Peter Chin: In The Shadow of The Dragon

December 4 2015 at 8:10 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

In one of the HK 1973 issues of “The Contemporary Martial Arts Circle magazine,” there is an article (titled “Unveiling The Mystery of BL’s Training Gym”) about Peter Chin, a long time friend and student of the legendary Bruce Lee. Below is the translated excerpt of the above article.

During the interview, Peter Chin wore a big baggy thawb or thobe (a Male Muslim long gown), just like Bruce Lee who used to wear it very often while he was alive. (Note: Actually, Kareem Abdul Jabbar wore that kind of outfit too as he was a Muslim and he wore a blue thawb in GAME). Peter Chin had just returned from jogging and was in high spirit. The author was amazed to find that his house was filled with many body training equipments just like Bruce’s.

A Good Example of Sheer Diligence
Peter Chin who has been a follower of Bruce Lee for many years said, “Bruce’s teaching consists of not only practical trainings but a lot of theories. If you want to achieve good result or success, then the only way is through sheer diligence.” Chin continued, “After you understand the tough training Bruce went through, you wouldn’t be surprised by the great achievement he accomplished. When Bruce had just arrived in the U.S. more than a decade ago, I’ve expected him to shine one day. Not because I’m a prophet but because I knew him too well. To me, the accomplishment in Bruce’s martial arts career is considered the result of his sheer determination and hard work.

The Beginning of a Friendship
Peter Chin said Bruce was his schoolmate but of different grades (note: refer to St. Francis School). After Bruce learnt Wing Chun from Ip Man and became a “well-known” figure in the school for having many victories in fights. Chin was greatly influenced by Bruce and thus, he went to learn Wing Chun Kung Fu from Master Chu Shong Tin (note: 1933-2014; one of Ip’s Man elder disciples, also known as “King of Siu Nim Tau.” He was Bruce’s Si Heng or elder brother of Wing Chun). Peter said, “I actually got to know Bruce better when we met in the U.S. We were very good buddies and our ties was much stronger than the teacher-student relationship. I went to his house very frequently. He taught me martial arts with plenty of theories. Sometimes, he would demonstrate to me and explained his theories but most often we engaged in practical sparring. I’m the most “fragile” one and always got the worst hit from him.

Martial Arts Fanatic
“Bruce didn’t like night-life and most of his time was spent in his martial arts trainings. I remembered we had a friend who worked as a mechanist in the construction industry (Note: referred to George Lee). Bruce used to get him to build various kinds of unique training equipment regularly. Bruce would try to meet his own requirements, for instance, if he found the suspension training set in the market out there was way below his actual ability, he would tell that friend to revise or rebuilt a new one. He never stopped training nor stopped adding new equipment. So, his gym in the U.S. was like a factory with all kinds of training equipment and facilities.” Chin continued, “Besides jogging, the gym equipment which Bruce used the most often was the stationery bike – a kind of exercise that peddles at the original position without going outdoor yet could achieve the desired result.”

Closer Ties
As Bruce returned to HK to make movies, Peter Chin was one of the old friends Bruce would often contact with. After completing each movie, Bruce would notify Peter to come to HK and watch the preview (note: from BOSS to ENTER and maybe the completed 3 floors of GAME). They would exchange opinions and ideas about making martial arts movies. Naturally, both became very close. (Note: Bruce might have planned to cast Chin in GAME as his name appeared in Bruce’s GAME notes. Also, Peter was in HK before Bruce passed on. They might have at least discussed about GAME in 1972/1973).
Chin said, “No doubt, upon obtaining outstanding achievement in his career, there’re vast changes in Bruce and the environment around him. Apart from socialising which was unavoidable, the problems that he needed to think increased many times more. However, Bruce still persisted in carrying out his tough training. As I know, he had spent an almost similar amount of time and effort in his martial arts training as compared to the time when he was at the U.S. working as a martial arts instructor then. I’d dare to say, the effort he put in in HK had even surpassed that in the U.S.”

Bruce’s Personal Gym
Peter Chin specially described about Bruce’s self-created personal gym in his HK Kowloon’s house located at Cumberland. “That was a very big place. Of course, we’re talking based on one person’s training space. Besides those normal training equipment, there were many unknown unique equipment. Like steel rack, used to specially train the different parts of the body muscles and to maintain the needs of their coordination with the movements,”said Chin.
Chin continued, “Bruce had a huge collection of various kinds of ancient and modern martial arts books and materials. Many professional organisations couldn’t even match his collection. His seriousness in reading and understanding what he read really stunned many people. Bruce had scribbled many notes on each and every of those books he had read, many bits and pieces of unorganised ideas and opinions. In the spare time of his many years of training, Bruce had written many stacks of JKD related martial arts materials coupled with tons of photos and text.”

Weightlifting & punching heavy bag
Chin said, “Bruce had a very good knowledge of martial arts and bodybuilding, thus, he knew exactly how to train in a systematical way. He thought that waist and abdominal muscles are the keys to the agility of the limbs, so, when he thought there is a necessity to enhance the training in these areas, he would specially apply those distinctive equipment for training.”
“Hitting punch bag is the basic training method of many external school Kung Fu practitioners. Bruce was unexceptional. He gradually increased the difficulty of the movements and demanded himself to be able to do these intricate movements. When training with the punch bags, Bruce would ponder about the relationship between the speed and power and improved his punching effectiveness from there.”
Chin added, “Many people were not aware that Bruce did weightlifting frequently. The main purposes of his weightlifting were to enhance the strength of his grappling, pushing and holding. He was able to lift up an object above 120 pounds at a go.”

Two little devices
Peter Chin had 2 little devices given to him by Linda after Bruce’s death. One was a cushion type of hard device. Chin said, “It was brought over from Bruce’s gym, hold it in your hand and squeeze it and you can exercise your forearm’s muscles. The greatest advantage of it is that you can use it to exercise your forearm anytime without affecting your normal work.”
Another was a hard device that covered with linen on its surface. One side felt like a sandbag but the other side was very stiff and hard. It was extremely painful when you hit against it. Chin said, “This is Bruce’s portable training equipment. He carried it around with him most of the time. Whenever he was free and there were no strangers around, he would put it on the ground and then punched it continuously and repeatedly as a form of exercise. These 2 devices were Bruce’s personal inventions. Although there were so many various kinds of training equipment in Bruce’s personal gym but these 2 little portable devices truly reflect the spirit of Bruce who wanted to maintain his tip-top condition with sheer diligence.”

Restless dragon
Chin said, “Even few days before his premature death, Bruce was still constantly practicing his martial arts in his personal gym daily. He had a rule, i.e. whenever he was training in the gym, no one including his wife, Linda was allowed to disturb him. Only when he rang the bell then permission was granted to communicate with him. That shows how focus he was in his martial arts training.”
Peter continued, “Bruce did not have many hobbies in his life but when he was interested in a thing, he would strive to achieve outstanding result in it. Generally, to pause and have nothing to do is extremely dangerous in Bruce’s mind. Hence, he would think of many ways to keep himself occupied with a lot of things, for instance, the training with portable equipment as mentioned above. Even when he was watching T.V., talking, strolling on the street, eating, he could exercise at anytime – perhaps there is not much effect in these ‘portable’ exercises as compared to the gym exercises but Bruce maximised his time to the fullest.”

Besides being a restless worker, Bruce was a practical joker on the other hand. Chin said, “He was able to take anything and make them into jokes. He just possessed that kind of talent. He had a good memory too and could tell jokes for ‘3 hours’ continuosly. Most of the jokes themselves were not funny but it was Bruce who turned them into hilarious jokes. He could tell you the jokes which you had heard before and still made you laughed until your jaws dropped! He just had that kind of gifted ability, and when he had finished the joke and walked out of the room for a long time, you would still find it very amusing and joyful.”

Bruce’s funeral
Peter Chin was in HK when Bruce passed away. He attended Bruce’s HK Kowloon funeral and wept like a baby. He was seen wearing Bruce’s kind of big sunglass and “Fist of Fury” suit, and a cross was seen hanging around his neck. With his hair loose and covered over his face, he cried sorrowfully. However, he soon kept his composure and tried to help Linda out in the funeral and kept Linda and her children company with words of consolations. On the 30th July 1973 there was a small second mourning in Butterworth funeral parlour in Seattle, Washington where Peter Chin attended, wearing the same “Fist of Fury” outfit, big sunglass and a cross around his neck. It was Taky Kimura, Danny Inosanto, Peter Chin, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Robert Lee who brought Bruce to his last place of resting.

In The Dragon’s Shadow
Chin sincerely said, “Bruce was a genius and I wouldn’t and couldn’t compare myself to him. I’d like to learn only his fighting spirit.” Although Peter Chin said he did not want to compare himself to Bruce Lee, yet from his appearance, i.e. his hairstyle, clothing, accessories etc. and the exercises he did like jogging and training himself with Bruce’s equipment, one could obviously tell that he was in the shadow of the little dragon. Chin said, "Bruce’s gym not only consisted of a variety of equipments but it was filled with a kind of self-inspired and self-motivated fighting spirit of Bruce Lee!" It may be this kind of fighting spirit that has kept Chin and other BL fans continue striving towards their goals in their life without giving up easily.

Photos of Peter Chin:

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  • Photos of Adrian Marshall, Linda Lee & Raymond Chow - LJF on Dec 4, 2015, 8:14 AM
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