Grandmaster Ted Wong RIP
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.