Officer Cook Meets Jimmy Lee

Master James Lee

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.

When my dad first saw Jimmy Lee, he was unimpressed. Jimmy was a small, unassuming guy. But when he moved, he was amazing. He moved lightning fast.

“He detested karate,” my dad told me. “His style was fluid. In his mind he was five moves ahead of you. Everything flowed.” My dad demonstrated a series of moves: backfist, elbow, punch, downward elbow, etc.

“One time he accidentally hit my friend, who was a solid guy, and and a massive bruise instantly appeared on his chest.”

Jimmy also dealt with prejudice. Once on the docks some guys were taunting him, shouting “chink” and other slurs. When he confronted them, he hospitalized three of them and the rest took off running.

In fairness, he could dish out his own slurs. Once when his son had a run-in with a black kid his age, Jimmy went to the kid’s house. When the boy’s father got confrontational, Jimmy let him have it: “My ancestors were wearing silk while yours were still swinging from trees.”

Gary Dill and James Lee

“The one thing I learned from Jimmy was never to judge people by their appearance,” my dad said. “Once I told him, ‘I’ve never seen anybody as fast as you or move like you do.'”

Jimmy humbly replied, “I’m nothing. You should see my cousin Bruce.”

Of course, at that time, my dad’s question was “Bruce who?” Nobody had yet heard of Bruce Lee.


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