What I Have Learned Through Beimo
by Sifu Wong Shun Leung
It is this aspect of Wing Tsun training that makes it especially well suited for women who need to learn to fight back. Women are often more intuitive than men in their approach to problem solving. In the end, Wing Tsun is nothing more than a “new” way of problem solving. You learn to solve the problem of (usually male) violence. Developing the confidence, and the natural fighting spirit that goes along with that greater confidence is a natural part of Wing Tsun training. Wing Tsun builds upon the student’s existing strengths to produce a more well-rounded, secure, and aware person. Everything depends on how much you put into your training. But Wing Tsun can literally set you free! (from fear of violence, from your own bad mental and physical habits, and from restrictive, counter-productive beliefs and attitudes)
The following article is a personal account of what Wing Chun master, sifu Wong Shun Leung feels are the main lessons he has learned about combat through his experiences of “beimo” or skill comparison, a somewhat subtle way of naming the many full-on fights he had with practitioners of literally dozens of Chinese and other fighting systems during his forty plus years as a Wing Chun devotee. The “beimo” is a long established tradition in the Chinese martial arts and in the Hong Kong of the 1950’s and 1960’s, one name shone out like a beacon when “beimo” was the topic of discussion. That name was Wong Shun Leung, student of Wing Chun patriarch Yip Man, classmate and trainer of Bruce Lee, and the man who became known in martial art circles as “Gong Sau Wong”, the “King of Talking with the Hands”. During these celebrated “contests”, which took place on rooftops, in back alleys, behind closed doors, in the countryside and anywhere else that was found to be convenient, sifu Wong is said to have never lost a fight, and most witnesses claim that the majority of exchanges took no more than three techniques to determine his victory. Quite a few of these “contests” were arranged by a journalist who was keen to conduct these “tests of skill” so as to obtain exclusive articles for his newspaper, “The Star”. Unlike the tournaments of today, these were real fights where rules and protective clothing were unknown, where serious injuries could and, occasionally, did take place, and where there was absolutely no room for “martial magic”. The “beimo” sorted out the martial artists from the bullshit artists.
From these experiences, and with much discussion with his teacher, grandmaster Yip Man, Sifu Wong developed his skills to what can only be described as an incredible level, and in doing so, brought the Wing Chun system to the attention of the Hong Kong martial arts community. He is even credited with modernizing the way in which the system is taught, even to the point of convincing Yip Man himself to rethink some concepts or techniques and actually change them or delete them from the Wing Chun forms and drills. To put it simply, Wong Shun Leung helped revolutionize what was already a highly effective fighting form and raised it to an even higher level of efficiency. He has influenced many people over the years, the late Bruce Lee being an obvious example (his art of Jeet Kune Do utilizing many of the concepts Wong put forward during the time that the two were training together and then later corresponding), and he continues to “spread the word” about his very practical approach to developing combat proficiency. This article has been translated from the original Chinese by his Australian student, David Peterson, a speaker of both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects, and a teacher of the “Wong Shun Leung Way” at the ‘Melbourne Chinese Martial Arts Club’ which he founded in 1983 following his “discovery” of sifu Wong’s method after more than 10 years of less efficient Wing Chun training.
The kind of fighting that I am referring to in this article is not that which one might see in the boxing ring because this kind of fight has been restricted by all kinds of rules and regulations, turning it into a game or sport which is far removed from real combat. What I am referring to here is the “real fight”, free of rules and restrictions whether it be as the result of a conflict, or by mutual agreement. Because fighting is relative, the opponents’ build and strength can and will directly affect the result of the conflict, therefore it is difficult to assume to know the outcome. The classic Chinese ‘Art of War’ by Sun Zi states, “In warfare, first lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured”. Each of these approaches can affect its counterpart in terms of cause and effect. Indeed, when it comes to the business of fighting, I fear that in an article of this size there is still much that cannot be adequately dealt with. But now I would like to discuss the most common mistakes made by Wing Chun practitioners in order that we can learn to avoid them.
1. CHI SAU
The Chi Sau (“sticky hands”) exercise is a reflex training drill that must be practiced repeatedly in order to develop skillful, quick and alert responses so as to satisfy the basic, essential requirements of the Wing Chun system, ie. “Intercept what comes; pursue what departs; when the hands are freed of obstructions, attack instinctively”. These are basic but profound principles which, when properly understood and drilled through Chi Sau, prepare the Wing Chun practitioner both mentally as well as physically for what should take place when one engages with the enemy and so, one gets into the contact condition from the very start. If detailed explanations are not given to the novice student, he or she will tend to over indulge the skill of Chi Sau, inventing their own interpretations until they end up following a totally incorrect form of Chi Sau which leads them straying from the intended path. For example, too much emphasis on the idea of “sticking to the hands” will cause such bad habits as “chasing the hands” of the opponent and thus totally contradict one of Wing Chun’s most basic fighting principles.
At the beginning of the “Young Idea” (Siu Nim Tau) form, one is taught the concept of “Chiu Ying”, or facing the opponent square-on, to facilitate favorable positioning even before the fight has commenced, allowing punches to be thrown along the shortest possible line with the most direct attack being able to be made on the opponent prior to contact being made with each other. Never is one asked in the basic form to consider doing “sticky hands” with the enemy as the range of motion possible by the hands is so wide that if one goes about “chasing the hands” the result is like a children’s game; you go left because he makes a sudden turn left, then you go right as he does, and so on. The result is that you always allow your enemy to dictate your actions, ending up in a passive position and unable to attack your intended target. By chasing the hands of the opponent in this way, like the man who puts the cart in front of the horse, you will end up at the mercy of the opponent. So, when fighting, one should fix one’s eyes firmly on the target with only one idea in mind, that of attacking the enemy most simply and directly. It is only if your attack meets with an obstruction that you have to change to attain your goal and this is where “sticky hands” comes into play, as a means to an end, that end being the winning of the fight.
2. GIVING THE ENEMY THE OPPORTUNITY TO STRIKE FIRST
To win or lose a fight often depends on who watches for his chance to attack the enemy first when both sides are fighting. As Sun Zi said, “When an invading force crosses a river in its onward march, it is best to let half the army get across, and then deliver your attack”. You will reap twice the result with half the effort if the attack is launched with such favorable timing as the opponent’s intention, developments and movements can all be readily determined. Should this strategy be applied, the opponent will find it especially difficult to co-ordinate his body, making advance or retreat virtually impossible and the loss of the fight by him inevitable. A common error made by inexperienced Wing Chun practitioners is to throw their punches from too far away, leaving a lot of distance between their opponent and themselves. Such a clumsy and rash move gives the enemy the opportunity to attack first.
Therefore, when engaged in combat with an opponent, never be impatient. Do not launch an attack until there’s a distance of one step between you and your enemy, then launch a sudden attack so as to force the enemy to be caught totally unprepared. Launching a sudden attack in this way, one gains the advantage of an extra step towards the enemy, making it extremely difficult for him to react in time, the result normally being a feeble attempt to move half a step to the right or left, or else retreat straight backwards. This makes it very easy to remain in contact with the enemy, maintaining control of the situation by affecting the enemy’s balance and positioning. You therefore avoid giving him the chance to attack first and take away his opportunity to manage the situation.
3. GIVE UP EXCESSIVE IDEALS
Having excessive ideals with regard to fighting will cause one to be far too nervous. Wing Chun theory is flawless indeed if one can accomplish it absolutely, but a theory is only just a theory, never can a person reach such a state of perfection, human beings are all apt to make mistakes at some time or another. In normal combat situations, most opponents are of more or less equal size and strength. Everyone has two hands and two feet, strengths and weaknesses, and so on. Each is subject to the same conditions and so each has to fight hard. The most determining factor overall is the level of skill each fighter possesses.
If the possibility of your winning is 70%, there is still a 30% possibility of being attacked. If we look at World Championship boxing contests, even the winner of the match has to take many blows from his opponent in order to finalize the competition. Nowadays, however, many Wing Chun coaches make exaggerated boasts and purposely turn simple things into mysteries, misleading their students with “fairy tales”. They deceive others and themselves. This is the height of shame. It would be a far better idea to prepare the student both mentally and physically before fighting, informing them of the realities of fighting, especially that it is expected that one may have to in fact take one or more blows upon one’s own body in the course of the fight. Thus, when engaged in fighting, you will not be full of misgivings and be at a loss as to what to do.
4. AVOID HESITATION AT ALL COSTS
In order to fight, both parties must be within the distance whereby they can attack each other. Both have equal opportunity to attack, yet there is no time to think of the fight in terms of punches and kicks. The skills and experiences brought about by routine training will be brought into full play at this time. The question of victory or defeat is more or less an open one, to be determined by what one has within. No matter what happens, one must never hesitate once the engagement has begun. To do so will bring about many unnecessary troubles. The high kicks that one often sees in the movies that are performed continuously with consummate ease are, in reality, without foundation. If applied in a real fight, it is difficult, if not impossible, to land a second such kick should the first one be successful.
Whether the enemy falls down or not, he will be out of position for any follow up kicking technique to be effective. Perhaps, if the enemy is hit by a side kick and retreats backwards in a straight line, you may have the opportunity to kick continuously, but the Laws of Physics make such a situation highly unlikely. If the enemy is fearful of the fight, he will draw back quickly and your second kick will surely fail since your first kick would have also failed to find its mark, the timing rhythm being all wrong, just as in dance and music. Only those who hesitate will be punched. One must retreat or advance as the situation dictates, or else the chance to control the situation will disappear in the twinkle of an eye.
The above points will not teach you how to win, but will enable you to decrease your mistakes as much as possible. In fact, if you want to win, it will depend on whether or not you practice hard and persistently, your will to win the fight, perseverance, the development of physical power, confidence, and so on. As for the supreme state of “calm heart and refined breathing” (ie. the ability to fight calmly and with total control of mind & body), attaining that will be on the basis of all the above conditions.
BRUCE LEE AND HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH WONG SHUN LEUNG
Wong Shun Leung
"Heroes are still human beings when you know them well. I have seen how Bruce Lee grew from a small boy to a mature man. In my mind, he will never be a hero or a superman. I only know that he was a friend, a very good friend. He was also a funny man, one with whom you could expose your inner feelings without fear. You could be very frank with him, pointing out his short-comings. So what I am now writing about it, the Bruce Lee in my own eyes. I believe that it will be a more objective and real picture."
-------------- Wong Shun Leung
The Early Days
As a young lad, Bruce Lee was a clever but naughty boy. He had studied in La Salle College in Hong Kong. He liked to fight and cared little about school work His academic results were not very good. Apart from English, he failed in all the other subjects. His mathematics was the worst. Moreover, he always joked with his classmates and his teachers. Thus he could not graduate from that school. Later, he transferred to another school to further his study. It was in that period that we came to know each other.
One day, about twenty years ago, I practiced my kung fu in Master Yip's institute. I also helped my fellow learners in their practice. At that time, Chang brought in an Elvis like youngster. He leaned his body to one side with his hand on the wall. The other hand was in the back pocket of his trousers. His body was supported by one of his legs only. He swayed his body continuously. His manner was very frivolous as though he thought that he was smart. I really did not like his appearance. After he went away, I told Chang that I did not welcome this young man.
A few months later, he came for the second time. This time, he dressed properly and was more polite. Master Yip liked him very much, so he took him to be his disciple. He immediately came over and greeted me. This was so sudden that I just could not understand. We became fellow learners and friends. From then on, he brought me a lot of trouble. That young man was Bruce Lee, the famous international star.
At first, when Bruce learnt the fundamental boxing form of Wing Chun Kung Fu, he seemed to have a sense of suspicion towards it. It was true that the boxing form was a bit dry, so he did not seem to have much interest in it. However, he had seen how Chang, a youngster of the same age, won over his opponent. He also knew that his history of learning Wing Chun Hung Fu was not long. Therefore, he began to develop confidence in the style.
Chang's father was a police inspector and enjoyed some special privileges, so when Bruce had troubles, he usually found Chang to solve them. Thus the two young men always came and went together. Two or three months later, Bruce began to understand the principles of Wing Chun Kung Fu and his interest grew simultaneously.
A short time passed. Chang had to go to study in Australia. He wanted me to teach and practice with Bruce, so he brought Bruce to my house. It was because at that time Master Yip's health was not very good and I was five or six years older than Bruce. At that stage the difference in age was very evident already, and he listened to me readily.
Although he was small, he had many tricks. I remember one day when we practiced, he said to me, "Leung. My classmates Chiang and Ken want to learn from you. They will come a few days later. But I say, you should not teach them, it is enough for you to teach me."
I thought that I should not have any bias or prejudice.
After a few days, Bruce strangely came at an earlier time. He had his own plan. In this incident, his character was exposed entirely.
On that day, he was ten minutes earlier. He seemed to have run a long way to my house. Without taking any rest, he claimed that he had to go out again, but before he went, he said, "Leung, I have to do something immediately, but I will come back in a short time. Please wait for me! Don't go out! I beg you, please don't! Thank you very much!"
So he hurried away. After about ten minutes, he came back. This time he had a relaxed look. Moreover, he learnt and practiced diligently on that day. A few days later, I learnt the inside story from the mouth of his classmate.
He had come earlier to make sure that his classmates had not arrived yet. Then he went down the street to wait for them. When he saw them, he met them as if he had just left my house.
He then said to them, "Hi! Leung has just gone out. I don't know when he will come back. His family said that he had something important to do recently and would not be free. So, I think you have to see him on another day."
After that, he pushed them down the road and got them into a bus and came back to me. When I got to know this, I just answered with a smile and did not try to persecute him. That was Bruce Lee, competitive and aggressive. If he wanted anything, he would try to have it at any price.
Another time, he wanted to have the sun-glasses of his classmate, Chen. He first offered him a good price hoping that he would sell them to him. Chen, however, would not accept it. Bruce then just took them from him by force.
As he practiced more, he made less trouble. Yet sometimes he still insulted his schoolmates, and might even run into some rascals. I was milder, so I often tried to mediate for him. At times I also persuaded him to develop the right way and make less trouble. Because he had such kind of character, he was more diligent in drilling himself. In those days, he had seen how I punched at a short distance (that was the inch-power he later performed), and how I compared my wrist's power with others. He even bought two steel bars to assist him in his training. To strengthen the power of his wrists, he used the sand discs. In nine month's time, he seemed to surpass me. Therefore, I enjoyed practicing with him very much. Bruce Lee often asked me whether he could win over Mr. X or Mr. Y. I frequently analyzed the strong and weak points of his imagined opponent for him, and told him the way to win.
Later, he asked me when he would be able to win over Chang and me. He asked too much. I felt that he had fallen into the state of bewitchment. His competitive character caused me to worry for him. I feared that he would lose the aim in learning Kung Fu. I said to him, "To win over me is not difficult. I'm only the commonest of the commons. My history of Kung Fu learning, is only a few years longer than yours. There is nothing great in winning over me. I compare with other people not because I have good Kung Fu. It is only because I am not satisfied with the superstitious and mysterious elements people uphold in Chinese Kung Fu. I am young, I have an ideal. I want to alter people's attitude towards Chinese martial arts in my own effort. In fact, Chinese martial arts is simply a kind of sport. Your potential is better than mine. Some day you will win over me. As to Chang, it is difficult to say. You two are of the same age, but his physique and combat experience are better than yours. You will not be able to subdue him now. Whether you can win over him in the future or not depends very much on your progress and your training. Even our Master will not be able to answer this question. To practice Kung Fu, we need to have a firm will and a continuous drive for improvement. That is to say, we need to win over ourselves. For example, if you want to win over A, and his conditions are more favourable than yours and you two have the same kind of training, you may not be able to fulfil your wish. At that time, will you feel disappointed? Or, suppose you don't have any opponent, will you feel lonely? No. It is because you still should have one opponent, and that is you, yourself."
He did not seem to understand my meaning, but later from his theory of boxing, my words proved to be acceptable. Nevertheless, he still asked the same question even though he had stayed in the United States. I always replied and said, "If tomorrow's Bruce can win over today's, will it be fine?"
After about half a year's training, the time for an inter-school boxing match came. It was held in K.G.5 School. He asked for my opinion in joining this match. My opinion was to get combat experience was more important than any other thing. With the help of my limited knowledge in western boxing, I practiced with him. I attached his weak points and guided him to make full use of his strong points. Several months of training passed. He finally represented his school in the match. In the first match, he first displayed the form of Wing Chun Kung Fu so it did not look like the western boxing form. Many foreign students, male and female, jeered at him, but when he gradually took control of the situation, the attitude of the spectators changed. His opponent had been the champion of the match for several years. But he was knocked down by Bruce in the first round.
Bruce began to emerge. His interest in practicing martial arts also grew deeper.
Under the influence of his classmates, Bruce challenged two tall and stout Kung Fu experts to fight on the roof of a building in Kowloon. One of them was Chung, an assistant teacher in a famous martial arts institute. Bruce invited me to be his trainer. Because of our close relation, I eventually granted his wish. On my way to the appointed place, many meddlers stood here and there. The atmosphere was very tense and heavy as if a great thunderstorm was going to break out. Besides Bruce Lee and I, a friend named Chen also went with us. Chen practiced long boxing. He had also practiced Wing Chun for a few months. On our way, many meddling youngsters pointed their fingers at us. Bruce was very delighted. I sensed that he was very proud of himself. In those days, not many people knew Bruce Lee. I only heard them talking about me. They said, "That man is Wong Shun Leung. Here comes Wong Shun Leung. We'll have something to see."
Actually I was not the hero of this comparison. The hero was Bruce. The crowd seemed to grow larger and larger. I had a strange feeling. So I asked Bruce, "How come there are so many people? Did you tell them to come here?"
Bruce denied it. He said, "Maybe they learnt the news from the other side."
Very soon we reached the destination. Bruce wanted to go straight up to the roof, but I stopped him. In a low voice, I told him to walk on. I believed that Bruce was a smart guy. He had already understood my meaning. I wanted to divert the attention of those meddlers so that they would not rush up to the roof of the building. We first turned round the corner, then went back to the entrance of the building. We went up the stairs but not directly to the top. Bruce had a friend who lived there. We stayed in his home for about ten minutes before we got up to the top of the building.
Although we had avoided many of the meddlers, there were still 20 to 30 people on the roof. Some sat along the wall, others sat on the parapet. All of them came to see the fight. After about five minutes, another group of people arrived. Bruce greeted them. They asked me to be the judge of the contest. I told the other side my role. I told them that I was Bruce's trainer, thus I should not act as the judge. But Chung said, "Mr. Wong, we trust in you. We want you to be our judge."
They also said that they knew that I was experienced in Chinese Kung Fu, and that I was capable to be the judge. I made clear that I was not only Bruce's trainer, I was also a member of the Wing Chun School and it was not convenient for me to be the judge. Still, the other side insisted that I should be the judge. This was a problem to me. I could not do both things in the same match. However, they were so sincere that I could hardly refuse them. Moreover, I was still young at that time. I knew not much about life, so I agreed to be the judge. If this should happen today, I would surely refuse it. I gathered the two sides and said, "A match must follow rules, even if it is a friendly match. You all are young people, you are not qualified to represent your clans. More important is that this is not a duel. We have two rounds. One round will last two minutes. No matter which side wins, the comparison will end after two rounds. This is a friendly match, you all should aim at promoting your friendship. Do you all understand what I say?"
Chung and Choy said that they did, Bruce also agreed to follow my instructions. I then told them to rest for a while before they started.
Bruce then suddenly said, "Leung, it's Chen who starts first."
Chen was Bruce's classmate, they were of the same age. It was so sudden that I was shocked. Chen was a new student. How could he fight with these people? Thus I called the two to my side.
I said "Chen, you are still green, you do not know how to fight."
Chen claimed that he had learnt some other Kung Fu. He and Chung belong to the same clan. I then said that since they belonged to the same clan, they should; compare publicly, but Chen said, "It doesn't matter, he is welcome!"
I smiled and replied, "Since you two belong to the same clan, it will be much more convenient for me to be the judge."
I saw that Chen's form were very confused. Sometimes it looked like long boxing, sometimes it looked like Wing Chun. Choy displayed the typical form of clan. Both sides used short punches which showed the characteristics of their own clan. However, both sides were very confused as to the use of their Kung Fu. Choy was more brave. He ran forward and hit Chen. Choy fought back with his long boxing. Because Chen was taller, it was very advantageous, Choy could only hit at his abdomen.
Punches flew in the air. Both sides we hit. Since Choy was more brave and more experienced, Chen began to fall back. Yet as he retreated, he still attacked. His punches were more useful. They reached their target Choy's face bled. As Chen was hit at the abdomen, superficially he seemed to be alright. He thus seemed to have won the first round. After resting for a minute, the fight went on. The way they fought was the same. Choy was more fiery in this round. Chen was indeed young. He had fear in him so he drew back. Naturally, he was hit frequently, but the wounds were not as heavy as that of opponent. Choy took the lead yet he received more punches than Chen. It was difficult to say which side should be the winning side. This then ended the first match.
The second match was the climax of the match. The heroes were Bruce and Chung. Chung was an assistant teacher in a famous sports club, while Bruce was a child star in Cantonese films, so this match was very attractive. I gathered the two and the time-keeper and repeated the rules for the second time. Both of them showed that they were clear. The area of the roof was about 18 feet by 18 feet. They agreed to let Chung to start the attack first. I asked Bruce to stand near the mid-line. Then l signalled them to start.
Bruce's stance was a Wing Chun style. His left hand was in the front while his right one was in the back. His stance slightly inclined to the left On the other side. Chung's left hand showed a sword finger and his right fist was held near his waist. Chung circled around Bruce waiting for a chance to attack. Not a sound was heard. Eventually Chung took action. With a roar, he turned his fist against Bruce's lower jaw. Bruce drew back a little, then used his left palm to push away the punch. However, he did not make use of the opportunity to fight back. Both retreated and waited for the second chance. Bruce was hurt. He was perplexed inside and wanted to withdraw from the match. After a while, Chung used his right fist to attack Bruce's left eye. Seeing this, Bruce took one step backward, then tried to hit Chung's chest with his right fist, but his step was a little slower. His left eye was hit. His face was covered with blood. Chung was hurt too, but the place was covered by his clothes. Since Bruce had been hit, he wanted to fight back. He immediately stepped forward and attacked with continuous punches. Because he was two steps from Chung, Chung had enough time to step back calmly. Chung also punched back. Both were hit However because Bruce was not calm enough, his punches did not hit decisively. Moreover, his careless attack left open many chances for his opponent to attack, so his nose and cheek were hit. As they were struggling, the time-keeper exclaimed that time was up. The first round was over.
I went up hurriedly to see Bruce. He asked me at once, "Leung! Is my eye swollen?"
"Yes," I said. "It's bruised. Your nose is also bleeding, but it's O.K."
"My performance today is bad. If I am hurt too badly, my father will notice it. I think we better take it as a draw and end the match.
I replied, "Bruce, if you do not continue in the second round, it means that you surrender. How can it be regarded as a draw? Moreover, you are capable to fight on. Your opponent is wheezing now. If you withdraw, how will you answer your fellow-learners? You will regret it. As a matter of fact, whether you win or not is not important, but you must try your best. If you fight on, you will win."
His competitive character drove him to go on. Bruce finally won the match. When Bruce heard "you will win", he was refreshed. He asked solemnly for the second time, "I will win? Leung, are you sure ? "
"Yes," I replied, " why should I deceive you? When you feel confused, don't care whether your fighting method is correct or not for you are now in a fight, not a performance. When you are half a step from him, you must step up and punch only his face. Do not care whether you have been hit. Try to get close and attack. And be calm."
Bruce nodded his head to show that he understood my idea. The time-keeper signalled that the time for rest was over. We started the second round.
This time Bruce attacked first. Chung was ready to fight. His left hand bent a little and was stretched forward. His fingers were turned into a claw. Chung's right fist was placed beside his left elbow. He stood in low stance. In this round, Bruce was calm. He stretched out his left hand too, and his right hand was also placed beside the left elbow. His power was concentrated on his back leg. He waited for a chance to attack. After a moment he suddenly pretended to attack. Chung immediately jumped back. Yet Bruce did not move. He still stood in the same position and smiled. He repeated this action for two to three times. Chung began to loose his defence. At last, Bruce was about half a step from Chung. Bruce made a false attack again. Chung took half a step back, and at the same time sent out a right punch. Making use of that chance, Bruce swiftly attacked. His left punch hit heavily on Chung's lower jaw. Bruce then took another step forward. He sent out a right punch which hit Chung's mouth. Blood gushed from Chung's mouth. Chung's false teeth were also knocked out. The two were too close so Chung's punch did not function well. Being seriously hurt, Chung fell back. He could not stand properly. Seeing this opportunity, Bruce did not give up. Like a wild beast, Bruce continued to send out heavy punches on Chung's face. Finally, Chung fell beside the water tank on the roof. Chung's friends at once ran forward to stop the match. Some of them complained that I should have stopped the match at an earlier time, but Bruce was very happy. He raised his hands up in the air and was very delighted.
After this incident, some people blamed me. As I think back, I really feel that I was not right. I was a judge, I should not have let emotion control me. I should not have taught Bruce only. I also should not have forced Bruce to go on. At that time, I was too young. I did not know that they would ask me to be the judge. Also, I was Bruce's trainer. In fact, I really hoped that Bruce would win, so when Bruce wanted to withdraw after the first round, I did not permit it. I believed, if he had withdrawn, he would have felt shame and his history in martial arts would have ended. His victory in the second round really strengthened his confidence and fighting spirit. It taught him that one could not naturally become a successful man, one had to fight. Usually, a man's success was due to the stimulation of a comment or an incident. Bruce was still young, and I did not want to see him being knocked down. I did not want to see him feeling discouraged, so I encouraged him to fight on.
When Master Yip was alive, he said this, ''If some day Bruce can achieve anything, it is your labour."
Bruce had also said this, "You are the person who influenced me most. If on that day, I did not have you to back me up, I think I would not be what I am today. If you need my help, I'll try my best to help."
When I heard this, I just thanked him. Although I did not ask anything from him, I still thanked him for his kindness.
The roof-top affair brought along many troubles. The former master of Chen and Choy learnt that they had fought against each other. He thought that it was not right. He wanted to look into the matter. This made things worse. To find out the truth, the famous master and several youngsters waited for Bruce outside the school. They had brought along a basket. No one knew what was inside. It may have contained some weapons. According to my speculation, this may have been caused by Bruce's pride. Seeing the situation was unfavourable, he gave me a phone call telling me the names of these Kung Fu experts. I hurriedly got to his school to take him away. Because I knew these people, they still wanted to preserve our friendship and did not come over to cause any trouble. In addition, Bruce's father was also a friend of an elder sifu of that clan, so they did not take any action. I continued to take Bruce home for the next few days. Nothing happened. In this way, the affair came to an end.
In our lives, many unhappy incidents are caused by some very minor things. I think this kind of thing is very bad. Originally, a comparison is not a bad thing. You need it just like you need to experiment what you have learnt in the classroom. If they compare in a sincere and friendly way, it is good. A good comparison will give you more understanding about your Kung Fu. It will produce in you a deep impression. It will also make a contribution to Chinese martial arts. However, many elders are too narrow minded. They stress too much on winning. When their pupils lose their fight, they cannot stand it. This results in a struggle between the two sides. Frankly speaking, two young men will know each other better after a comparison and become good friends. On the other hand, whether one wins or loses is determined usually by the quality of the two fighters and not the quality of their clans. If not, there would not be any difference between two learners of same clan. In other words, the winner should not have pride for you are not defeating the expert of that clan. The loser should not give up. He should find out his weaknesses and work on them. It will help him a lot. If our elders are stubborn, our youngsters will find it difficult to behave. A good thing may become a bad one. It may also give rise to hostile feelings among different clans for a long time. This will give our people a wrong impression as to what martial arts is. For example, when Wing Chun and Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu have a match, the newspapers will publicise it to attract buyers. The propaganda will stir up hostile sentiments among the followers of the two clans. Misunderstanding will make it even more difficult to solve the difficult problem.
Bruce always loved to behave mischievously. However, sometimes, however, he would be very solemn. Ten years ago he had learnt Kung Fu for about a year at that time. One day, one of his fellow learners named Ng had a quarrel with a sifu name Li of another clan. This might have been the result of some misunderstanding. Li had been a sifu for many years. I knew him too. I had met him several times and sensed that he was a humble man. He would not cause any trouble. After the quarrel, Li came back to our institute to get help. He wanted a few men to help him. The first who reacted to this was Bruce. He wanted to go. He said, "You don't have to take any action. Let me! I'll teach that fellow a good lesson."
He was excited about this. He tried hard to get involved in the fight. As they were discussing the plan in the institute, I came in. At that time, most of my fellow-learners were English school students, and I was one of the elders in the group. When they had any plan, they would tell me.
As I stepped in, Bruce came up to me and said, "Leung, we'll have a match on Saturday. This should be my turn."
"What match ? Have the other side agreed on the date and place?" I asked.
Bruce said, "We have not made any agreement, but every morning he will be there teaching his students. We will meet him there. You know that man too." "Who's that man? Who makes this proposal?" I asked.
"He's Li, the former fellow learner of Chang. He makes this proposal." Bruce pointed his finger at another boy. "I don't believe chat he will challenge you. He's a good man. I've met him. He won't cause any trouble," I said. The fellow-learner swore that that was the truth. After all, many of them were meddling youngsters. They wanted to see how they fought. I still did not believe that, but I did not say anything. I did not want to discourage them. I only said, "Don't force him. It's O.K. if he agrees to fight. I don't want to destroy your plan, so I'll stand and look at a distance."
"If I'm there, they will fight. Just wait and see." Bruce said.
On Saturday morning, at about eight, Bruce and eight other youngsters arrived at a deserted house beside the railway. They called that house "The House of the Demons". Today it has become a garden. I followed them at a distance. There were about twelve people practicing Kung Fu in the garden of the house. Bruce went up and asked one of them, "Hey! Who is the one that wants to fight? Let me satisfy your desire. Quick! We don't have much time."
The man answered, "We will not fight.''
He walked away calmly.
Bruce continued, "You cowards! Go home, why practice Kung Fu?"
With his hands on his waist, he cried and said, "You are not a man. You challenge us to fight and I'm not a patient man. I won't wait."
Still no one cared about him. Some of the elder ones started to leave silently. Bruce went up and stood before Li. He made a gesture which meant to insult Li. Then he did a few steps of cha-cha and murmured, "Oh! I beg you. Have mercy on him. I'll let you beat me. I won't fight back. O.K.? You don't have to be afraid. I like you. Come, let's start."
Li was embarrassed by Bruce's actions. When he saw me, he came over and politely shook hands with me. He said, "Mr. Wong, have we done anything wrong? Since we are friends, you can tell me frankly. I respect you and I don't want to have any misunderstanding." This time it was me who was embarrassed. This was because I had not agreed with this plan. Under these circumstances, to have a good ending was not easy. As I was thinking for a solution, Bruce called out loudly and said, "Leung please ask him to fight with me. Tonight I'll invite you out to dinner."
I stared at him. In my heart I hated him for he had caused me so many troubles. This time Li also did not seem to look good, yet he still paid his opponent respect and did not want to take any action. This was a problem to me. I walked up to Bruce and pulled him to the side. I whispered to him, "Bruce, cool down. Listen to me. Comparison is an ordinary thing. You should not force people to do it. Your behaviour is not very good. If other people know it, they will think that we are rough and rude. If Master Yip knows it, he will not be happy. It is useless to provoke him."
Bruce shrugged his shoulder. I then went over to Li's side. I laid my hand on his shoulder and said, "Those youngsters are still green, and some of them want to see how people fight. That is why they make so much nonsense. Forgive them for my sake. I don't want to hurt our relationship. If there is anything wrong, come and tell me."
Li replied, "Yes, that's right. We are members of a family. I know that you, Mr. Wong, are a good man. I hope we'll have more interactions in the future."
As he said this, he put on his clothes and prepared to leave. However, Bruce did another naughty thing. He made a young lad to pretend to fight. Bruce himself acted as Li. His acting was good. He walked like a drunkard. When he was hit, he fell on the ground and looped back. As he stood up, his hands were on his chest. He swayed his body. You just could not do anything about it. Fortunately, Li hurried away and did not do anything. My burden was released. These youngsters still played on and did not want to leave. People of some other clans who practiced there also put on their clothes and left because of the disturbance caused by these youngsters. From this, we can see how Bruce loved to play and have his own way.
Apart from having good potential in him, he also paid attention to the use of machines in training himself Under my advice, he had made two steel bars to strengthen the power of his wrists. When he had time, he would train with his bars. This helped a lot in increasing his punching power. The things he practised every day included boxing, side kicks, wooden dummy and so on. When he had finished with all this, he would sit down and meditate on what he had done. He trained himself in this way for a long time.
He did this even in the United States. He used to write and tell me his progress in his training. Unfortunately, I have not preserved these letters, so cannot publish them. I am really sorry about that. Before Bruce went to the United States, he wanted to learn Chinese Northern Kung Fu so that he could perform it on stage. In those days, many people organised these groups to perform in the United States. He thought that some people might invite him to perform too, and so he needed to learn it.
On this matter, he asked for my opinion. Of course I agreed with him. He had learnt Wing Chun for over two years, so he should be able to distinguish the kind of Kung Fu that was practical. I said, "You should learn it as if you are learning a dance, then it'll not disappoint you."
He then learnt it with a master for ten days.
When he first arrived in the States, he taught cha-cha, but more and more people asked him to teach them Kung Fu. So he changed from teaching cha-cha to teaching Kung Fu. For this, he had to train himself even harder. He always sent me letters telling me his progress and achievement. He also asked me whether he could defeat Cheung. He asked this question in his letters to Cheung too. These questions were meaningless. It is because our greatest enemy is our own self. It would be very good if we could improve every day, then is not necessary for us to compare with other people. This was my answer to him. Later, from his words I think he had learnt this principle. Nevertheless, he still took Cheung as his imagined opponent. One month before he died, he still asked me the same question.
When he asked me, I replied, "You have improved. Don't you know that? In the past, he had more combat experience than you. Today, because he has such a character, he will still have many opportunities to compete, but since I have not seen him recently, I cannot answer your question."
Hearing my words, he remained silent for a long time. If I knew he would die soon, I would have said some good words to make him happy.
The Death of Bruce Lee
Bruce was too heavily burdened with trying to maintain his fitness. I do not say this groundlessly. Bruce had come to a position where he could only look forward up upward. He could not look back because he feared that one day he might be passed by another. It was this kind of psychology that pressed him. I was sorry for that.
About two months before he died he gave me a 'phone call. He wanted to come to my institute and take some photographs. That was a Sunday. My family had stayed in the house for a week and they needed to go out for an excursion, so I refused his suggestion. Later I regretted this decision. We were old friends. At least I should have let him take some photographs, but now we will not be able to see each other. Although I did not let him come to my institute, I agreed to visit him in the afternoon. We exchanged our experiences and ideas about martial arts and compared our ideas. After this he left Hong Kong to settle his film business. When he came back, he called me up and wanted me to participate in the making of "The Game of Death". He had also invited me to the studio to attend a screen test. I did not promise to act in the film, yet I still went to attend the screen test to please him. I brought along a student named Wan on my trip to the studio. The light in the studio was much stronger than in Bruce's home. In the making of a scene, our eyes met. At once, I had an uncomfortable and unlucky feeling in me. His eyes showed something which was very familiar to me. I seemed to have seen that somewhere before.
In the break time, he put on an expensive camera. The lens attachments made it a long thing. With his camera round his neck, he walked here and there boastfully. It might have been one of his ways to exhibit his manly appearance.
The studio was stuffy. In the recess time, I went out to have a real rest. What I just saw in Bruce's eyes flowed up in my mind. Why did I feel familiar with that thing? Where had I seen that phenomenon? Finally I found the answer. I saw that phenomenon two months before my aunt passed away. Then I was still a small boy, but because my family had many doctors. I had also learnt some medical knowledge, and was more careful in observing physiological phenomena. I saw that the black and white Bruce's eyes were not clear.
As I was thinking over these things, Bruce came out. I immediately asked him, "Do you feel tired? I see that the colour of your eyes is different. Is it because you have stayed in a foreign land for a long time?"
"No, I don't see any difference," Bruce answered.
I hoped that it was because he had over-worked, so I advised him to take more rest, for even if a man could work like a machine, he would break down if he did not have any rest.
He had just finished the making of ``Enter the Dragon" If you have seen that film, I think you will agree with my idea. In that film, his eyes are dull and dim. The look of his eyes in this film differs greatly with that of "The Big Boss." I really hoped that the dull look in his eyes was the result of overwork, but I was only explaining it away. I could not wipe away the unlucky feeling. Owing to the fact that his situation might get worse if he knew it, I did not tell him about it.
About two or three months before he died, I had paid Bruce a visit. We discussed and compared the results of our researches on Kung Fu in Bruce's study while our wives were having a good chat outside. Firstly, he wanted to test the power of our punches. It might be because he wanted to know how old I was. He tested one time, and then repeated the procedure another time. He was still powerful, but not so powerful as he was a few years before. He was fitter before. It might have been because before he had a much more disciplined life, he did not have too many burdens and he was younger. Things were different later. He was famous. Changes occurred in every aspect of his life. Moreover, he had a better life. When a sportsman does not have enough practice and rest and only relies on vitamins and medicines to support him, his results will surely be no good. Bruce had lived such a kind of life for a long time. Although the electronic machine could help him in some ways, his mental and physical burdens were still great.
After the test of our punching power, we compared our kicking power. In this comparison, of course, we had many things in common. Yet we still had some disagreement on certain points. I felt that he was not so good as before. After the kicking comparison, we still had not touched on the main issue. He then proposed to go downstairs to visit his training room. The equipment there was very modern.
We then came to his garden where there was a ball which was used to train the punch. It was smaller than an American football and one of its ends was tied to a spring. The other end was tied to a nylon thread which was connected to the ground. When the ball was hit, it would spin and swing swiftly. Usually, its movement was in proportion to the force and speed of your punch.
After he finished his practice with the ball, he asked me to try. Even though I did not hit accurately as he did, the difference was not too big. As this device was installed by him, certainly he would be more familiar with it and hit more accurately. It that was my first time in using the ball That I could have such a result was already very good. In fact, that was out of his expectation. My performance had shattered his dream of being a superman. Originally Bruce thought that I would not be able to hit the ball.
After the trial, he understood that the difference among men was very small. I always told him this, "If a man has the same size and physical power as you have, even though he does not know Kung Fu, he will still be able to fight with you. You will win because you have techniques. If you do not take yourself as a superman, you will have a better and meaningful life otherwise, you will feel lonely and cold."
He should have remembered my words. With two fingers resting between his eye-brows, he meditated for a while. Then he took a deep breath and said, "Leung, I am different now. I have had my life insured. I am ready to face any accident. My family need not worry about their future lives. I don't have any worry too. If anybody disturbs me, he should be careful. I am not afraid of death, I can kill any attacker at any time." Bruce seemed to have many cares and concerns. I could only soothe him. I said, "You should not think in this way. To be a father is more than just leaving behind some money. If this is correct, then every millionaire would be a model father. I think, if you have time, you should try to care more about you wife and children. Don't spend all your time on making money." He looked at me. He just shook his head and smiled.
Bruce seemed to feel that I had been critical of him in almost everything, but yet he was not able to argue with me. He changed the topic of our discussion. He asked me whether there was any Wing Chun follower working in the film world. According to my information. there was only one. He then asked me about his Kung Fu. So I told him what I knew about that man. He was always so interested in any new fighting star. Actually none could compare with him at that time. As he was striking at the ball, he said, "Leung, let me tell you two events which I have come across. One day, in the studio, I met an extra. When I got close to him, he challenged the validity of my Kung Fu. I saw his pride. I said, 'If I do not have real Kung Fu, I don't think you will have it. You are stupid!' Then he challenged me to fight. I was very angry. I asked him to come down to fight.. He asked, 'How should we play?' I answered, 'Fight. This is the way we play.' With a shout, I kicked at his lower abdomen. I only used. a small part of my energy, yet he did not know how to defend himself. He fell back against the setting board. He then ran towards me. I kicked again, but this time, I kicked at his chest. He was hurt. His looked bad. He did not make any sound. Later, other fighting actors came. They wanted to bear him. So he apologized for his fault. Seeing his appearance, I did not want to hurt him again. I let him go. After a few days, as I ran along Waterloo Hill Road, I passed by a construction site. This time a construction worker asked me whether I would fight with him. So I jumped over a plank and stood before them. I asked them, 'Who wants to fight?' However, no one answered, so I scolded them."
From here, Bruce continued to throw out some slang. Hearing his words, I laughed. I said, "Certainly, you did not fight."
He said, "In the end, they bowed their heads and apologized for their actions. They said that they were only playing with me. Seeing this, I didn't care about them and continued to do my running."
In telling me these two events Bruce's aim was to prove that he would fight with anybody at any time. He was like a wounded beast. He did not have to care about any other thing. If a famous and rich man was normal, he would not behave in this way unless he had some hidden secrets. As Bruce had said, his children would not have to suffer poverty. He knew that he would die at an early age. No matter how he pretended or tried to cover up, his thoughts would show up in his words and attitude. In front of his close friend, it was certainly much more difficult to hide his real self. Among the lives of the people in the film world, Bruce's life can be regarded as a disciplined one. However, the way one dies and the place cannot be arranged. beforehand according to one's will. Many people have suggested different reasons for his death which blemish his good name. As a matter of fact, we cannot be too strict in this. If we are critical, then even Confucius will not be able to stand properly.
We went upstairs to Bruce's room. We sat down. Bruce began to give his comments on the skill and acting of each fighting film stage. He asked my opinion too, but I seldom went to see martial arts movies. Therefore, I was not qualified to say anything. He had worked in this field for so many years, he should be much more familiar with these things than me. His comments were very objective and accurate. He had commented on people like Chen Sing, Jhoon Rhee, Jimmy Wang Yu, Wang Gia Ta and Tan Tao Liang.
Apart from acting, Bruce mainly concentrated on his Kung Fu. He had also explained how painstakingly he made his films. Very often, a few actions would be shot for over 200 times before one was acceptable. Thus the popularity of his films was no accident at all. When he finished his comments on the stars, he turned to talk about his exclusive technique. He said, "Leung, my feet can kick at any angle."
He immediately stood up and illustrated his point. Bruce took out the shield-like protector for me to see. It had been used on a TV performance.
He said, "Try this. It is very useful. Let's see how powerful you are now."
I replied, "Man's power has limits. My body is not too old, but it is not possible to look for big progress."
I understood his intention. He wanted to test my power. Just before we started, he said, "I agree with that idea. When one's power reaches a certain limit, it is difficult to make any further progress. He is also handicapped by his age. I still have much auxiliary training equipment (he meant his electronic training machine), I can have some small breakthroughs. My hope is, when I am 60 years old, I will not be insulted by another 60 year old man."
Although he had this hope, he would never be able to fulfil his hope. All his friends and fans feel sorry about that. He asked me to hold the shield so that he could make his demonstration. He took a step backward, dashed forward and sent out a side kick. I did not try to oppose him firmly. When his leg reached me, I retreated to extinguish his power. I did this because we were not having a comparison. I could only defend. I did not have to resist him firmly. He tried again. He kicked with his left foot this time. I fell back to dissolve his power. When his third kick arrived, I could no longer draw back for I had reached the wall. So I shunned aside and pushed away his leg. Bruce said, "Leung, how is my kick? As a matter of fact, l can kick at any time from any angle. See my muscles."
Bruce showed me the muscles of his lower abdomen. They were firm. This proved that he had spent time in training himself.
I said to him, "Doubtlessly your speed and power are good. In the past, you had trained yourself hard. The results you have now are not easily got. The result is in proportion to the work. This is a rule."
Bruce next asked me to test the power and the speed of his punch. To show the swiftness of his punch, he asked me to catch his punch. I had seen how he did this on TV. He would rest his fist on his chest, then he would jet it out. Its reaction would automatically draw back his fist. Therefore, he could take back his fist in a shorter time. When one concentrated on catching his fist, one would be misled to follow the movement of his fist. I knew Bruce's psychology well. His performance on TV was wise. I laughed and said, "Bruce! You treat me as your audience. I have seen your performance on TV. You are clever, but don't think that I am stupid. I have seen how you slowed down your action to hit at your opponent's chest so that he could catch your fist easily. You then praised him and asked him to get ready. The next time you tried to hit at his abdomen. Because the opponent was misled, he immediately protected his chest when you took action. Of course, he missed your punch. Then you used your hand to touch his face. In fact, you could touch him for a number of times because he was shocked by your trick. That was the fruit of your study of psychology."
Bruce said, "Do you think that my Kung Fu is false?"
I replied, "That is not entirely correct. One part of your Kung Fu is real, but you cannot deny that part of it is used in performance."
We rested for a while. I said to him, "If you can break an iron plate with your punch and I can only break a stone, of course, your strength is greater than mine. However, if I hit you, do not think you could stand it ? Therefore, power is very important, but when you have reached a certain level, properness is more important."
Bruce stressed practicality. His performance struggled for power and beauty. When I brought out this question of power or cultivation and properness, Bruce smiled. He asked me, "Have you ever thought over other questions?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
Bruce answered, "What I mean is the question of performance. You cannot exhibit your properness. Even if you have made a long and detailed explanation, the audience will still find it difficult to understand your meaning. They will not believe it either. Furthermore, they will not have any interest in your theory. But when you show them your power, they will understand it at once. They will feel it too. This is my opinion on cultivation of power and properness!"
There may be some truth in his words. To him, an American boxing teacher, exhibition of his power is unavoidable. Foreigners are practical. However, the properness of boxing will not be grasped in a short time. We have to see things from different angles. My judgment on him only represents my viewpoint. Clearly I have neglected his environment and standpoint. His family has much to do with show business. He naturally will pay more attention to the element of performance. On the other hand, in his performance, he struggled for beauty and power. However, in the aspect of properness, he had deviated. For example, he used an unreasonable technique to tackle his opponent which was not good in Kung Fu at all. It was because he had good speed and was prepared psychologically. Therefore, his opponent was not able to resist him. Gradually this kind of action might have become one of his habits. He then would have been trapped by his own trick. Possibly he would take the unreasonable to be reasonable. Of course, in our conversation, we had touched on this problem. He did not agree with me on this point. He doubted my words.
He asked, "Then what do you see? What is your basis?"
I answered him, "I base it on what you have just said when you asked me to catch your fist. For when you rest your fist on your chest, you can punch and retract more quickly. If you want to subdue your enemy, it is more important to punch quick than to retrace quick. In real fighting, however, your opponent may not stop your punch. He can actually attack your body. A bad strategist will avoid your attack, but a good one will try to counter-attack. We practice Kung Fu because we want to be able to handle opponents who are stronger than us. We do not practice Kung Fu to tackle a small boy."
In the discussion, we had different viewpoints. Bruce emphasized all-roundness.
I continued, "If you punch horizontally from your chest against a man who weighs 200 pounds, it will not be easy for you to push him away. On the contrary, your punch will fold your body. The big man may throw his arms around. If you say your punch is heavy, you are being too subjective to bear your punch. Is there a professional boxer who does not weigh a few hundred pounds? Have they not been able to bear heavy punches? But if you punch in a straight line, even though you cannot push them, the reaction will draw you back. You can still keep your opponent at a distance. Certainly, if your opponent is weak, this action will look even more beautiful. In your film, you can do your own way. But don't let it develop into a bad habit and unconsciously regard it as the most powerful strike. Do you have the same feeling that I have?"
Bruce meditated for a while and said, "Yes, but you don't have to care about that in combat. Combat demands an all roundness."
I replied, "I do not object to this statement. But now you have reached such a high state, don't you think you need to take away the useless things that are in you? In combat, if your weakness is exposed, it may become a deadly blow."
Bruce wanted to compare with me. His forearm was used to disturb your attention so that his leg could attack. We had talked for about four hours that afternoon. Bruce said, "Originally, I had an appointment today. But since we seldom have the chance to meet and talk, I have postponed it."
He told his wife Linda to tell the other party that they would meet the next day. Our wives were also in the room. Bruce then told them, "Would you please bring Mrs. Wong downstairs? We have something important to discuss."
Since my little son had stayed too long in the room and the women were not interested in our discussion, it was wise to let them go.
After a little rest, Bruce said, "Leung! Although we have differences, we still have many things in common. For example, we both think that Kung Fu is a kind of sport only. Would you like to make some movement?"
I said, "If it is only for interest and research, it will be fine. If it is a competition. I will not do it."
"O.K." ,replied Bruce.
We stood up together. Bruce lowered his forearm. The other arm was placed below his lower jaw near his shoulder for protection. His body slightly turned to one side. His leg in the front did not stick firmly to the ground. His intention was to use his forearm to disturb you so that he could attack with the other arm and his legs. His intention was to attack with his leg first. If I tried to stop his leg, he would be able to attack my upper section. In that case, I would be forced to take a passive and defensive position. I had practiced with him for a long time and already had some understanding about him I did not hurry. I got close to him slowly and guarded carefully against his sudden attack. When I was about half a step from him, I suddenly started to take action. Swiftly I rushed forward and used my foot to strike against his leg which was in front. His response was extremely fast. He withdrew his leg in front. His back leg then became the leg in front. Moreover, he was able to punch at my throat at the same time. He was experienced. As a matter of fact, I did not try to win with one strike. When I struck at his knee, I did not think that he would easily be hit. I only tried to force him to take a defensive position.
His punch was swift and powerful. I had raised my hand in order to stop it, and used my other hand to pierce towards his throat, but my chest was still hit. As my fingers were half an inch from his throat, I stopped. We then both stopped. Bruce said, "You want to hurt my knee? You are smart. Fortunately, I am accustomed to this trick. OK. Let's try again."
This time he did not set down a firm stance. When we got near to each other, he started to attack with his fists. He did not use his leg. The kind of punch he used was the kind which I mentioned above. The aim of this attack was to confuse his enemy. So I stepped back a little bit and used my hands to dissolve his attack. I did not want to attack carelessly, for if I did, he would be able to make heavy attacks with his fists and legs. I took a few steps backward. When he had used his right fist for a long time, I turned aside and attacked him from the right towards his chest. He had studied Wing Chun for some time and was familiar with its tactics. He already knew that I would attack in this way. So he changed his right hand into a finger and used it to hit against my face. To use this method, one had to run an arch. This method was not suitable for Wing Chun Kung Fu. I had sent out my left fist. When he shunned aside, of course, I missed my target. His was experienced and understood the weakness of Wing Chun, so he used this method. However, I had seen his performance, and so I knew that he would use it. At once I turned my left punch into a protecting hand and used my right hand to pierce towards his throat. Although we did not use much of our force, we both were hit. He jumped away, and said, "Leung, actually I hit you first. Do you think so?"
I smiled and answered, "Don't take it seriously. Who first hit the other is not the most important thing. It is the strength of the hit that matters You are right. Your hand hit first, but my protecting hand had already dissolved much of your power. Truly, if you strike with all your force, I may not be able to stand it, but if the power is greatly reduced, the strike will not be so effective. On the other hand, my hand also grasped your throat. If we had really fought, surely you would know who would have been hurt more badly."
After that meeting, Bruce went to the States. One day before he died he gave me a phone call.
He said, "Among my friends, I respect you most. You are optimistic. You don't take fame and money seriously, your life is better than mine."
I then soothed him and said, ''I only try to find happiness from life. If we work hard for money and fame, in the end we will find that we are only torturing ourselves. You can live like me too. Live properly. Don't exceed the limit. Then you'll find that your life is better than everybody's life."
But now, we are separated forever.
In 1970 Bruce Lee wrote a letter in Chinese to the author of this article, Wong Shun-Leung. The content is recorded as follow:
Dear Shun-Leung, Jan. 11, 1970
It has been a long time since I last wrote to you. How are you? Alan Shaw's letter from Canada asks me to lend you my 8mm film. I am sorry about that. It is because I have lost it when I moved my home. That film is already very old and I seldom use it, so I have lost it. I am sorry for it. Now I have bought a house in Bel-Air. It is about half an acre. There are many trees. It has the taste of a range. It is located on a hill top near Beverly Hills. Moreover, besides my son Brandon, I have had a daughter, Shannon, who is seven months old now. Have you re-married ? Please send my regards to your sisters. Recently, I have organised a film production company. I have also written a story "The Silent Flute". James Coburn and I will act in it. Stirling Silliphant is the screen-play writer. He is a famous screen-play writer (In the Heat of the Night). We plan to make the first fighting film in Hollywood. The prospect is good. About six months later, the filming work will begin. All who participate in this film are my followers. In the future, Steve McQueen may also work together with me.
I am very excited about this plan. As to martial arts, I still practice daily. I meet my students and friends twice a week. No matter they are western boxer, Taekwondo learner or wrestler, I will meet them as long as they are friendly and will not get angry. Since I started to practice realistically in 1966 (Protectors, gloves, etc.), I feel that I had many prejudices before, and they are wrong. So I change the name of the gist of my study to Jeet-kune-do. Jeet-kune-do is only a name. The most important thing is to avoid having bias in the training. Of course, I run everyday, I practice my instruments (punch, kick, throw, etc.). I have to raise the basic conditions daily. Although the principle of boxing is important, practicality is even more important. I thank you and Master for teaching me the ways of Wing Chun in Hong Kong. Actually, I have to thank you for leading me to walk on a practical road. Especially in the States, there are western boxers, I often practise with them too. There are many so-called masters in Wing Chun here, I really hope that they will not be so blind to fight with those western boxers may make a trip to Hong Kong. I hope that you will live in the same place. We are intimate friends, we need to meet more and chat about our past days. That will be a lot of fun? When you see Master Yip, please send my regard to him. Happiness be with you!
WHY IS WONG SHEUNG LEUNG'S VING TSUN SO DIFFERENT?
Many people have asked me why Wong’s way of Ving Tsun is so different than other Sifus. Essentially I can only apply this question to the United Kingdom as that is where the question is asked and that is where I know the question is true. For example one very noticeable difference is the way the Wong’s system turns. In many styles of Ving Tsun in the U.K., when the practitioner turns he puts most if not all his weight on the back leg which of course moves him away from the opponent. Wong system turns on the centre of gravity giving more control of the opponent. Years ago when Anthony Kan and I were learning we were aware of this difference and wondered, even though to us Wong’s way made more sense, that perhaps we were wrong as most styles of Ving Tsun in the U.K. placed the weight on the back leg when they turned. Of course we stayed with what made most logical sense. There are also many other ways that other different Ving Tsun schools have similarities that are different from Wong’s thinking. Personally, I have viewed many, many ways of Ving Tsun over the years, but never have I found a way that is as simple, as efficient and as direct as Wong’s. Indeed, if I had I would be there! Much Ving Tsun in the U.K. is more rounded, defensive and prettier than Wong’s.
However, to find why Wong’s way is so renowned and different to other Ving Tsun we must look at the past. One obvious pointer is the experience that Wong gained in what worked and what did not from all the real fights he had when he was young. Another is the relationship he had with Yip Man which had a bearing on the knowledge he gained. For this I would like to quote from an article by Dave Peterson and Enzo Verratti called “Ving Tsun by Definition”. I hope they don’t mind me borrowing their words.
“It has been often suggested that Yip Man taught in a fairly unsystematic way, tending to pass on skills according to the student’s size and reach. It is also said that he didn’t have much time for his slower, less intelligent or less diligent students and actually taught few people the entire system in person. This in turn led to many people learning by observing others training, rather than first-hand, and that quite a few actually learn “second-hand” or even “third-hand” version of Ving Tsun filling the gaps in their knowledge with guesswork based on what they could recall seeing others do, or even worse, making it up out of their own imagination! This, of course gave rise to the variation in technique (and the interpretation of these techniques) extant today among instructors of the same generation, not to mention those of their younger Ving Tsun brothers and sisters.
Of all of Yip Man’s students, Sifu Wong Shun Leung probably spent the longest time under his tutelage because it was Sifu Wong who did most of the teaching in Yip Man’s school, whereas most of the other senior students opened their own schools and went about doing things their own way. Wong was therefore, always close to his teacher, could confer with his teacher and, observe his teacher, thereby picking up many of the subtleties which his peers never did. Sifu Wong was also the one Yip Man student who always put everything he had learned to the test, so he soon developed what can only be described as an intimate knowledge of the Ving Tsun system. Becoming known throughout Hong Kong as “Gong Sau Wong”, or “King of Talking with the Hands”, Sifu Wong took the Ving Tsun system to a whole new level and was never defeated in dozens of real life encounters with practitioners of a myriad of martial styles.”
Certainly, when I was in Hong Kong last November 1999 for the “First World Ving Tsun Conference”, it was clear from what was said on stage that Wong Shun Leung was highly respected by his peers. Dave Peterson also gave a rousing speech as to how many Ving Tsun teachers have “lost the way” making their techniques pretty and indirect. What amazes me is how it appeared that many people including Wong’s peers agreed with Dave Peterson but I have never seen any evidence of anyone doing anything about it! This leads me nicely in to quoting a little more from the same Dave Peterson and Enzo Verratti article:-
“What is more disturbing and frustrating is that many very intelligent people blindly continue to follow such instructors, even when confronted by convincing arguments which clearly prove that what they are doing does not conform to a logical approach. Instead, they take what is basically a simple straightforward method and turn it into one that is complicated and less efficient. …………………. So many Ving Tsun practitioners invent endless sequences of defensive actions when what is clearly the obvious message of the system is that ‘attack is the best form of defence.’”
Dave Peterson’s message is one that I completely concur with. Wong once said to me if you want to develop your Ving Tsun you must keep one formula in mind. Does the idea you wish to develop make it more simple, more direct and more efficient?
Long live the way of Wong Shun Leung!