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Wan Kam Leung on Bruce Lee

July 20 2016 at 11:42 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

Wan Kam Leung became Wong Shun Leung’s student in 1962 and was one of Wong’s top students. In 1969, he was promoted to senior instructor of Wong Shun Leung’s Wing Chun Martial Arts Academy. Wan was once invited to be the Chief Wing Chun Coach of the VIP Protection Unit of the HK police force (aka G4). Currently, he is teaching “Practical Wing Chun” in HK. His students come from all over the world and he has now become a renowned Wing Chun Master. Wan had once accompanied his Sifu, Wong Shun Leung to GH and did a screen test for GAME. Bruce had also offered Wan a minor role but he never got a chance to play as Bruce passed away few months after their screen test.

Below are excerpts of Wan’s interview in the HK radio program – “Dragon Seeks Its Path” where he spoke about his Sifu, Wong Shun Leung and his Si-suk, Bruce Lee.

Q1: Can you tell us the day where you and your Sifu, Wong Shun Leung visited Bruce’s house at Kowloon?
Wan: Sure. One day (few months before Bruce’s death), I was training with Sifu at our kwoon when the phone rang. It was Bruce. He asked Sifu whether he was interested to come over to his house and have a chat. Sifu said why not. I asked Sifu whether it was convenient for me to accompany him there. Sifu said it didn’t matter and we’d just pay Bruce a casual visit. Thus, we took a cab there. By the time we reached the destination, Bruce who was waiting for us, saw us from his windows and quickly ordered his servant to open the gate. Then, Bruce came over and gave Sifu a big hug. Sifu tapped Bruce’s shoulder twice as an acknowledgement before we all sat down in the hall.

Q2: Did you talk or keep quiet in front of your Sifu and Bruce?
Wan: Of course, as a student, it was disrespectful for me to talk and disrupt their conversation, especially when the teacher is talking to his Si-Dai. They drank tea and my duty was to help poure tea unto their cups and served drinks to them.

Q3: How old were you?
Wan: I was around 20 then.

Q4: Did Bruce show his training room or gym to both of you?
Wan: Oh yes. That training room was filled with training equipment and facilities. I remembered there were many tennis balls being tied to female stockings. My Sifu asked Bruce why so? Bruce replied because of the “elasticity.” It helped to train your reflexes, flexibility and mobility as you move and punch and dodge and jab at the same time. There’s also an air-pressure booster where you punch and the air cushion will bounce back instantly. It’s really an eye-opener for me.

Q5: How do you address Bruce? Was he please to show you his training equipments?
Wan: He’s my Sifu’s junior. So, to show my respect, I addressed him as Si-suk. Bruce told us the various functions and applications of each of these equipments in a systematical way. Initially, Bruce didn’t intend to let me enter his training room. But my Sifu told him to let me accompany him for a look. He had no choice but to let me in too.

Q6: Did you see Bruce demonstrate on any of his equipments?
Wan: Yes. Bruce demonstrated his kicking prowess. There were these tiny little mobile balls being hung with fishing lines. Suddenly, Bruce jumped up and executed 3 kicks each concurrently at 3 different balls which were bouncing at various directions. He was indeed really fast and accurate.

Q7: What do you think are the difficulties of training with this equipment?
Wan: Well, you see, the balls are very bouncy…there are no regular patterns of where they are coming from, either from the front, back, left or right. So, it is not easy to manage. But Bruce was cool as he was able to handle them at ease.

Q8: There are many magazines that said your Sifu and Bruce had a 12 hours long closed door sparring session at Bruce’s secret training room? Was it true?
Wan: I was there and witnessed everything. Actually it didn’t last 12 hours so long, just 4-5 minutes.

Q9: How did it happen?
Wan: It all started when Bruce asked my Sifu about his opinion on his kick. Sifu commented that Bruce retreated his hands/legs quicker than his punches/kicks. Bruce denied and claimed that both his punches/kicks hit and retreated equally fast. So, the two martial arts fanatics started to “Gung Sau” (talking hand). They first played Chi-Sau (sticking hands) and then Bok Gik (free sparring). To be fair, Bruce’s kick was really fast and astonishing. If they were in real fight, I doubt Sifu was able to take him down. Of course, they were sparring and not in real fighting. So, they did reserve their strength and power. Sifu was wearing a yellow long sleeve Montagut shirt and Bruce was bare-chested and dressed in a track pant. This gave him more freedom to move and execute his punches and kicks flexibly.

Q10: Could you describe about the fight more specifically?
Wan: Sure. Sifu used his favorite center lines to attack and close the gaps by moving in fast, forcing Bruce to move sideways and then backwards. However, Bruce was able to avoid all Sifu’s punches very easily. Bruce’s horse stance was amazingly agile too. Maybe he was training all the time, that’s why his reactions were fast and when he retreated or moved, all his steps seemed very coordinated and swift. Bruce told Sifu, “You cannot stand still if you intend to move; the heels must leave the ground and then, the steps will become nimble. Once the heels are not fixed to the ground, you’d have a greater mobility and your movement would be faster. However, once you are getting ready to fight, your heel should then avoid leaving the ground because your body will be “floating” if your heels leave the ground. And if so, even your punch has landed on your opponent, the destructive power will be much reduced.” What Bruce said really made a lot of sense to me. I learnt from their sparring and was inspired by Bruce’s words.

Q11: What did your Sifu comment about this?
Wan: Well, he quite agreed with Bruce’s point of view. Since Sifu’s “turning horse” was also not turning his heels but instead was using the center line to turn his toes and feet. This restricts and slows down his movement. Thus, he accepted Bruce’s advice and from then onwards, he adapted to this new changes.

Q12: So, who won the sparring in the end?
Wan: None. They were just sparring for fun. Due to space constraint, they moved carefully yet very fast and lithe. In fact, Sifu was more eager to take Bruce down but Bruce was able to tackle all his attacks and fought back with his fast kicks. Honestly speaking, Bruce’s skills and physical condition outclassed Sifu but to show respect, Bruce reserved his real ability to avoid hurting Sifu. I remembered after the sparring, both hugged each other. Bruce said, “Ha, your hands are still as fast as before and you are still very precise in your center line.” Sifu replied, “Of course, I’ve told you already and don’t forget I’m your Siheng.” Bruce smiled and continued, “But I moved faster and shunned your attacks many times. Sifu said, “You avoided once but you can’t avoid all the time…haha” Then both continued to squabble in a jovial manner. In fact, Bruce still respected Sifu very much.

Q13: What other things in the sparring impressed you?
Wan: I was really impressed by Bruce’s superb kicking ability. His kicks were very sharp and speedy. He was able to kick anywhere on the upper parts of your body even at a close distance. His muscles were toned and shapely carved. I really envied him. Bruce said he spent a lot of time and effort training in there and if I was interested and able to endure the pains, I could also develop those kinds of muscles. Nevertheless, he said building muscles should reach an “explosive” state, yet not to a “stiff” and “rigid” state. So that when you punch, it would be full of explosive power. He indeed gave us a lot of useful advices.

Q14: Any interesting trivia after the sparring?
Wan: Oh yes, after leaving Bruce’s house, we returned to our kwoon, I discovered Sifu’s arms were all bruised and swelled. Luckily, Sifu’s long sleeve Montagut shirt covered his arms and no one notice his bruises. Sifu said he used Wing Chun’s Tan Sau to disperse Bruce’s kicks but Tan Sau could only “Tan” the upper 5 inches and lower 5 inches of his legs. Bruce’s kicks still hit Sifu’s arms badly and the places which were hit all turned black and blue. I’ve to use the medicated oil to help him rubbed the bruises.

Q15: Did your Sifu make any changes to his teaching syllabus after this sparring?
Wan: Yes, after his sparring with Bruce, Sifu was inspired. He made some modifications to the training programs by introducing modern scientific training methods. For instance, improving the body stamina by practicing “chi.” Everyone in our academy then started jogging like Bruce in order to be equipped with a better physical condition during the fight. We also emphasized to develop explosive power and mobile footsteps as well as using various training equipments to improve our training. Today, more people came to know and learn Wing Chun mainly because of Bruce Lee. For that, we’ll always remember his contribution to Wing Chun and the martial arts world.

Photos of Wan Kam Leung:

 Respond to this message   

  • Thanks LJF great read again!!! - Leon on Jul 20, 2016, 12:16 PM
  • Re: Wan Kam Leung on Bruce Lee - jkdragon on Jul 20, 2016, 12:42 PM
  • Re: Wan Kam Leung on Bruce Lee - Anonymous on Jul 20, 2016, 10:16 PM
  • Wong Shun Leung vs Bruce Lee in G.O.D. - Steven C. on Jul 21, 2016, 1:52 PM
  • THE MYTH - Doug on Aug 6, 2016, 11:58 AM
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