Jabbar On Lee

Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

August 28th, 2018, 6:48 pm #1

From the paperback book "Giant Steps" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peter Knobler, Pgs. 185–190, Bantam Paperback Books, 1985

I had started to study Aikido back in the summer of 1967 at the New York Aikikai, and when I had returned to California that fall the Publisher of Black Belt Magazine told me he knew a guy who had developed his own new style of fighting, very extraordinary, and maybe I’d want to go work with him. The guy’s name was Bruce Lee.

“Oh the actor,” I said. I’d seen him on television as Kato in The Green Hornet, and he’d been terrific, so sure, I said, I was curious enough to meet him.

We were introduced, and I immediately felt like I was in a struggle. For Bruce Lee, I found quickly, every encounter was like a battle; it was a means of testing his philosophy and ideas against whomever he was dealing with. Here was a strong man; I thought as we talked, this guy doesn’t play. After an hour or so of very strenuous conversation, I found myself saying, “Okay, you’re the man with the knowledge, let’s see what it’s all about.” I started training with Bruce, who was six years older than I was, and continued training with him until his death five years later.

Bruce was a brilliant and unconventional martial artist, a total pragmatist. In many of the traditions the martial arts were used to develop character as well as prowess, but Bruce felt that was another job completely and concentrated entirely on aspects of fighting. Through training for combat, he believed, character would evolve.

His strength began with his amazing concentration. Everybody has it, that terrific strength and total calm you find inside yourself when you absolutely need it in crisis situations: the astonishing ability to lift a van off your pinned child or to control a car in an icy skid with your passenger’s safety in your hands. Bruce showed me how to harness some of what was raging inside me and summon it completely at my will. The Chinese call it chi; the Japanese, ki; the Indians, prana – it is the life force, and it is incredibly powerful.

I was familiar with the concept of chi, but Bruce showed me how to direct it, to focus it for fighting. I extended this and used it in preparation for basketball as well. The most important element in dealing with stress is presence of mind. People get excited and forget about everything. You have to be in full control; then it’s a matter of concentration. In the original Kung Fu movie someone is throwing these steel, star-shaped disks at David Carradine, and the camera shows, in slow motion, how he avoids these weapons, has plenty of time to defend himself, is in no real danger where other men might wind up dead. I was quite amazed to find, after working with Bruce, that when I really had my presence of mind, when I did indeed control my life force, that’s what I saw, things coming in slow motion with plenty of time to get out of the way. It sounds bizarre, and it can’t be explained adequately except to those who have already experienced it, but it’s one of those willable miracles.

It sounded mystical when he first told me, but I was becoming increasingly involved in matters of faith, and besides, Bruce grounded his philosophies in a good fight, which I could relate to. Bruce received most of his martial arts training in Hong Kong, where the differing disciplines often settled their philosophical disputes by force. Over there, when you joined up with a martial arts school it was also a school of thought, as if you’d been adopted by a family. Students called each other “brother,” and if any of them was attacked there was the question of face being lost, a matter of honor, you were expected to fight. The leading disciple of one school would challenge the best man of another, and a blood match would be arranged. You can lock off the rooftops in Hong Kong, Bruce told me, and as each school’s followers lined the hallways to prevent foul play or interference, they would go at it. People regularly lost teeth and ears, got their noses broken or eyes gouged. It was serious.

Bruce Lee was an innovator; he had little use for the traditions. Many martial arts teachers enjoy the esteem of a system that supports them because of their continuity, though their teachings may be discredited. Bruce was a young man; he could out-fight the old masters, and he could out-argue them on paper. In a practical demonstration he could pinpoint glaring weaknesses in their fighting style, and in lectures he continually revealed big holes in their philosophical theories. He pared down what he saw as the cute, inessential mannerisms that had crept into the teachings, techniques that did not give you any real advantage in a real fight. He described it as “learning how to swim on land,” all these elaborate little movements you can learn that may be lovely but don’t help you to swim. He had no patience for such uselessness.

As a result, Bruce made a lot of enemies. On a TV panel show in Hong Kong, he once told me, a master had said “Look, I’m going to get into my stance, and you can’t push me over,” as if to prove a point. The man took his stance; Bruce walked over and punched him in the mouth to show him that the stance didn’t mean anything, that fighting had nothing to do with parlor tricks.

Bruce and I were invited to observe a martial arts demonstration by a school he didn’t have much to do with. When the display was over, Bruce spoke briefly to the class, was very polite. Wished everybody good luck, told them they were very hard-working and dedicated. When we got outside he said, “Those guys are turkeys. If it was necessary, all you’d have to do is watch my back, and we’d kick them all in the ass.”

Bruce developed a revolutionary movement that he called the Six-Inch Punch. Teachings through the ages held that a blow with the front or lead fist was not very powerful; it had to travel from the rear area to the front in order to gain enough power to score a point or do any damage. Bruce said, “Why eliminate a valuable weapon? Why not use every source of power available?” He planted both feet and taught himself how to deliver a truly punishing bow that, through his concentration and technique, summoned his full chi and travelled like a piston only six inches from his body to his opponent’s. When he demonstrated it on me, I became an immediate believer. His wife, more than a hundred pounds lighter than I was, hit me with it and rocked me.

Bruce and I sparred regularly. I presented a lot of problems to him because of my size and also because I was agile enough to move with him and use my reach advantage to tag him as he came in to attack. But we didn’t compete: I was like a drawing board on which he could work out his theories, and he was instructing me how to deal with people and attack them.

I brought my friend Malek up there once. Malek played ball at UCLA and can definitely handle himself, and for a while, as they sparred, he held his own. He danced and moved, and Bruce didn’t touch him. But the longer it took Bruce to get through, the more his face hardened. Malek was concentrating so hard, was so intimidated by Bruce’s dead glare that before he knew what had happened he had been backed into a wall, and Bruce was all over him.

Malek also wonders how Bruce managed his spinning back kick. Bruce, he swears, jumped up, took his right foot up past Malek’s face, then caught him a solid shot from the other direction with the same foot. And then landed. How he did it Malek, doesn’t know.

Bruce was an amazing martial artist, but I responded to him for several other reasons, as well. He had been hurt by racism and said so. After having played Kato on The Green Hornet, he worked with the people who developed the Kung Fu character and was supposed to star in the television series. He would have been perfect, a master working his art before a national audience, but whoever it was that decided such things made it clear to Bruce that they didn’t think a Chinese man could be a hero in America. They passed over Bruce and gave the part, and the stardom, to David Carradine.

Bruce was hired as a martial arts advisor on one Hollywood film and a stunt supervisor on another. They wanted to exploit his expertise, and his martial arts cinematography was among the best ever directed, but having been told that his career extended as far as valet to the stars, Bruce was seriously motivated to go back home and work with his people. He returned to Hong Kong, gained some access to people in power, and made the movie, The Big Boss. It was a hit; Bruce’s acting ability and charisma obvious. When Fist of Fury came out, his reputation grew, and he became a superstar in the Orient.

We had talked about my being in a movie with Bruce, and in 1972 he was finally in a position to call the shots. I flew to Hong Kong, and we shot my sequences, though that movie (Game of Death) was tabled for a time while he made Enter the Dragon. A year later, I was travelling in the Orient, about to leave Singapore to meet him in Hong Kong, when I heard he’d died. I missed seeing him by twelve hours. I would like to have seen him even one more time. When Dragon was released here, he was finally an American celebrity.

I met Bruce when he was first developing his fighting style, but it wasn’t really obvious to me that I was working with someone who was going to become a martial arts immortal. Bruce was, during this whole time, my friend, and I think we allowed each other to become close because I was as prominent in my field as he was in his. There wasn’t any real competition, no clash of egos, and Bruce needed friends. Bruce quite righty thought of himself as a strong person. He never showed any sign of weakness in his fighting persona, and he refused to show any vulnerability in his personality.

I was over at his house one afternoon. We’d just finished working out; it was sunny and warm, and Bruce said, “Hey, I have to go and drop something off at a friend of mine’s house.”

“I might go with you, I offered.”
“You want a ride.”
“Yeah,” I said, “where is it? Is it far away?”
“No,” he said, “it’s near Lobertson.”

He meant Robertson, an avenue off Venice Boulevard, but maybe two or three times a year his Chinese accent would sneak through.

Bruce’s face went cold. Like when he was stalking Malek. He thought I was going to mock him and, friend or no friend, he wanted to fight me. I saw him begin to coil, and I grabbed him and hugged him, and we began to laugh. I couldn’t tell anybody, of course; it was the kind of confidence that cements a friendship, but as I let go he punched me on the arm, real hard, just to let me know he was still Bruce Lee.
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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

August 29th, 2018, 11:21 am #2

Very interesting article. In GOD, Bruce Lee manages to beat Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar with a side choke he probably learned from Gene Lebell (we can see this choke in the Tao of Jeet Kune do). Although he probably did not use ground fighting during his friendly sparring sessions with Karreem, I wonder what was his game plan for solving the size problem of his unconventional opponent...
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Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

August 29th, 2018, 4:41 pm #3

In the movie it is longest weapon, nearest target, via the 5 ways - especially a lot of PIA...into an eventual Immobilization...

In real life?

Perhaps in a manner closer to how he did that with Norris - but only after he first took out enough of his limbs to bring him down to a much more manageable size before finishing him off with that choke.

But absent of the choke, for in real life Bruce had been about putting some one out as quickly as possible...
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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

August 29th, 2018, 6:44 pm #4

Yep, I also thought about the PIA. But in reality, KAJ explained made it clear that it was not so easy to close the distance on a bigger opponent. Especially when we consider that the footwork is one of the most important skill a basketball player may have. One can therefore wonder how Bruce Lee used his JKD kick boxing against Kareem… On the other hand, the strategy he uses in GOD is entirely in line with the principles of MMA. He had already demonstrated on Bob Wall that he knew how to dodge a punch to perform a double leg. On Ji Han Jae, he did the same thing with a single leg. Lee proves therefore, that he understood the strategy of grappling. And Gene Lebell in this area has certainly helped a lot. It’s a shame that we do not know much about how he used the technical elements he had gathered and how he could apply them for real ...
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Joined: July 25th, 2015, 1:24 pm

August 29th, 2018, 7:12 pm #5

I actually find that against a person that is way taller than you , it is actually easy to close the gap even if you two have the same speed. by "Close the gap" I mean, do it on your terms (when you want to and not be hit and come in the way you want with the weapon u want, not meaning hit the clinch by accident). I am speaking purely sparring here.
Bruce session with this guy probably was more a sparring session where Bruce was trying stuff that is why he did that fancy spin kick on him. Had he sensed a real danger he most likely would have straight blasted him .
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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

August 29th, 2018, 7:41 pm #6

It was friendly sparring but Bruce was someone who "played seriously". It seems obvious that grappling was not used during his sessions. However, it would be interesting to know what kind of technique he wanted to test. The straight blast seems logical, especially on an opponent who is not very trained. But if that was the case, Kareem apparently was able to avoid it.

Bruce could also dodge punches to enter the clinch safely (as in the movie). He certainly showed the basic principles of his research in GOD. Alas, only Kareem knows the answer ...
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Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

August 29th, 2018, 10:51 pm #7

[quote="albrado"]
Yep, I also thought about the PIA. But in reality, KAJ explained made it clear that it was not so easy to close the distance on a bigger opponent. Especially when we consider that the footwork is one of the most important skill a basketball player may have. One can therefore wonder how Bruce Lee used his JKD kick boxing against Kareem… On the other hand, the strategy he uses in GOD is entirely in line with the principles of MMA. He had already demonstrated on Bob Wall that he knew how to dodge a punch to perform a double leg. On Ji Han Jae, he did the same thing with a single leg. Lee proves therefore, that he understood the strategy of grappling. And Gene Lebell in this area has certainly helped a lot. It’s a shame that we do not know much about how he used the technical elements he had gathered and how he could apply them for real ...
[/quote]

Speaking of the fascinating challenge of taking out a huge, huge guy, how's the following for a challenge?

YouTube Video Title:

Tall Man vs Short Man Funny Fight

Alternate Link:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oXPyBQ6vdI&app=desktop

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Joined: August 26th, 2018, 8:39 pm

August 30th, 2018, 6:14 am #8

In this case, you need a sling. 
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Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

August 30th, 2018, 4:27 pm #9

[quote="albrado"]
In this case, you need a sling. 
[/quote]

Lol - "longest weapon."
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Joined: August 19th, 2018, 12:49 am

September 5th, 2018, 12:23 am #10

Lol, looks like I called it right.

Just recently read the following on page 209 of Matt Polly's tremendous book "Bruce lee: a life."

"They also spared. 'Lou (KAJ) was too slow. He could never touch me,' Bruce told Mito (Uyehara). 'But he has such long arms and legs, it was impossible for me to hit his face or body. The only target open was his lead knee and shin. In a real fight, I would have to bust his legs.'"

In other words, PIA (Progressive Indirect Attack) via LWNT (longest weapon, nearest target).

By the way, Polly, you forgot to cite the source on that one :)
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