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  • david03721

Bruce Lee, Wong Jack Man, and the truth. An eyewitness account.

This popped up as a memory from 6 years ago on my personal FB page.

I think it's still an important read as so many people get their Bruce Lee/JKD "history" from some of these ridiculous movies that have come out along with posts from so-called "experts" on social media.


Chris Kent Jeet Kune Do / Kent Institute of Martial Art · "JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE..." With the release of the new Chinese 'fantasy' film, Birth of the Dragon (which I have not seen nor have any intention of seeing) that is built around Bruce Lee's now infamous altercation with a man named Wong Jak Man, there seems to be a lot of babble about the film on the internet and social media sites. In July, 2015 I conducted an in-depth interview with Linda Lee Cadwell for the magazine Bruce Lee Mania in Spain. In the interview I brought up the subject the of numerous attempts to revise and some cases even rewrite the history of JKD that have been sprouting out all over the place. One of the subjects I broached was the fight that took place between Bruce Lee and Wong Jak Man. Here is the transcript from that part of the interview. Hopefully it will serve to shed a clear light on what actually took place. What I find interesting is that even with all the negative crap floating around concerning this event, Linda still graciously attempts to portray Wong Jak Man in somewhat of a positive light. Bruce Lee – Wong Jak Man Fight C: There seems to be a great deal of revision going on with regard to JKD History. You were an eyewitness to Bruce’s development and many if not most of the events which took place in his life. For example, the now famous, or infamous fight that took place in Oakland concerning Bruce’s right to teach non-Chinese. There is a whole revision going on with regard to what actually took place, how it happened, etcetera. As someone who was physically present at the time, would you like to comment on this? L: Yes, definitely. I was there at that event when martial artists from San Francisco came over to Bruce’s school in Oakland and there ensued a fight. I was there. The background has been ‘revised’ and changed and many different versions why they met on that occasion. One of those stories is that he shouldn’t have been teaching non-Chinese. I think that’s only part of the story, because there were non-Chinese that were studying the arts in San Francisco. A few, a minority amount. Bruce was teaching people of all different races, and women as well. So that was just part of the story. Plus the fact that he had married outside his race. Some people didn’t like that. And there were instigators in that incident. I would say that the person who fought Bruce was kind of a ‘puppet’ who was put up to it. Pretty much a “victim.” So there were other people saying, “There’s this new kid on the block, who just moved here, to the bay area…” That would be Bruce… “… and we, as the San Francisco martial arts group, want to see what he’s got. So we’re going to challenge him.” And so they came over to Oakland. Yes, I was there, in the room, when the fight took place. And regardless of what anybody reads about it, I am the only one here today to say exactly what happened…(Smiling)…on our side of it.” James Lee was there and I was there and Bruce was there. And this person came with his group, and they were in the studio, and they said, “Well, now let’s set up the rules, and we’ll just have a little sparring match here. And Bruce was like, “You gotta be crazy. You came here and challenged me, and you want to make rules? That’s not what martial arts is for. It’s not a sporting event.” So anyway, the fight ensued. The other guy was overwhelmed by Bruce’s explosiveness at the beginning of the fight, and he began to run, actually run. It was a small room…(indicating with her hand)… but there was a doorway that went out and a doorway that came in. And he ran around, with Bruce pursuing him. He ran through one door and back through the other door, and ran around a couple of times, and then, at that point, Bruce got him down on the floor and stood over him like this…(holding her fist up in the air and pointing downward at an imaginary opponent on the ground)… and said to him in Chinese ( ) which in Chinese means “Do you give up?” And Bruce said, “Tell the other guys you give up!” And that is what happened. I mean, I don’t know where all these fantastic stories come from – that the fight lasted twenty minutes – that Bruce did not get him down on the ground. He did! I saw it…right there. (pointing to her head and closing her eyes) I can see it and hear what he said in my mind, clear as day. So anyway, it’s kind of amusing really, the way people want to change the idea of what happened. And I feel that the poor guy who was put up to fight Bruce was not expecting this when he came, because his guys were like, ”We’re just going to spar, and you know, play act.” And so he was as much a victim as anything else. And I understand he’s a very good martial artist. But anyway… C: Yes, we’re just seeking clarity on what took place. L: Yes, and the big change that took place there was that Bruce was chasing this guy around the studio and at the end of three minutes he was winded. And he realized that he had not been doing enough exercise, so that he was in better shape. Before this time… (a small piece missing here where the battery had to be changed -- but I remember she was discussing that up until that time Bruce had been satisfied with the training he was doing) He incorporated cardio training as an important part of his fitness. So that was one outcome of the fight. Plus, he was using his Wing Chun at that time, because that was what he had studied under Yip Man, and that was what he was teaching up until that time. And it really was the beginning of, “Let me re-think how this fight went, what I was doing that didn’t end it sooner.” Because he had other fights before. Like in Seattle there was a karate guy that had challenged him, and that was over in eleven seconds. So he was really re-thinking, and that was the beginning of what became Jeet Kune Do.

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