Hayward Nishioka on Bruce Lee

August 18 2015 at 5:11 AM
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Hayward Nishiok (1942 - ), a 9th degree black belt in Judo, is also a Japanese-American community college physical education instructor and the former Judo Gold Medallist at the 1967 Pan American Games. He won five consecutive national championships from 1965 to 1970 and was ranked 5th in the world in 1965 and 1967. On January 13, 1987, Nishioka, at the age of 44, defeated challenger, Rickson Gracie (age 28) with a number of throws at his Judo school. Nishioka admitted training with Bruce in the 60s and personally sparred with Bruce. He was in awe of Bruce’s exceptional martial art prowess.

"I remember one time I was at Bruce's house," said Hayward Nishioka, who was voted into the BLACK BELT Hall of Fame twice for his judo, as both an instructor and a competitor. "I had done a little karate, but I couldn't hold a candle to him (Bruce). He was too fast for me; he would tap my head before I even got set. "Finally I asked Bruce what he would do if I just sat on the ground and waited for him to attack me," continued Nishioka. "He said he'd just walk away."
Says Hayward Nishioka, ‘He was the quickest person I’ve ever seen. In that area he was king. And he knew it. He had that same cockiness Americans have. Americans say, “I’m arrogant, and I’ll show you why. I can do it. I’m good.”

Nishioka said in fact, many martial artists had sparred with Bruce and had the similar experience as him but many would not admit, mainly because they were afraid of losing face. Richard Bustillo, a student of Dan Inosanto, said he personally saw a sparring session with Chuck Norris and Bruce that left Norris red faced. Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee said he would not spar Lee because he would knock you out. As Lee was experimenting and creating his own art, thus, he would take up most challenges. He sparred anyone who wanted to spar. He sincerely wanted to learn, grow and dedicate himself to being the best.

Bruce studied and mastered many different arts and techniques and was a very different martial artist in 72-73 than he was in the 60's. What is the consensus about Bruce from "real deal" fighters (Norris, Lewis, Wallace, Stone and Rhee) was that he was the fastest and possibly the strongest man that they had ever seen. Master Rhee has categorically stated: "I would demonstrate a kick to Bruce and a week later he would be able to do it as well as myself!"

Below is an excerpt of Nishioka’s interview from the book, “Bruce Lee: Conversations – The Life & Legacy of A Legend” by Fiaz Rafiq published on 19th July 2011. This book is a compilation of over 50 exclusive interviews with Bruce Lee's original students, friends, co-stars and colleagues such as Rhoon Ree, Ji Han Jae, Hwang In-Shik, Joe Lewis, Hayward Nishioka, Dan Inosanto, Jesse Glover etc. Furthermore, there are also exclusive interviews with some of the best professional boxers, bodybuilders, UFC fighters who pay homage to the legend.

According to Nishioka, when Bruce was living in LA, he would many times bring along a friend to witness this dynamo. Once he brought along Dr. Burt Siedler, a physical education professor at Cal state (LA). “When he first saw Bruce punching the speed bag,” Nishioka smiled, “he (Siedler) mentioned that if Bruce would seriously study boxing, he would be the lightweight champ in a year’s time.
Then, when he saw Bruce punch the heavy bag and jar it like a heavyweight with lefts and rights, he quickly changed his mind, saying that if Bruce should compete in the ring, he could become a champ in six months.
“Afterward Bruce told me to block his punches,” continued Nishioka. “Those punches were so fast that I couldn’t block any one of them. When Siedler saw that, he shook his head and changed his mind again, this time telling Bruce that he only needed one month to be the champ.”
Another time, Nishioka brought along a student of Shigeru Egami, a noted Karate Sensei (teacher) in Japan. Hashimoto, who was a fourth dan (degree) black belt, had never heard of Bruce Lee before. But it didn’t take him long to respect Bruce’s skills.

Nishioka used to go to Bruce house to train once a month, so, he understood why Bruce did not compete in the tournament. Bruce said why should he participate? He believed he had the ability to participate in such kind of “points-fighting” competition but he was not interested. Bruce had many tough training sessions with Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis and Bob Wall who were all first class fighters. In fact, Bruce’s speed was way too fast for them. He was so quick that he could move in and out of their sight before they could all react. Nishioka said this is the compliment made from those martial artists who had personally witnessed and sparred with Bruce, even those who have never praised him before, felt the same way. Bruce was an extraordinary martial artist. They may be reluctant to make these comments but Nishioka is very sure, they are very clear about this fact within their hearts.

Nishioka said Bruce was ahead of his time. He was always training extremely hard for street combat. He liked jogging which was why he was able to maintain his great physical condition. In the past, martial arts practitioners never regard jogging as a kind of physical fitness training. If they practice martial arts, then they would just practice martial arts. As a result, they did not have the successful foundation liked Bruce. If your cup contained the content of weightlifting, power training, strategy etc., and you practice JKD, then your cup would be filled with the necessary ingredients. However, if your cup is only filled with techniques, then, you would not be able to fight effectively and at a high energy level.

In addition, Nishioka said the martial arts skills Bruce learnt and practiced surpassed anyone at that time. This made him and his martial arts stood out among the rest.
Every time I sparred with Bruce, I felt that regardless of the techniques or the content, Bruce was always coming out with something new. I have completely no doubt about his ability in participating in the tournament. In fact, in real fighting without rules and regulations, I believed Bruce was 4 times more terrifying than in the competition.

Indeed, Bruce Lee was a master with such a complete combination of philosophy, strategy, physical condition, power, speed, skills and passion who came along very rarely. He was just one in a zillion. Bruce Lee was definitely not a tournament fighter but he was definitely a street fighter who trained much more professionally than anyone else and that was what he did and focused daily.

Photos of Hayward Nishioka and Bruce Lee:

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  • Nishioka v Rickson - Dave B. on Aug 18, 2015, 1:21 PM
  • Re:Hayward Nishioka on Bruce Lee - rockfish on Aug 18, 2015, 6:59 PM
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