Interview With Bolo Yeung

February 20 2015 at 5:01 PM
LJF  (Login LJF)

The followings are some excerpts on Bolo Yeung interview from Chaplin Chang’s book(Chinese edition), “The Bruce That They Knew” published in July 2013 in HK.

1) Q: Have you known Bruce before filming ETD?
A: Not really. One day, I picked up a call. The man on the phone asked, “Are you Yeung Tze (Bolo's original name)?” I said, “Yeah, who are you?” “I’m Bruce Lee,” he said. Bruce then invited me to shoot a “TV commercial for Winston Cigarette.” The next day, I went to GH. There were only 3 persons present for the commercial shooting i.e. Zhao Ching Lui(unknown actor), Cheh Yuen(actor in G.O.D) and me. We shot a TV commercial and the slogan was: “When talking about fighting, it’s Bruce Lee! When talking about cigarette, of course, it’s Winston!” This advertising slogan together with the TV commercial was aired during the golden hours of the TVB’s E.Y.T. show for quite some time. (Note: Bolo met Bruce later in the midst of filming this TV commercial. Winston was the main sponsor for promoting “WOD” on TV at the end of 1972)

2) Q: Can you relate the incident where an extra challenge Bruce?
A: That extra was sitting on the wall and was boasting loudly to the rest of the extras about his martial arts. He kept talking and said something like “JKD is bullshit!.....” Bruce overheard what he said and told him, “So, do you wanna try, uhh?” “OK” replied the extra, and then he jumped down from the wall. Bruce wanted the extra to start first. So, the extra tried to hit him at random many times but without success. When it was Bruce’s turn, we just saw Bruce’s sudden lightning moves and then it’s over, the extra’s face was covered with blood. That extra moaned in pain and complained to Bruce, “Slower, I didn’t see your strike, how did you hit me?” Soon, things got worse. Bob Wall came and threw a heavy kick to the extra. When he knew that he was challenging Bruce, he told Bruce, let him, the disciple, took care of the extra. The situation turned real bad, with just one kick, Bob sent the extra flying backward like a football. Then Bob picked him up and “bang!” kicked him again!

3) Q: Could you tell us about Bruce’s martial arts training and his training equipments at home?
A: I used to go to his house frequently. Bruce would tell me and the rest a lot of stuff related to martial arts. I saw him trained with others and I was the only “audience” then. There were many speedballs in his personal gym which were very different from the ones we see in Western Boxing. Their sizes varied from big to small, the small ones are like ping pong. Besides the gym, the speedballs could also be found in his study room. One day while approaching the doorstep of his study room, I saw him wearing a headgear with many wires attached to it which were linked to another device. My first reaction was, “Insane!” I waited at the doorstep for him to finish his training before going in to see him.

4) Q: How long did you wait?
A: About 5 minutes. I told Bruce regardless of whether I could understand his explanation, he ought to explain to me exactly what he was doing and for what purposes. He said, “I’m training the delivery speed of the nervous system. It’s to improve the agility of the limbs and the speed of the reflexes. In other words, when your eyes see the movement of the person, the nerves of your eyes direct the central nervous system of your brain, which in turn, directs your hands, legs to intercept, dodge, kick or attack. All these takes time, their responses (conditional reflexes) can become faster through training. It’s abstract, just like the air, or practising the “qi” in the pubic region of the body. How to train the nervous transport system to be as fast as possible? It’s really abstract. For things that are abstract, we’ll need to utilise very practical, economical and scientific method to train.”

He said he thought of it for a very long time, this matter is just like athletes competiting in a race. Upon hearing the starting gun shot that split the air, all athletes start to run, some would be faster and some slower. Why is it so? It’s because of the nervous transport system. Like Taiwanese sprinter, Ji Zheng, who won the first Olympic sprint bronze medal for Taiwan in 1968 (First in Asia’s record then). The time that the device tracked the starting gun shot to her starting to run was only 0.00+ seconds, which was extremely fast. But Bruce said, “I’m faster than her, I’ve trained to be faster than her.”

He said he had gone through many tests and experiments and had discovered that man’s reflexes would be the fastest under certain circumstances. That is during sleeping. The more you want to be faster the more you need to relax. When a man relaxes internally and externally, his nervous transport condition is the fastest. It is because when man feels tense, the speed of the delivery become the slowest. When you understand this point, then, you have to create the state of relaxation. This state of relaxation is also called the state of hypnosis. How to create? Feels like sleeping, then falls asleep, just train in this way.

(Bolo drew a small tool, and continued talking) Bruce told me, “This is the switch to turn on the sound. One of the switches generates noises; the rest includes the sound of a car, the sound of an airplane, the percussion sound and noises. This mean what he heard is the busy and noisy sound. Then, turn off the switch. The second switch generates sound in regularity, like drip-drop, metronome beating and the sound of hypnosis with sense of rhythm. After that, turn on both switches, mix the noisy sound and the sound of hypnosis together, follow by adjusting the volume. Tune the volume of the noisy sound higher and higher, and the sound of hypnosis lower and lower. If you only hear the sound of the hypnosis but not the noisy sound; even the sound of hypnosis is turned off and left with the noisy sound, you only hear the sound of hypnosis, means that you have succeeded. In other words, even if in a very tense state, you are still able to self-hypnotise. You could hear solely the sound of hypnosis, tick…tick…tick… This is the state whereby the speed of the nervous delivery is the fastest.

Next, Bruce said, “If you saw my movie and have observed carefully, my expression before the fight, it was different from the other actors.” He was referring to the close-up shot of his pre-fight expression (Note: against Bob Baker in FOF).

5) Q: What is the difference?
A: Bruce said, “Other actors would be glaring, grinding teeth, clenching fist, getting ready to fight. For me, I feel like sleeping, if you’d looked closely at my expression.” You see, computer graphics will show heartbeat, if your heartbeat is strong, magnitude is therefore, large. Nowadays, the gyms have already adopted this method for the treadmills, it can monitor the entire process, see your heartbeat, pulse-rate. But back then, we didn’t have that kind of advanced device or equipment.

6) Q: Bruce studied and adopted it. Anything else?
A: I’d like to stress one thing, this is not solely martial arts training, when I tried to discuss the concept of the nervous delivery system with the local and overseas martial arts masters, they all disagreed. I think for traditionalist to accept a new thing is difficult, this implies not only to martial arts, but the door of tradition, is usually hard to open.

7) Q: Any special reasons why they disagreed?
A: No special reasons. They just thought things which are unacceptable are usually bad. You know, when Bruce learnt Wing Chun, he never said Wing Chun is no good but he dared to doubt the conventional approach to fighting. For those who dare not doubt traditions, they sure don’t have the guts to overthrow it. In fact, from the martial arts point of view, it has its new implication.
Bruce always had new and unpredictable ideas popping out of the blue. I remember another incident that took place one evening, after filming G.O.D he had dinner with Raymond Chow and called me to join in. Suddenly, he told me that he intended to set up a worker union for the HK stuntmen. This union not only could take care of their welfare but also it would be convenient for him to use these stuntmen in making movies. (Note: Unfortunately, Bruce passed away before the idea was realised and it was until either the late 80s or early 90s that the stuntmen union was finally set up by Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung etc.)

8) Q: Anymore interesting incidents about Bruce you’d like to share?
A: One day, I went to GH and saw Bruce standing in front of a big screen. I thought he was watching movie but to my surprise, it was Muhammad Ali’s boxing footage (Note: Bruce had collected over 3000 books on various topics by 1973 and a huge collection of footage on world greatest boxing matches, HK rooftop sparrings, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, Wrestling, Wing Chun, Shaolin Kung Fu and other kind of martial arts demos etc.).
The footage showed Ali, the King of boxing, fighting with his opponent in a ring. Bruce was watching the reflection from the mirror instilled directly opposite the screen. I asked him what he was doing. He told me Cassius Clay’s (Ali’s original name before converting to Muslim) fighting stance was just the opposite from his. Ali was a left forward while Bruce was a right forward. When you see the reflection, they become the same stance. Bruce studied Ali’s footwork as he said, “Maybe, I will fight him one day!”
(Note: Bruce told John Saxon and Bob Wall similar things. By the time in 1972 and early 1973, Bruce had pushed himself almost to the limit, his martial arts skills and physical condition were at the peak as witnessed from his extremely hard training and toned muscles. His JKD then, seemed to top most of the martial arts and none of the challengers was on the same par as him. Bruce was very self-assured of his martial arts and street-fighting skills. Thus, Ali might not his real potential opponent but merely a target for him to work towards to so that he could prepare himself for any fierce encounters one day. At the end of the day, Bruce’s greatest opponent was none others but himself as ultimately, he drained out his own life in return for his success.)

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  • Re: Interview With Bolo Yeung - Nick Clarke on Feb 20, 2015, 6:14 PM
  • Thanks - panttelis on Feb 21, 2015, 9:17 AM
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