aside.
Q: Are you willing to share your knowledge with other JKD teachers around the world today?
HW: I don't mind sharing my knowledge with any martial arts teacher so long - well, I take that back: I'm very particular about who I share my knowledge with, that's why I never came out. But within our clan of JKD, if the teachers are willing to take time to learn how to truly fight, then yes, I'm willing to help them and lend my time to them, so that they can develop their students.
Q: Now in some of Bruces films we see him fighting with nunchaku chains and sticks. Was that part of your training program?
HW: No, we didn't get into weapons, because what Jimmy used to say
was "How many times are you gonna go walking around the street with sticks and knives in your hand?" You gonna only use what you have, and you had to learn to use what you have to defend yourself. You're not gonna say "Hey, wait a minute! I got to go and get my stick, I'll be right back now, do not move, I'm coming back!" - No! You gonna have to say "Okay, this is the way it is!" - Pow! (Fingerjab)- It's all over with, and then take the knife from him, and then go on with your business. So, we had to learn everything from our raw material - hands and feet.
Q: So, is stickfighting in JKD?
Q: Is it part of your program ?
HW: Well, let put it to you this way: I can take two sticks and apply JKD with them - and your swear that it was Kali, because the movements are natural. But all it is, it's just an extension of my hand. Simple as that. Nothing special, nothing to try and learn to do, just take the sticks and use them. You say "How is that possible without any prior training?" Simple - what you do with your hands, you could do with your sticks. Simple as that.
Q: Alright. Why has there never been any JKD competition for free fighting?
HW: Well, first of all, the reason that we never did have any of those things was that James and Bruce didn't believe in getting out there with the art and putting it in restrictive rules and regulations that govern contact fighters, tournament fighters, because this is strictly a street-fighting art where there are no rules that apply. Anything goes - 'Do or die, move - or you lose'-attitude. You could disqualified in tournaments with that attitude.
Q: Are you confident that you can teach students how to have Bruce-like skills, because it seems that this it what's lacking with other teachers? Many students go to dojos, hoping to get Bruce-like skills and came out disappointed.
HW: That's because the teachers don't have Bruce-like skills. You can't blame the students. Because they come to dojos to learn, and when the teacher doesn't have it - once again - your students won't either, and you just keep getting a more watered-down version of truth.
Q: What is this truth you talked about in relation to JKD?
HW: Well, the truth in relation to JKD is that it's always changing. The fact is: It's always changing - The truth in JKD is that it's always changing, where-as in other arts it's stylized, and limited and crystallized in 'this or that'-approach. And it's an unnatural approach. It's like trying to teach a lefthander how to be right-handed and vice versa. You can't do that. Teach the person where how to fight from where they are. Discover the cause of ignorance - that is also part of truth. Before you can teach truth you must understand where it comes from in relation to yourself. Not Bruce Lee, not James Lee, or any other person - but yourself. So JKD, when it comes to truth is only applied to ourself and the discovery of the cause of your own ignorance.
Q: What are the benefits of being a fighter?
HW: The benefits of being a fighter?
Q: ...as opposed to being a teacher. Or are you both?
HW: Well, I'm both. But I like to teach because in that way I can make sure that you're a fighter. Where-as just being a fighter doesn't guarantee you an ability to teach. So therefore, you can't project. You can not bring out the attributes in another person that would make maximum worth of their own natural abilities - so I'm both.
Q: I noticed in your character you're almost as cocky as Bruce was. Now you're very similar in the way in the attitude towards life.
HW: Oh, it's confidence. No one can have any more confidence in you than you do in yourself. If you go around with the defeatist attitude "I may not be able to do this, I may not be able to or I can't" - To me the word "can't" means "won't". If you trained for something long enough, and you train in the right way in the truth, then you have no problems with having focussing your confidence when it comes to others, and in your martial arts, and others can see it too. It's not being cocky, it's not being arrogant, it's just being able to understand who you are and being able to live it. If someone ask me my name, I don't have to put my head between my shoulders. I say "Howard", with pride and confidence.
Q: You have a nickname called "Flashpoint". Tell me about that.
HW: Well, that nickname came to me because of my instant ability to attack and to hit (laughs...)-that's when you get hit, when I hit you, it's a sudden flash of lightning, then all of a sudden darkness. It's something that have acquired is one of those names that stick with you. It's not meaned to be arrogant or disrespectful, but truth is truth.
Q: So you're known as Howard "Flashpoint" Williams?
HW: (laughs...) Yes! yes, I am!
Q: So, talk about this explosiveness. Is it the same thing as Bruce was trying to do?
HW: Exactly, exactly, exactly. There's no deviation and no variances between that. What I do, when I take off with my punches, my punches are as fast from take off as it is when it hits the target. Where-as most martial artists, when they hit they speed up between the different stages and try to, at the end, make contact. But I'm at a hundred and ten from my shoulder to contact - no variances in speed. So I get there quicker. It's-like you got to think: You got to get, you got to get there! You got to get there quick, and you got to get there in a hurry. If you take off slow and develop a top-in, you may not get there. But if you take off fast, it's like a dragster-You go through the target, and you win the race at the end. And you just go right through it, just tear his head off - explode through it!
Q: You did a demonstration for us over the weekend at the Ibis-hotel, while a JKD teacher or -instructor held the air shield and you kicked him.
HW: I remember that.
Q: Can you tell us what happened then?
HW: I told him that I was going to kick him, and how to hold the air shield so that he wouldn't get hurt. And how to go with the kick, so that there would be no real pain. But no, no, he didn't wanna listen. So he decided that he was gonna show me up so to speak, so he stiffened up. And when I made contact with him, with my left leg to by the way, he didn't go back as far as I anticipated him to go. But he took the brunt of the kick, and it hurt him bad, it hurt him in his ribs, and in his midsection.
And he almost would not be able to come back for the other two kicks, that did move him back. And as a result of stiffening up the first time he had told me that he was spitting up blood. And that was just with my left leg.
Q: I take it you never use your right foot?
HW: No, because I have emphasized so much power in my right foot, that I don't use it in demonstrations, because it goes through everything. One of the things that Bruce said, that distinguishes a true JKD-kick from the average other martial arts kicks, is that the power involved in it. It goes through everything. You can not block it, you can not stop it, you can't do anything to deter it, if you don't get out of the way. When it lands, it will cut you in two.
Q: Now, you're also a master of Bruces One -and Three-inch-punch.
Q: Can you tell us about the demonstration you did some time back?
HW: Yes, I remember, actually one of my students and trainers that I use to practice with - I used the One inch-punch to demonstrate the effectiveness and the power of being up-close in close quarters, and not being able to have time to draw back and then hit, but from right where you are, which was what James and Bruce taught us, and to develop on-the-spot power. I remember, I told him to pick up the telephone book, and there again, here again is where he messed up. I told him not to brace himself. Oh no, he wanted to show me that it's okay. So, he had the telephone book and put it against his triceps, and braced himself. And I told him, all I was gonna do was just extend my wrist and my elbow and explode from the waist. And he didn't believe anything either. So, I concentrated, freed my mind, and soon as I was ready I exploded right through him. And he dropped the phone book, he didn't move. And he couldn't breath either. And what happened? -He couldn't inhale, he couldn't exhale. And that was going on for a minute. And I was getting scared, I had thought I had seriously hurt him. And out of his own desperation for his own self, he was jumping up and down trying to get some air, and I guess, mother nature had mercy on him and he took a deep gasp. And he explained to me what it happened to him inside his body. He said he had felt that everywhere..., it was like a shock, a shock wave from head to foot, and from - I was hit him on the one side, and he felt the punch on the other, opposite side. And it had scared me to the point I never use it again, never use it again, or I make sure that they have ample protection. And because, I have seen people use the One inch-punch, and all they do is go back a few inches - no power, no nothing! And I said to myself, if they were in a streetfight they would get killed. They would literally beat them to a pulp because they have no way to stop that person whose gonna take their life, and they may not get a second chance. That's the one thing that motivates me, because I've seen so many people getting hurt out there in the streets - and I said if they only had proper training with what comes natural for them, then they could escape a lot of the troubles that'll be facing them in the streets.
Q: Now, in the early days, Jesse Glover was Bruces first instructor. Have you been in contact with Jesse since, are you good friends?
HW: Well, we're not good friends, but we do know each other, we spoke to each other. He knew my stepfather, and he knew my mother, and...well, I - like I said - was so young, you know, the youngest one of all of, and every-body else was fifteen or twenty years older than me. So I was just coming up on their coat-tails so to speak, but as time went on, we come to find out that - no matter how Bruce developed - the truth still remained the same: It is power, and speed, and directness. And the thing that really matters is not so much how strong you are, how quick you are, but who can get there first will determine the outcome of the encounter. And speed has its place in Jeet Kune Do, believe me. Power - I've seen people who hit with blinding speed, but it's like throwing a egg on a rock, it just crashed- nothing. I've seen people that have the strength of a rhino, but it took them ten years to get there, and then the opponent has already sliced them in the ribbons and is gone (laughs...). So you have to have a combination of both to be effective.
Q: So thank of that you and Jesse arrived at the same truth, the same conclusion. And both been involved in Bruces life in different times, different periods, you still arrive at the same truth. Why do you think that is?
HW: Because the principles were the same. It's just the way of applying them was a little different. Principles and truth - you don't change principles, you don't sacrifice principles for cause. Just because you develop a different way of applying your skills don't mean you change your principles, which is speed and power, hit, hit, hit, more hit!
Q: Tell me Howard, what is JKD for the people don't know the terminology?
HW: Okay. Well, Bruce really didn't wanna call it anything, because I'll tell you why: When you were a young kid, or teenager or I don't know, there's a time in your life that maybe someone picked a fight with you and you had to defend yourself. And that guy was really trying to knock your head off. What did you call it that you used to defend yourself? Think about that for a second! - OK Time is up- Nothing! You can't call it anything. Why? - Because it actually was you! You can not call you anything but yourself, the expression of you. It is not Jeet Kune Do. So I don't call my art "Jeet Kune Do", I call it the "Way of the Intercepting Fist". It's actually no name. Can you look at a bottle of orange juice without naming it, can you look at anything without naming it, can you look at yourself without naming it, naming who you are? You are only a human being, second - you're martial artist, third - anything else you wanna be. So, when it comes to defending yourself in the street you use that what comes natural to you at the time.
Q: So is this really what JKD is - what comes natural?
HW: What comes natural - that's all it is.
Q: It's not a style?
HW: It's not a style. That's why a lot of people don't adhere to it very well, because they're looking for this glorious flower-like expression, and it's not there. It's pow!(Jab)-to the point. And it's all over.
Q: So, the JKD systems that are being taught today - would Bruce have approved of a system being taught?
HW: System? No. Because you're teaching organized despair. So you instructors, you better pay attention of what you're doing (laughs...). The students -owe it, instructors, you owe it to the students to teach truth. That is, once again, the main reason why I've come out of the backgrounds, because I wanna- make sure that they have, at least, an intelligent choice to make between that which is being taught, and that which is the truth. Then they themselves can decide which one they want. It's not like I'm trying to dominate anything. I have it already! I want to give the people the chance to choose between that which is happening now, and that which Bruce wanted them to truly know. Then they can determine what truth is from there. And the reason that I'm personally doing it, is because the respect above all for Bruce, and for his legacy and what he wanted us to know. And according to him, all things exist first of all from within. They're are now being taught things that are from without, and they don't even understand who they are. How do you know what you're looking for if you don't first understand who you are? Discover the cause of ignorance within yourself and the battle is half-won. Then you have to be willing to learn, work hard and apply yourself to obtain the skills that Bruce wanted us to learn.
Q: This sounds like some of the philosophy that Bruce was speaking about in "Longstreet" - The TV-series "The Way of the Intercepting Fist".
HW: Yes, because in that program the philosophy that he teaches is truly the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. It's only in that series will you find the things that he really wanted us to know. That's not saying you go and get you some "Long-street"-Tapes, and you have the secret formular to success in Jeet Kune Do, no it isn't. It doesn't mean that. It just gives you an example of some of the things that he talks about and he lives by in Jeet Kune Do, that are not being taught today! In other words, what Bruce was saying is that he has seen through a clear glass darkly. He is beginning to discover the cause of ignorance, but he still is refusing to let go of the old, to learn the new. As he was mentioning in "Empty your cup that you might taste my tea!" That's simple direct philosophy, but it also tells you that in order to understand what I got to offer, you have to first be willing to say, "Okay, what I have is not functional, and I wanna learn that which does apply to me. How can I tailor-make the art to fit me?" Not to be like someone else or to hold on the some style that I've been used to and that's not working, or determine to be better yet. I know some people who say "I'm determined to make what I have work no matter what! I've spent ten years in this art, and I know it works!" - Well, the graveyard is full of people like that, and it will continue to be so.
Q: Now, your fists are like dynamite. Can you tell me what you call your right hand and what you call your left hand?
HW: Well, my right hand, to get hit with this right hand, to be seriously hit with this hand - is sudden death! I'm maybe smiling, but I'm dead serious. My left hand is six months rest, to get hit with this hand can put you away for atleast six months. So think about what you're doing. Maybe it will help discover some of the cause of your ignorance why you picked on me to begin with (smiling). - The reason why, is because when I train the way Bruce wanted us to train, is that we develop depth and penetration of the blow. I see a lot of martial artists when they hit something, they only hit the surface of it. They don't know how to drive through it, they don't know how to take this hand and put it behind the target that they're hitting. So, we have drills that we use to develop and hone those hidden powers so to speak, which is really nothing special to learn, it's just that you have to be willing to work hard. And if you're not willing to apply yourself, then you can't get out of something what you want. You only get what you put into it.
Q: Let's talk about the philosophy of Bruce's teachings and the philosophy of JKD. Has it died now with Bruce, or is it still continuing?
HW: You see, that troubles me when you say philosophy, you see, people have to understand Bruce did not want you to follow him, he wanted you to discover who you are and be your own leader. It is not so much: I want to develop my philosophy so that I can go around talking like Bruce Lee, and fighting like Bruce Lee, some want to look like Bruce Lee - No, that's not what he wanted. Although imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it won't get you anywhere in the street. Make no mistake -he wanted you to be a fighter first, but first of all you are a human being. When you understand who you are in relationship to that, then you can apply your art to any walk of life that you might travel in. And understand that, and you develop your own philosophy based up on the guidelines that Bruce was trying to teach you through his philosophy. He didn't want you to imitate his philosophy - No! You lose the point that way. It is like what he said in "Enter the Dragon", when he pointed his finger to the sky. He said, "Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory!" We're concentrating too much on Bruce Lee. No, he didn't want you to concentrate on him, concentrate on what he was trying to project through his fighting skills, through understanding who you are, so that you can discover your own heavenly glory.
Q: Tell me about the story about the Tai Chi fighter in the Oakland school.
HW: Oh yes, there was this one guy one Sunday we were on up, my step-father and I were on the way to training. And we got about a half block away from Jimmys house, and we saw this man come realing knocked backwards down the driveway, and we said, "Look at that man! What's happening?" So by the time we got up there, we said, " Jimmy, what happened?" He said, "Did you see that?" I said, "Yeah, we saw him. What happened?" - The man was trying to sit back and plot, and plan and scheme ways of developing a defense against what he have, and he figured he was pretty good at it. In fact, his...I won't say his name, I'm not gonna name drop him, but he was a student of Tai Chi, and he figured that it would work against us. And Jimmy said, "I'm so glad you saw that, because Bruce would never believe it." Not that he didn't doubt the effectiveness of the technique, but that Jimmy actually knocked somebody down the driveway at his home. It is not hard to conceive, cause Jimmy was a strong man, but because of his age, you know, and he was getting up there. Bruce being 20 years younger than him, was more physical than Jimmy, but Jimmy was a great practitioner too, don't get me wrong, and a better teacher to me than Bruce, because he took time and made sure that we learned the technique, over, and over, and over. Those who got tired left and never came back. Those who stayed learned. And I was one of those who stayed - and learned.
Q: Now, Bruce often worked out with Linda. Can you tell me what was the reason behind Bruce first trying out experimental things on his wife Linda? What was the reason behind this?
HW: Well, the main reason was to experiment. It was like she was the closest human to him, and most times was the only one around he could work on, or work with, so he used her to refine the art, experiment, see if the techniques worked. Then, he would bring it to us. If it didn't get passed her, we never saw it, we never saw it, - and you know why: Being if you can't get around a woman, it would not work in no streetfighting (laughs...).
Q: So, did Linda Lee often come down to the school also?
HW: Yeah, her and her kids they came down to. We were all like family, we just stuck together, went to parties, went to restaurants, went to dinners and do things together. Yeah, we stuck out, we hung out.
Q: So, I hear from a good source that you actually helped to paint Bruces house. Can you tell us about that?
HW.: Yeah, we all went down there to do that, it wasn't just me, we all went down there to do that. It was an experience, it was just some-thing that do...it was like a house-warming thing, you know, you get together to have a Gung Fu gapfeast. And it was fun, you know, beautiful. It was just an experience. There were times we didn't need have to work out, we just hung out. But then there were times and there was time to work out, and they got serious.
Q: Talk about a few stories about Bruce Lee. Where you can remember, where you went, any little things, you know? Just general.
HW: Bruce liked to joke around, he was a very practical joker. He had a quick temper, too, but basically it hardly ever surfaced unless he felt he was being shystered out of something, or when he knew a person had the potential for something and they refuse to let loose, and relax and to go with it, then you could see some of the anger come out, but it was mostly frustration, because he wanted so badly to see that person have decent fighting apparatus within himself and to develop it, and you know, it's just some people would just born with certain abilities, and that was it.
Q: Have you ever seen him lose his temper?
HW: Well, I've seen him raise his voice and I've seen him take it out sometimes on students, but I've never seen him really get mad, and really wanna punch out somebody. No, I've never seen that. I guess that was all done behind the scenes of his movies and things when he had to have that in order to survive, because there are so many different personalities to have to deal with, and is a lot different than teaching somebody martial arts. I remember, sometimes Jimmy used to tell us that some of the things that happened in his past, about Iron Palm training and why it was useless as opposed to just developing strength and depth and penetration. Now, I don't have any calluses on my hands, but I do have marks on my knuckles from where I practiced on different surfaces, but there are not calluses. It' just discoloration of the knuckles from my training, you can see it. But it's not hard, but the power that's behind it is hard. That comes from inside you, and then projects outside, but you only get out of something what you put into it. I put in a lot of hours in training. And I'm still developing, too. I am still not as fast as I can be and will be and get a lot more powerful. I can get a lot stronger, and I think about maybe one and a half times faster than I am now.
Q: But I hear you're very fast.
HW.: That's just the flawless non-telegraphic moves that I have. I don't telegraph my moves - pow!(Fingerjab) - Did you see that? But you know that's to me as not as fast as I can be. I personally feel that I can develop my speed to the point where it doesn't look like I move at all, and they won't me too long before I get to that point. One person asked me, "Is all that speed necessary?" Then I said, "Well, it is, because you don't wanna waste time." - The older you get, the laws of physics are against you, and you have to be a lot wiser, you have to get there quicker, you can not waste time jumping around like some rabbit or some fancy boxer, you know, you don't wanna spar with that person. You wanna get close enough that there is no way where he can go, in other words - you wanna put yourself where you're safe, but he's not. My age right now, at my age, I still have some speed and power to be developed, and some people think I'm fast now, but in a few months to a year they haven't seen nothing yet. And I know this from in my heart, not just because I'm saying something from the top of my head. I'm 39 years old, that's irrelevant, but yet it is important to realize that the older you get - you can't waste motion. Economy of motion becomes very important. You wanna put yourself in a position in relationship to the fighter where you're safe, but he's not. Anything that he does - you can catch him, but he can't catch you. You don't need to be bouncing around like some fancy boxer, trying to prove a point, you don't wanna be another Muhammed Ali. You see, you don't wanna imitate any those things, that's gonna cost you to waste time and motion, it can cost you your life. I'm still developing and honing in my own skills, and I can become one and a half times faster than I am now, and a lot more powerful, even at this age. There's no limit to physical conditioning, except when you die.
Q: Tell me Howard, is JKD for women?
HW: Yes, indeed. JKD can be for anyone who is willing to learn.
Q: Now, did Bruce ever teach his wife JKD?
HW: Yes, he taught her, but he used to tell her that as far as he was concerned the best thing a woman can do against a man in reality is poke him in the eyes, kick him in the groin and run like hell.
Q: Now, your training program was very heavy. Did Bruce drive his
students very hard?
HW.: Jimmy did!...James did that's for sure. Bruce - I'm sure he drove his students hard also, but basically they couldn't keep up with the paces, true paces of Jeet Kune Do. That's why the class fluctuated so much, because they couldn't keep up with the paces of the training.
Q: Your sidekick is very powerful, your right kick you never use, hardly ever use in any demonstration because of the excessive power you have. Can you tell me about the 300 pound bag Bruce used to have for kicking in training?
HW: It wasn't a bag, it was a spring-loaded heavy car-shock type of kicking apparatus, and it weight over 300 pounds. And we had to drill on our sidekicks by kicking that thing, and if you had a good one, it would mash all the way down. It was a board, and it would go all the way back. If it wasn't a good kick, it would kick you back and it wouldn't go anywhere. You make a little noise, but it wouldn't move. So that's how he gaged the sidekick. And he gave us a lot of drills and exercises to develop the kick.
Q: Now, what Bruce used to do to this 300 pound piece of equipment?
HW: Well, he was able to drive it all the way back at will and rocked the foundation, just as I was. The only ones, the only ones...
Q:...you and Bruce?
HW: Me and Bruce!
Q: Now, James Lee often discussed you with Bruce. Do you know what they
HW: Well, Greg Lee used to mention that he often heard his father and
Bruce talking about me, and the developing of my skills, and especially
my sidekick, being able to rock the same kicking machine that he did, the
same way with the same power. And one day I was in Bruces presence and he called me "Rugged", and I got that nickname because of my ability and
size. So, he felt he has something to work with. He could mold me and
chiseled away all my nonessentials to make me into what I am today. And
in between him and James, they did pretty good.
Q: How old were you when James Lee acknowledge you as a superfighter?
HW: I was 19, 19 or 20.
Q: Do you think you're almost as fast or as fast as Bruce Lee?
HW: Well, according to James I was a natural as far as my abilities were concerned. And I didn't have to work at it as hard as Bruce had to work at it, but I don't compare myself with my Sifu in that manner. He saw what I had, and he took it and developed it into what I have today. I don't like to compare my speed with his speed. I don't like to do those things, it's disrespect. I respect my Sifu. They were my Sifu's. And when you work hard at something, it is their pride and joy to see you develop and even surpass them, because that way they can see the fruits of their labor, and it had not been in vain. So had he been alive today, he probably would be very pleased, I would think, and would probably want to do more things with me. So in that respect I would say: My speed in relation to his? - Who knows where it could have taken me? I'm still not through with developing my speed.
Q: Tell me in your words what you think a true fighter should be?
HW: In my words a true fighter should first be physically fit, strong and capable. That's just the outter attributes. But there are some people who don't possess those physical abilities, but they have the heart and they have the true way of thinking. To me they can be just as good, because every fighter, every human being has something that he can develop to use to defend himself and can increase the skill in. To go along with the fact of what a true fighting ability consists of - now, I personally would say that you can have all the fighting skills that you want. You can be the best fighter in the world! But if streetfighting is the only place that you can apply Jeet Kune Do, then to me you missed three forths of its meaning, because the philosophy behind Jeet Kune Do goes a lot deeper than just fighting. What makes a person good is the way they think. So you think - so you are.
Q: How did James Lee's passing affect you?
HW: It was a great shock to me, because I felt like I was lost with-
out a teacher. And Bruce was too far away at the time from me to just run
down to him and to become a part of his organization, with his club. So
it was a great loss to me. But little did I know: that I had all I needed
to know for the rest of my life and I needed to do was just to continue
to develop, because I had the thinking already, and the ability. There
was nothing else to learn - fightwise, except continual applying oneself.
Q: Now, how did James Lee die?
HW: James died of what is called today as the "Black Lung". He was a welder by trade, and he took sick, and they didn't have the same protective devices they have today to protect welders from that illness and he suffered for it. He has been welding for 20 years and it took its toll on him.
Q: Now, after about half a year Bruce also died. What did you feel about
HW: I couldn't believe it. Here we got a revolutionary system and both of their founders and instructors - gone, in a moment of time. And it's unbelievable. It was just hard to believe in all of a sudden all the Bruce Lee-would-be's came out of the woodwork like roaches and everybody was honing in on trying to be the next Bruce Lee, "Bruce Lee this that, and the imitators and then they were on cinema. So it really made me sick, and I refused to go to any other school, because I wanted to keep what I had pure and what they taught me the same and just develop from there. From what they taught me up here (points to his head) I could use to shape my entire life in Jeet Kune Do. And it can used in any other form of life too, even in riding my car, going to the store, anything. Jeet Kune Do, the philosophy behind it applies to everything. It's a way of life.
Q: Do you think that any instructors or students around now living that
way of life?
HW: They may have been a time when they had the attributes, but they
like something else, when you don't apply something, you lose it. When
you don't use a muscle, you lose its strength. They became Jeet Kune Do-
atrophies, they just lost the way. They have memories, but that's about
Q: And your task now is to put them on the right path again?
HW: Right, that's my whole goal in coming back from the woodworks so to speak - is to set the record straight again. Set those who are willing to be set straight, and shape those out who aren't willing to be shaped.
Q: So are you willing to discuss this with the existing JKD teachers or
clans as they are known?
HW: Well, I feel it's time to start a whole new beginning and get rid of the old and bringing the new. You know, as they say in the Bible: The wheat
and the tares grow together, so you have to dig them all up together, and
sift out those that are no good, and those that are, will remain. And from that we have something to start from again. It's only fair that those who
are trying and are truly interested have a fair chance. Right now they are
on the right train but on the wrong track, and the light that they see at
the other end of the tunnel that they think is daylight, is only another
train. According to Jerry Poteet, Ted Wong and Bob Baker, out of that
first generation group I'm the only one qualified to continue and to
carry on in that tradition. And it's not that I'm out to challenge anyone,
I'm not trying to get any fame or glory, that doesn't interest me - Truth
does, and helping those who are willing to learn, that's where I come in.
Setting them straight and helping them to discover the cause of their
ignorance, and if the instructors that are involved want to learn, then
I'm really happy to teach. Simple as that.
Q: Now Howard, can you tell me what a One inch-punch is? We hear that
Bruce developed the One - and the Three inch-punch. Were this ever taught
Howard Williams : Yes, it was taught, and it generates a lot of power. It's the most- actually it was meant to demonstrate the effectiveness of the on guard- position where not having to draw back and come in from right here - can give men any type of headache you want from close quarters, that
you would if you would draw back and give a haymaker. In fact the One
inch-punch and the two inch-punch has a lot more power than most punches
starting from eight inches away. But if you have true power, and you
start from eight inches away, you have nothing to worry about. But the
true ability to give a One inch-punch lies in the simple chemistry of
focussing. Bringing together all the elements into one, and concentrating
on them, and when you do, you realize that you have something in you that
you have never, never imagined possible! It is a dangerous thing to come
in contact with a true One - or Two Inch-punch. I know a couple of my
friends almost, well one for sure I know, almost died from one that I
gave him. And I demonstrated it to several people out here where I am now, and they have never seen anything like it. And in comparison to what they've seen, what they've seen is according to maybe five year old -punching strength - in comparison. Now, I remember when I first learned the One - or Two inch-punch I had to practice, and practice, and practice. And I was so frustrated that I went back to Bruce and asked him to show me how it was done. And he told me to watch. And when he did it, I paid close attention, and you can imagine the concentration that I've had at that moment trying to learn how he did it. And when I watched him, all of a sudden - boom!- he exploded and asked me how did it feel. And I said I wasn't concentrating, I just focussed in...He said, "That's it!" That was the secret: Focus! Clearing your mind of all the obstructions that are in it. Being able to bring together into focus all the training that you have been taught throughout all the years and months that you put into practice, and just do it without thinking. It didn't dawn on me - I was struggling to try to do something that came natural. That's the whole secret of the whole legacy of the "Intercepting Fist" - doing that which comes natural. I know some people who look at an art and say, "Well, the more complex it is, the better it should work." - No, on the contrary!
Bruce Lee as I knew him is what I like to just briefly touch on for right now. You know, there's a lot of myth to a lot of things happening, but what is real should be made mentioned - and that is that Bruce Lee was first and foremost a human, then he was a martial artist. Anything else that he developed stemmed from within those two elements - being human and a man. And a lot of people asked me "What about Bruce Lees training methods?" Well, there are a lot of boxers who train hard, a lot of skiers who train hard, but what is it that sets them apart from those who are just mediocre versus those who become champions, and go on to excel beyond that which is required of them? Is it their physical ability? -No! Is it something else? - Of course! So then, what is it? First of all, Bruce was in a physical specimen. Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco, but he was raised in Hongkong. Now as a kid he was skinny, puny and wasn't much to really look at. But as he got older he started to worry about that, and wondered what it would be like to be alone without his friends in an alley way somewhere, and he had to defend himself. So he began to take up Wing Chun, and he began to study it. His father actually was his first teacher, but ofcourse, that wasn't enough for Bruce. He began to lay the foundation for what makes a champion from right there, because it wasn't enough for him to have just one, he wanted to know everything, and he wanted to be good at it. Okay, so he persists and continued, and eventually by the time he was 18 became a man that decided he wanted to come back to his roots in San Francisco. By then he was pretty adept in Wing Chun, and he moved to Seattle, of course most of you know this. And he opened up a little school there, and began doing his thing there, and he realized that his Wing Chun was fast, but it lacked power. And then that was the first discovery of his limitations in the art, and each limitation discovered disturbed Bruce immensely, and he was determined he wanted to overcome that weakness, each weakness. So he persists and continued and he became power-crazed. So he had what was called "Turbo Wing Chun", "Turbalized Wing Chun", and the power that it was meant to have. Then he thought he was "holy terror", until he went back to Hongkong, and guess what he discovered: That he wasn't as good as he thought he was, you see. The people that were in his class with Yip Man were also developing, and were able to get in on him about as many times as he was able to get in on them, if not even more. Once again, proving that Bruce was mortal, he was human, and he was fallible. So, that disturbed him so bad, after developing all that power, that he almost gave up martial arts altogether, when he came back to Seattle in the United States - he was so distraught that he wanted to quit. But he thought about it, and he began to realize that there's a limitation that he couldn't live with, and he couldn't just give it up. Then he began to raise the caliber higher and persue the cause of his ignorance. That's where he began his first step in a 1000 miles-journey. Discovering what his weaknesses were, and limitations were and trying to humanly compensate for that as best as possible. Discovering truth is not easy - once you find it out it hurts. Then being able to override and rise above takes a little more inside here than most people are willing to put out. Just because you're good at skipping rope, punching bag and all that -doesn't mean a thing! It's what's inside you, is the essence of 'you', the real 'you' comes out then. Are you willing to do what it takes to become a champion? In Bruces life - he was! He was determined that he was going to make it work, and find out what he can do to make it better. So he began to modify, and to cultivate, and to read books, everything that there was on fighting - different fighting styles, different everything. What he was doing was the birth of Jeet Kune Do. But he didn't even know that then himself. All he was doing was discovering the cause of his own ignorance. And out of that came the knowledge of what we have today, and it continued to grow. But that wasn't enough for him: He still had the drive to wanna be the best, even within his own ranks. He was his best friend and worst enemy. He was in competition with himself, not the people out there in the martial arts world, but with himself. If he wasn't satisfied with the progress he made, then he did not rest until he found out further the cause of that ignorance, and continued to develop, and continued to develop. The older he got, the wiser he got, the better he got and the more determined he was to succeed - those are the attributes that was in him, and everybody that he taught along the way had those same attributes put into them in the first generation Jeet Kune Do. I was fortune enough to be there to see a lot of that transition, and to be in on a lot of that change, and the birth of a new system, a new way of thinking, a new way of fighting. And then, the philosophy that followed, - was truly not to call it anything, but an expression of who you are. Find out the cause of ignorance, then you find out who you are. When you find out who you are, then you can apply it to your art. Within the framework and the structure of Jeet Kune Do was laid the philosophy that we live by today in the art. Excellence breeds excellence, success breeds success, failures breed failures. But nothing beats a failure but a try, and no matter what you have, who you are, what system you come from - you can always learn something from Jeet Kune Do, and apply it. You see, my job is not to take you and change who you are. But to take what you have, and make it better. Help you discover what you have, and its weaknesses, its cause of weakness and the ignorance that lie behind it - and strengthen them. And eliminate all the weaknesses that you have, and concentrate only on that which comes natural, whether it be a straight jab, kick, punch, anything. Take it, and make it better for you. That is what Bruce drove himself hard to give to us today, the legacy that we have today. And it's not being taught, it's not being passed down properly -so that's again where I come in, to help you discover the cause of ignorance. Not to be like Bruce Lee, but to be like you, to be the best you can be - that's what it's all about!
Best, Nick Clarke
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Sad to hear about Mr. William's passing. Thanks for sharing this interesting interview, I think the part that will stick with me is the "the word 'can't' really means 'won't'", good thing to think about the next time I face something I think I "can't" do. I guess a good teacher can continue to point towards truths even after he or she no longer with us physically.
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