Friday, February 22, 2013

Bruce Lee obtained legendary status as a martial artist in part because of a 1965 fight in Oakland, Calif., against Chinese kung fu master Wong Jack Man. It was the last fight of Lee's career.

For nearly 50 years, there has been much speculation and heated debate about what occurred inside of that gym, as very few people witnessed it. But the upshot of the bout is that it helped to develop Lee's views on Jeet Kune Do, which is the forerunner of today's mixed martial arts.

On Tuesday, reported that a movie about the fight that will be called "Birth of the Dragon" will be produced by QED International and Groundswell Productions.

Jack Man is reclusive and rarely does interviews and has rarely spoken of that fight. London said producers will approach him after finishing the screenplay. He said he hasn't reached out to Lee's family, either.

Lee's daughter, Shannon, who runs the Bruce Lee Foundation, said that the fight was significant in her father's life because of the impact it had upon him.

"It was a pivotal moment in his life because he was very disappointed after the fight," Shannon Lee said. "Happy that he won, obviously, and happy he won the right to teach whoever he saw fit is what the challenge was over, the fact that he was teaching non-Chinese people the art of kung fu.

"He was very upset and my Mom said he was sitting outside and had his head in his hands. He told her that he felt the fight had gone on a lot longer than he thought it should and he felt tired and winded from having to run to chase [Jack Man]. He felt his training had let him down. ... He thought it should have been over a lot faster, and it was really from that that he started to change his whole thinking on martial arts."

Wong Jack Man

Wong Jack Man (born c.1940[1] in Hong Kong[2]) is a Chinese martial artist and martial arts teacher, best known for a martial arts duel with Bruce Lee in Oakland in 1964.

Wong taught classes in T'ai chi ch'uan, Xingyiquan and Northern Shaolin at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. He retired in 2005 after teaching for 45 years. His classes continued under his student Rick Wing.[3]
The fight with Bruce Lee

Accounts of Wong's fight with Lee are controversial, as it was unrecorded and held in private.

According to Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee's wife, Lee's teaching of Chinese martial arts to Caucasians made him unpopular with Chinese martial artists in San Francisco. Wong contested the notion that Lee was fighting for the right to teach Caucasians as not all of his students were Chinese. Wong stated that he requested a public fight with Lee after Lee had issued an open challenge during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater in which he claimed to be able to defeat any martial artist in San Francisco. Wong stated it was after a mutual acquaintance delivered a note from Lee inviting him to fight that he showed up at Lee's school to challenge him. Martial artist David Chin reportedly wrote the original challenge, while Wong asked Chin to let him sign it.

According to author Norman Borine, Wong tried to delay the match and asked for restrictions on techniques such as hitting the face, kicking the groin, and eye jabs, and that the two fought no holds barred after Lee turned down the request.

The details of the fight vary depending on the account. Individuals known to have witnessed the match included Cadwell, James Lee (an associate of Bruce Lee, no relation) and William Chen, a teacher of T'ai chi ch'uan. According to Bruce, Linda, and James Lee, the fight lasted 3 minutes with a decisive victory for Bruce.

Lee gave a description, without naming Wong explicitly, in an interview with Black Belt.

"I'd gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter the son-of-a-bitch started to run. I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting."

Cadwell recounted the scene in her book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew:

"The two came out, bowed formally and then began to fight. Wong adopted a classic stance whereas Bruce, who at the time was still using his Wing Chun style, produced a series of straight punches. "Within a minute, Wong's men were trying to stop the fight as Bruce began to warm to his task. James Lee warned them to let the fight continue. A minute later, with Bruce continuing the attack in earnest, Wong began to backpedal as fast as he could. For an instant, indeed, the scrap threatened to degenerate into a farce as Wong actually turned and ran. But Bruce pounced on him like a springing leopard and brought him to the floor where he began pounding him into a state of demoralization. "Is that enough?" shouted Bruce, "That's enough!" pleaded his adversary. Bruce demanded a second reply to his question to make sure that he understood this was the end of the fight."[12]

This is in contrast to Wong and William Chen's account of the fight as they state the fight lasted an unusually long 20–25 minutes. Allegedly, Wong was unsatisfied with Lee's account of the match and published his own version in the Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese language newspaper in San Francisco.

The article, which was featured on the front page, included a detailed description of the fight from Wong's perspective and concluded with an invitation to Bruce Lee for a public match if Lee found his version to be unacceptable. Lee never made a public response to the article. Wong later expressed regret over fighting Lee, attributing it to arrogance, both on the part of Lee and himself


foreveragain said...

Your blog seems to tally with history.... the witnesses to the fight were Linda Lee, who was pregnant at the time; she said she wasn't worried in the least. The other witness on the Lee side was James Yimm Lee, an older gung fu man who was Bruce's friend and assistant instructor at BL's school in Oakland CA. According to these two witnesses, James was also there as Bruce's 'second' or wing man, if you will. He was a fellow who could actually brick real bricks, and not the brittle bricks one often sees in demonstrations. He served to buffet Bruce if any of Wong Jack's people attempted to intervene. Linda Lee later noted that awhile later they were having dinner in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, where Wong Jack was a waiter. "When he walked in and saw us, it was like one of those western movies." I can't recall what else she recounted, but it was something on the lines that Wong Jack sort of back peddled. Also, this was certainly not the first fight of Bruce's life. He was challenged by many in real fights, all the way to when he became a super star. He also sparred with any serious martial artists. He was teacher to the apex of tournament competitors; many extremely credible witnesses have said that when Bruce sparred with them, it was 'no contest,' he handled them like kids. You can look up James DeMile for excellent first-hand accounts. When he fought people who really wanted to hurt him, he defeated them and still treated them with class; he wouldn't hold a grudge. For example, when he was filming Enter the Dragon, an extra egged him on, and BL defeated him, and later explained what the fellow was doing wrong -- like a lesson! Instead of firing him, Lee allowed him to stay. While living in Los Angeles, a kung fu man visited Bruce; he had been hand-picked by Hong Kong teachers, although he didn't say this --- but BL suspected. After watching BL demonstrate his abilities, he blurted, "You're so good you should teach only Chinese!" BL replied, "I'll teach anyone I want to." Btw, a friend of mine said he saw Wong Jack Man years ago in San Francisco, wearing impressive white robes, obviously relishing an image of a 'kung fu master.'

cuzz63 said...

There is scant evidence that Bruce ever fought anyone before Wong Jack Man. Had he done so he would have realized alot sooner how limiting Wing Chun was. Here it took him fighting someone who was not known to be a skilled fighter for Bruce to realize it. At best you could claim he had some fights with random unskilled people when he was a High School kid.