Archive for Bruce Lee
In the wake of Sifu Ted Wong’s death, I thought of the book “The Straight Lead,” by Teri Tom. It’s an
Now you might think that a book only about the lead punch would be simple-Simon dull and repetitive, but you’d be wrong. If you can judge a teacher by his students, the knowledge and seriousness of author Teri Tom speaks well of the late Sifu Ted Wong. Sifu Wong poses for several pictures and is interviewed, as well as being referenced and quoted throughout the book.
The most fascinating aspect of the book is how it goes into great depth about how Bruce Lee developed his lead punch. Bruce didn’t just get a punch from Wing Chun, or from boxing, or simply combine the two. Bruce Lee’s lead punch was the result of intense study and wide reading in the fields of both boxing and fencing, including legendary boxer Jack Dempsey and fencer Aldo Nadi. Regardless of how well you think you know Bruce Lee, I guarantee you will find something new in this book.
The book goes into great depth on the lead punch, on footwork, and on strategy. Teri Tom writes so intelligently and has researched her subject so thoroughly, that you can’t help but be prompted to think more deeply about the martial arts. Even if you disagree with her and Sifu Wong.
And you may very well find yourself disagreeing. The late Sifu Wong was a prime mover behind the “purist” Jeet Kune Do movement, and your view of GM Dan Inosanto may cause your blood to boil, especially in the comments and interview sections toward the end, which are less focused on technique.
For the serious martial artist, those interested in Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do, or the late Sifu Wong, I think this book is a must have.
I was just gearing up to write about Bruce Lee. If Bruce Lee were alive as of November 27, 2010, he would be 70 years old. It’s practically impossible to imagine a 70 year-old Bruce Lee. And now I hear the sad news that one of Bruce Lee’s top students and closest friends, Ted Wong, has died.
I remember years ago when I was studying JKD with Tim Evans Sensei, and we had one of Ted Wong’s instructors come and give a seminar. This teacher asked what we thought Jeet Kune Do was. “Freedom,” was one answer. The instructor’s answer was that JKD was Bruce Lee’s personal art. (Here I am paraphrasing.) Bruce Lee was Chinese, spoke Chinese, and that his art was inextricably Chinese.
Since the instructor himself was Chinese (as was his teacher, Ted Wong) and the audience was Filipino and Caucasian, the implied message seemed to be a twist on the old sign, “No Dogs or Caucasians Allowed.” Many people were upset, inferring racism or –at the least– chauvinism.
But in time I came to see the point that was being made. The place to start is with Bruce Lee’s technique. That is JKD. That is the essence. Those core techniques and teachings of Bruce Lee need to be preserved, especially in view of how many of those who had first hand personal experiences with Bruce Lee are fading away. This was the impetus for the Bruce Lee Foundation –to preserve the legacy while there’s still time. From the Bruce Lee Foundation:
“But, too often, people diverge from Bruce Lee’s JKD but continue to call it “Bruce Lee’s JKD” which only adds to the confusion. So, yes, there was a certain amount of individuality and personal exploration promoted by Bruce Lee in JKD but it was within the framework of the foundation he had already himself laid down. Anything that diverges too abruptly from that path (such as, teaching other arts and labeling it JKD, or altering the basic stance and front lead, or adding weapons training into JKD, etc) should be classified as someone else’s take on JKD and not ascribed to Bruce Lee. To think we know best what Bruce Lee wanted or who Bruce Lee is is pure hubris. Rather if we come up with our own innovations, we should stand proudly by those and label them with our own name, but keep Bruce Lee’s JKD pure.”
Of course, this could be interpreted as a slam against the Inosanto crowd. Yet I see GM Wong’s point, that Bruce Lee didn’t do weapons. And it seems that with GM Inosanto every week is a new art, whether Silat, Savate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or Zulu warrior arts.
You can see Ted Wong in action here, and while the technique is nothing earth shattering, the execution is solid, fluid, and eerily like Bruce Lee. You can also hear an interview between Ted Wong and Bruce Lee’s daughter here. Every account I’ve ever heard is very clear that Bruce Lee had an incredible aura of almost nuclear charisma. Ted Wong describes Bruce as “a magnet.”
There is a memorial website for GM Wong here.
I asked my nephew James, the champion wrestler, what his primary defense is against the opponent who shoots. He replied the cross face, which he demonstrates here.
This video shows the basics of the crossface and sprawl.
Remember, in Bruce Lee’s fighting stance, he kept his lead right arm low, with the elbow resting on his hip. Could this be useful against the shooting opponent?
In this video (at the very end of the clip) a wrestler uses a crossface like the aikido entering throw irimi nage, at least as practiced by Steven Seagal, who uses it to great effect.
The Kuntawman is back after a recent hiatus with an interesting article about Kimbo Slice. In his opinion Kimbo excelled as a street fighter because he was doing what he was g0od at. Once he started training in MMA, he began doing techniques he didn’t excel at, and instead of relying on a few well-executed techniques, he had a buffet table full of options, some (many?) of which were unfamiliar.
Bruce Lee’s theory was that the untrained man had no technique, but he had a natural fluidity that is an asset. Perhaps it was the naturalness of what Kimbo was doing that made him successful as a street fighter.
We also know that when people are confronted with too many options, that decision making breaks down. Perhaps Kimbo’s problem was one of too many choices.
I think this is a valuable lesson: having hundreds of techniques is not a strength of a system, but a weakness. I have thought that one of the reasons for the success of boxers versus karateka is that boxers have fewer weapons, and fewer choices, so that there is no moment of paralysis when the guy who has hundreds of techniques thinks, “Okay, there’s a punch hurtling toward my face, do I sidestep, crossblock, parry, goose neck block, cross step, front kick, side kick, knife hand….” POW!
Many FMA could benefit from simplification, by stripping down to the bare essentials. That way, the student under attack is not trying to decide which part of the curriculum, that includes everything from staff to bow and arrow, he should do next.
I’ve posted a new video at my Big Stick Combat You Tube channel.
My father is a retired California Highway Patrol officer. He had a fellow officer who was into body building and the martial arts. One time he took my dad to see his teacher Jimmy Lee, who studied kung-fu, at a time when no one in the US had ever heard of it.