Martial arts career
Jun Fan Gung Fu
Lee began teaching martial arts in the United States in 1959. He called what he taught Jun Fan Gung Fu (literally Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu). It was basically his approach to Wing Chun Lee taught friends he met in Seattle, starting with Judo practitioner Jesse Glover, who continued to teach some of Lee’s early techniques. Taky Kimura became Lee’s first Assistant Instructor and continued to teach his art and philosophy after Lee’s death. Lee opened his first martial arts school, named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, in Seattle.
Lee dropped out of college in the spring of 1964 and moved to Oakland to live with James Yimm Lee (嚴鏡海). James Lee was twenty years senior to Bruce Lee and a well known Chinese martial artist in the area. Together, they founded the second Jun Fan martial art studio in Oakland. James Lee was also responsible for introducing Bruce Lee to Ed Parker, American martial artist, and organizer of the Long Beach International Karate Championships at which Bruce Lee was later “discovered” by Hollywood.
Long Beach International Karate Championships
At the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee appeared in the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships and performed repetitions of two-finger push-ups (using the thumb and the index finger of one hand) with feet at approximately a shoulder-width apart. In the same Long Beach event he also performed the “One inch punch.”Lee stood upright, his right foot forward with knees bent slightly, in front of a standing, stationary partner. Lee’s right arm was partly extended and his right fist approximately an inch away from the partner’s chest. Without retracting his right arm, Lee then forcibly delivered the punch to his partner while largely maintaining his posture, sending the partner backwards and falling into a chair said to be placed behind the partner to prevent injury, though his partner’s momentum soon caused him to fall to the floor. His volunteer was Bob Baker of Stockton, California. “I told Bruce not to do this type of demonstration again”, Baker recalled. “When he punched me that last time, I had to stay home from work because the pain in my chest was unbearable”.
It was at the 1964 championships where Lee first met Taekwondo master Jhoon Goo Rhee. The two developed a friendship – a relationship from which they benefited as martial artists. Rhee taught Lee the side kick in detail, and Lee taught Rhee the “non-telegraphic” punch.
Lee appeared at the 1967 Long Beach International Karate Championships and performed various demonstrations, including the famous “unstoppable punch” against USKA world Karate champion Vic Moore. Lee told Moore that he was going to throw a straight punch to the face, and all he had to do was to try to block it. Lee took several steps back and asked if Moore was ready, when Moore nodded in affirmation, Lee glided towards him until he was within striking range. He then threw a straight punch directly at Moore’s face, and stopped before impact. In eight attempts, Moore failed to block any of the punches.
Fight with Wong Jack Man
In Oakland, California in 1964 at Chinatown, Lee had a controversial private match with Wong Jack Man, a direct student of Ma Kin Fung known for his mastery of Xingyiquan, Northern Shaolin, and T’ai chi ch’uan. According to Lee, the Chinese community issued an ultimatum to him to stop teaching non-Chinese. When he refused to comply, he was challenged to a combat match with Wong. The arrangement was that if Lee lost, he would have to shut down his school; while if he won, then Lee would be free to teach Caucasians or anyone else. Wong denied this, stating that he requested to fight Lee after Lee issued an open challenge during one of Lee’s demonstrations at a Chinatown theatre, and that Wong himself did not discriminate against Caucasians or other non-Chinese. Lee commented, “That paper had all the names of the sifu from Chinatown, but they don’t scare me”.
Individuals known to have witnessed the match included Cadwell, James Lee (Bruce Lee’s associate, no relation), and William Chen, a teacher of T’ai chi ch’uan. Wong and witness William Chen stated that the fight lasted an unusually long 20–25 minutes. According to Bruce Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, and James Yimm Lee, the fight lasted 3 minutes with a decisive victory for Lee. “The fight ensued, it was a no-holds-barred fight, it took three minutes. Bruce got this guy down to the ground and said ‘do you give up?’ and the man said he gave up” – Linda Lee Cadwell.
Wong Jack Man published his own account of the battle in the Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese-language newspaper in San Francisco, which contained another challenge to Lee for a public rematch. Lee had no reciprocation to Wong’s article, nor were there any further public announcements by either, but Lee had continued to teach Caucasians.
Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do originated in 1967. After filming one season of The Green Hornet, Lee found himself out of work and opened The Jun Fan Institute of Gung Fu. The controversial match with Wong Jack Man influenced Lee’s philosophy about martial arts. Lee concluded that the fight had lasted too long and that he had failed to live up to his potential using his Wing Chun techniques. He took the view that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalistic to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting. Lee decided to develop a system with an emphasis on “practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency”. He started to use different methods of training such as weight training for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, and many others which he constantly adapted, including fencing and basic boxing techniques.
Lee emphasised what he called “the style of no style”. This consisted of getting rid of the formalised approach which Lee claimed was indicative of traditional styles. Lee felt the system he now called Jun Fan Gung Fu was even too restrictive, and eventually evolved into a philosophy and martial art he would come to call Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist. It is a term he would later regret, because Jeet Kune Do implied specific parameters that styles connote; whereas the idea of his martial art was to exist outside of parameters and limitations.
Fitness and nutrition
At 173 cm (5 ft 8 in) and 64 kg (141 lb), Lee was renowned for his physical fitness and vigorous, dedicated fitness regimen to become as strong as he possibly could. After his match with Wong Jack Man in 1965, Lee changed his approach toward martial arts training. Lee felt that many martial artists of his time did not spend enough time on physical conditioning. Lee included all elements of total fitness—muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. He tried traditional bodybuilding techniques to build bulky muscles or mass. However, Lee was careful to admonish that mental and spiritual preparation was fundamental to the success of physical training in martial arts skills. In Tao of Jeet Kune Do, he wrote
Training is one of the most neglected phases of athletics. Too much time is given to the development of skill and too little to the development of the individual for participation. … JKD, ultimately is not a matter of petty techniques but of highly developed spirituality and physique.
According to Linda Lee Cadwell, soon after he moved to the United States, Lee started to take nutrition seriously and developed an interest in health foods, high-protein drinks and vitamin and mineral supplements. He later concluded that in order to achieve a high-performance body, one could not fuel it with a diet of junk food, and with “the wrong fuel” one’s body would perform sluggishly or sloppily. Lee also avoided baked goods and refined flour, describing them as providing calories which did nothing for his body.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes one our all time favorites …the one and only Bruce Lee.