PART 4 of 5: Last Interview of the late Dan Lee (1930-2015)September 17 2016 at 8:44 AM
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Response to Last Interview of the late Dan Lee (1930-2015)
Q36: Do you have any deep impressions on Bruce’s martial arts’ prowess and fighting ability?
DL: Bruce was very nimble in his hands, lightning fast in his footwork, and his overall movements were absolutely agile, graceful and smooth. Also, his attacks were extremely fast, accurate and aggressive. He had good elusiveness and great explosive power which no one could match. In addition, he had great perception and could point-out problems or errors in your movements precisely, and then guide you to do self-rectification. During sparring, he possessed inconceivable sixth sense and was able to read opponent’s mind, and predict his next move. He could observe opponent’s movement rhythm and adapt quickly and accordingly. Then, he was able to freely move ahead of the opponent’s response and struck any opponents in front of him effortlessly.
Q37: Can we put it this way, Bruce’s martial arts prowess was due to his super gifted-talent?
DL: Bruce wasn’t a natural born martial arts prodigy. He complied with the law of nature of combat, followed the scientific training principles, utilized the scientific training methods, and engaged in long-term systematic and diligent training. Consequently, that created his martial arts prowess. I remembered when I went to his house for training, I discovered his trainings were always well-planned and he would always train according to his plans. At that time, he trained for 7-8 hours daily, and the quality and efficiency of his trainings were absolutely very high. His skills were the result of hard work and ingeniousness in his trainings. As the saying goes, “Training one simple technique over 10,000 times and soon it will become a unique technique.” Bruce used to practice a simple and fundamental technique repeatedly for 500-2000 times. He then became the best in it. If he wasn’t the best, who was? As the Chinese saying goes, “Undergoes hundreds and thousands times of hammering and toughening before hardening into steel” This is what it meant.
Q38: What skills do you think Bruce was most specialized in?
DL: Bruce’s skills were very all-rounded. I can’t say he had any special skill that stands out from the rest because all his skills were truly outstanding. Of course, he had his famous 1-inch punch. After seeing it for the first time, I found that it was very similar to the Tai Chi Chuan’s principle. In Grandmaster Wong Chung-Yut’s book “Tao of Tai Chi Chuan,” it stated that, “The root lies on the feet which generates the force; the hip to the waist is the center of control; the fingers shape the form.” This is a common phrase which many of us know. I’ve studied and memorized it very thoroughly. But what’s the point? See, Bruce could just simply apply the theory unto his 1-inch punch. If you observed his 1-inch punch carefully, you will see that he threw out his punch in less than an inch. Did you see where did he begin? It’s all started from his feet. Before punching, the waist and hip faced in the direction of the opponent. Then, as the body quickly turns to the left, the force is generated instantly from the feet to the hip and then to the waist in a spilt of second. Use the force generated from the hip-waist to strike. In this way, the power is totally different. Practice more on the hip-waist as there is where the explosive power lies.
Q39: Being his student and good friend, what kind of person was Bruce to you?
DL: The deepest impression that Bruce gave me was his extreme diligence. Although I’m older than him but I admired his conscientiousness in his training. He was constantly creating, experimenting and learning. He was very studious and had a strong ability in analysis. He was very good in learning, not learning generally but always with a goal. Then, through research and experimentation, he would reach his learning goals ultimately. He also possessed the ability to differentiate that made him different. For instance, other people might look on the downside of a certain skill, but he would immediately said, “Hmm, this skill looks not bad, it has its strength and merits.” Because he had an extremely profound martial arts background, he would always view martial arts from the nature of combat. Thus, he knew what was good and what was impractical and from there, absorbed the useful part that was worth learning. He was also a kind of person who pursued excellence in quality. Bruce studied and learnt vastly but his motive was not to complicate his martial arts skill. He just wanted to summarize the law, discover the essence and from the essence, pursue simplicity. Therefore, the development of JKD makes use of the philosophy of Taoism and Buddhism as its guidance. The main purpose is still to simplify i.e. the way to simplicity.
Bruce was an upright and honest person. When he talked to you, whether in front of you or behind you, it’s all the same. He meant every word he said. If you wanted to play tricks, he would do the same to you. If you were good friends, he would really treat you with sincerity. I really admire his personal character. My relationship with him was not just teacher and student but also good friends. He never flaunted himself. Because my age was older than him, thus, sometimes I would also share with him about my life experiences.
Both of you tell me that Hunan Xiao Xiang Vocational Institute had erected “A Legendary Master” statue of Bruce’s in full Kung Fu uniform (not bare-chested). I think this is the right way to pay tribute to him because in my opinion, he was the most established and influential martial artist in the history of martial arts. I hope the students of Chinese JKD not only see the surface of Bruce’s martial arts but also his profound thinking and the spirit of his striving for excellence. Don’t be constrained by any fixed thoughts in your mind but keep learning, creating and improving. This is the biggest influence of Bruce in my whole life.
Q40: Now we want to ask you a question which many Bruce’s fans are concerned: In actual training and sparring, would Bruce be constantly leaping around in boxing steps and doing his cat yell just like in his movie?
DL: Definitely not. Movie is movie. He was an actor, so, he had to make the shows more dramatic and appealing to the audience. Those screams or yells were for movies. Our JKD training requires constant refinement and striving for excellence. It stresses to be as simple and as direct as possible, as well as to get rid of the non-essentials and redundancies. “Using No Way As Way,” .… It is totally different between real combat and movies. You have watched his movies and although he was acting but we could see realism in his Kung Fu actions. They were so realistic like in actual fighting. He was so fast. I remembered Bruce once said the cameraman wanted him to slow down otherwise his actions would not be captured by the camera.
Q41: What was Bruce’s attitude towards challenges from other people? Some people said Bruce was just an actor and not a real martial artist, how do you look at this statement?
DL: Bruce ever said he was not afraid of any challenges. He said, “If you want to fight, come to meet me face to face and I’ll play along with you. What Wong Jack Man, what Karate kid, I’ll wait for them and fight them.” He was never afraid of challenges and had never thrown in the towel. But years later, when Bruce talked to me over the phone, he said why bother to waste time in these challenges? He said, “If someone challenge me, I would ask myself whether it’s worth it or not? I know I’ll win and why should I waste my precious time?” He was very confident. Not like some Kung Fu man who could perform very fancifully but had never fought in real life before. Bruce had plenty of practical fighting experiences. He was a real martial artist and fighter. People should understand that Bruce was using his identity of a martial artist and fighter to make movie and to be an actor. It is not the other way round.
Q42: You’ve done boxing and Judo before and have participated in those competitions. In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between JKD and those ring related fighting martial arts? The President of America UFC said Bruce was the Father of MMA, what are your takes on this?
DL: There are advantages and disadvantages of fighting in the ring. Why disadvantages? It is competition so there will be judges, rules and regulations etc. For instance, boxing prohibits the hitting of the back of the head, ears and kicking to the groin. Right? Now, there is this popular MMA, which has its own rules and regulations. You can’t kick the opponent’s groin.
JKD is trained especially for street-fighting and for fighting in various real life situations. The biggest difference is that JKD is not restricted by rules and regulations. Bruce said be like water, adapt to various kinds of unrestricted street-fighting’s circumstances. Hence, there are many differences in the features of real fighting and training methods between JKD and ring fighting arts. However, the openness of MMA in a certain extent is closer to Bruce’s emphasis of JKD practical fighting experience. But because it is a sports competition, it need to have spectators, thus, it cannot be over dangerous. It has certain conditions and criteria to follow.
However, looking at MMA in overall, it’s not bad. It truly shows the real martial arts ability of the contestant. If your fitness is not up to expectation, you are definitely not qualified to participate; if you do not have any practical fighting experience, you’ll also not participate; if your skills are not all-rounded, it also can’t be done, right? It did not have any protective gears, so, when you are hit on the head or chin, it’s very easily to be knocked-off. Perceiving from the point where the all-rounded training and embodiment of real fighting experience, MMA does fulfill this requirement. This implies that MMA is the closest to unrestricted real fighting so far. Its ideas are quite close to JKD’s principles. That’s the reason they said MMA was influenced by Bruce and Bruce was the Father of MMA. I think it has its own rationale behind it.
Q43: You have competed in the ring, and have you ever use JKD to defend yourself on the street?
DL: JKD’s training always revolves around actual combat and it is based on the self-defense requirements in handling street’s attacks. We must prepare ourselves constantly. But in real life, it’s best that we don’t have the opportunity to use it (Laugh). During my younger days, I had one dangerous encounter in France and I used JKD to settle it. It started when I was on a business trip to a little town in France. One day, after work, I strolled around the town and tried to see the local conditions and customs there. At that time, there were very few Asians in the town, and even lesser Chinese there. It was mainly Japanese tourists touring the place.
While I was strolling, a tall and big French man came up to me with a warm smile, from the corner of the street. He asked me, “Hey, wanna go in and watch movie? I can bring you in.” I thought since I was free, it wasn’t a bad idea. So, I said, “Ok.” Then, followed behind him. We walked into a small alley before entering into a building. Once entered, I felt something amiss because it didn’t look like a theatre inside. Suddenly, I found 2 tall and brawny guys walking towards me, 1 from the left and another from the right. They surrounded me from the flanks and both were holding a knife each in their hands. One of them suddenly attempted to kick my stomach, and by instinct, I moved sideway instantly and avoided the kick.
However, I didn’t show my ready stance or use very professional way to block the kick. I pretended to be very petrified and put my hands up and waved to them, pretending to be begging for mercy. Actually, I was preparing to defend myself. I uttered, “Sorry, please don’t this, please don’t this….,” trying to remove their alarms psychologically and let them thought I was a helpless businessman from Japan. While seeing them off-guard, I instantaneously moved in the gap and finger jabbed the eyes of the guy who was standing closest to me, followed by a low side kick to his knee cap. The guy fell to the ground immediately and before the other guy could react, I already kicked his groin and left him crying in pain for papa. I didn’t care how I fought and before they could get up from the ground, I’d already escaped from the building safely. Although it happened so fast but when I recalled, it was still quite a risky encounter. If in the first place, I had got myself into the ready stance those guys might be alerted and thought that I could fight. So, they would definitely increase both their level of attention and force. It wouldn’t be easy to get out of the danger then. JKD’s finger jab and groin kicking are very practical and devastating skills but they can only be used in the circumstances of self-defense as they are prohibited in the ring.
Q44: When Bruce was teaching in the backyard, he had also privately coached Karate Champion, Joe Lewis and other guys (Note: Chuck Norris, Mike Stone etc.). Have you ever meet them there?
DL: No. Bruce wanted to prove himself and thus, he had made friends with many great martial artists like Taekwondo expert – Jhoon Rhee, Tang Soo Doo expert - Chuck Norris and Karate Champion – Joe Lewis etc. etc. He had sparred individually with these martial artists who were all highly-skilled martial arts experts in their own rights. However, they don’t say, “We are competing against each other.” For instance, Chuck Norris met Bruce in the hotel after his Karate competition. Bruce told him his skill looked good but impractical in actual fighting. Norris asked, “What do you mean?” Bruce replied, “Why not come to my room, I’ll show you.” So, when Norris entered his room. They sparred and Norris was blown away. He threw himself at Bruce’s feet in total admiration. It’s the same to Joe Lewis. The training was not disclosed but it was semi-overt, a kind of 1 to 1 solo training. He knew Bruce’s skill was great, so, got Bruce to instruct him. All these private trainings of Karate Champions with Bruce actually had nothing to do with us. We were also unaware of these private trainings initially. After Bruce’s passing, they themselves spoke a lot on their private trainings with Bruce. They respected Bruce and were grateful to Bruce’s influence on them.
Q45: There were 3 pieces of signboards that symbolized “3 stages” of JKD which were hung in the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute previously. Did Bruce specially explain the philosophical meaning that these phases encompassed?
DL: Unfortunately, Bruce didn’t specially explain the meaning of these “3 stages” signboards. Actually, a JKD symbol above the signboards was hung there. In the first signboard, the Ying and Yang were separated; in the second signboard, there was a JKD’s Tai Chi symbol; in the third signboard, it was totally black, nothing on it. Nowadays, everyone has different interpretation to these 3 stages because Bruce didn’t reveal the principles of these 3 pieces signboards.
According to my own analysis and interpretations, the first signboard/stage shows Ying-Yang are separated. For instance, some people may say I specialize in practicing soft Kung Fu while others may say I specialize in hard Kung Fu. Thus, hard and soft are not able to merge together forever. The second signboard/stage shows Ying and Yang are merged together. There’s Ying as well as Yang. Also, there are arrows on each side of the Ying and Yang. The arrows signify transformations. Within this martial arts skill, there’s hard (hard attacking movement) and there’s soft (soft techniques). The main goal of Bruce was that he wanted our JKD to have the mutual existence of hard and soft, and wanted to have changes in-between hard and soft as well as transformations.
Ultimately, the third signboard/stage is totally black. There isn’t anything, just emptiness. This is the philosophy of JKD, “Using No Way As Way.” If someone attacks you, you just punch and K.O. the opponent. People may ask, “It’s awesome. How did you do it anyway?” I’d reply, “I’ve no idea and I’ve never think of how to do it, it just do it by itself.” This is the basic instinct which comes from the saying, “practice makes perfect.” In the first phase, i.e. the white phase, shows that at the start, learning is not conformed to hard or soft, so, if it’s not hard, then, it should be soft; In the second phase, hard and soft begins to co-operate and co-exist mutually; In the third phase, which is also the last phase, upon reaching this phase, all ways become none, no matter it’s hard or soft, it’s just the general expression of the overall result, i.e. “Using No Way as Way.” This is just my opinion.
Q46: What do you think was the highest realm or state which Bruce was pursing in his whole life?
DL: Bruce was always learning throughout his entire life. There is no limit to quest for knowledge. The realm which he pursued in his whole life was actually portrayed within his JKD’s symbol, i.e. “Using No Way As Way; Having No Limitation As Limitation.”
“Using No Way As Way” – The skills you learnt, the methods you mastered ultimately have to be precise and simplified. All ways have to be forgotten and become no way eventually so that you’ll be able to apply whatever ways.
“Having No Limitation As Limitation” – You can’t say my kick is no good as I only practice punching and no kicking. Do not set a limitation on yourself. No matter learning, training, working or living, the spirit and attitude all must be based on the basis of freedom and no limitation, as well as continuously exploration and discovery. If we are able to use this spirit in learning and training, then, our progress will therefore be limitless.
Q47: In 1994, you selflessly donated the tape recording of the 1972’s telephone conversation between you and Bruce to Bruce Lee’s Education Foundation. Under what circumstances did you record this conversation? We see the most genuine and obscure side of Bruce through this original conversation and his views on the martial arts aspect, and some of the sentiments etc. indeed were inspiring.
DL: I was working in the office at that time when Inosanto phoned me and said, “Hey Dan, Bruce is back from HK.” I was curious that wasn’t he filming in HK? Why was he back? I wanted to find out. So, I phoned him from my office. Bruce was actually preparing to move his house and was very tiring. I asked him, “Bruce, why are you back? When can we get together and train again? Bruce said, “Uuh…training? Actually, now, I’ve a great career development in HK, I’m getting ready to move house, I just return shortly.” I continued, “So, is there any chance that we can get together and train again?” Bruce replied, “I’m afraid not.” I was thinking maybe after Bruce left, probably there wouldn’t be any chance for me to train with him and asked him martial arts questions anymore. Hence, I thought I should record our conversation. I didn’t tell him my intention and just pressed on the recorder. This voice recording was a subconscious act at that moment. Because I was an engineer and would often taped record the conversation of the science projects’ exchange matters, so, as our conversation started not long, I just pressed on the tape recording machine subconsciously.
When talking on the topic of martial arts, the more he talked the more interested he became. We talked on many things. Thus, this unintended voice recording can be said to be very precious. Why precious? I remembered he accepted an interview with the BBC radio in HK. He knew beforehand about this recording but he didn’t know about the recording of our conversation. We spoke like teacher and student and also sound like good friends. He talked candidly and freely without any restrictions. Therefore, this conversation is originally Bruce’s true self. All his words were from the bottom of his hearts, very true and genuine. For instance, when talking about challenges, Bruce said he was not afraid of fighting anyone. You all have seen the content. He didn’t mean to say those things to anyone purposely but he was just talking to me. We were just exchanging our thoughts.
Part 4: Photos of Dan Lee & others: https://postimg.org/image/x25kizbbv/
(Part 5 to be continued next week...)
Thanks again LJF!!! nt - Leon on Sep 17, 2016, 11:32 AM
Another great article! - S.Wira on Sep 17, 2016, 2:50 PM
Bruce Lee & Dan Lee - Jason on Sep 17, 2016, 3:46 PM
Very good thanks LJF - Nick Clarke on Sep 17, 2016, 5:53 PM
About the voice recording of Lee - Anonymous on Sep 18, 2016, 3:22 AM
Dan's streetfight in France - Anonymous on Sep 18, 2016, 7:43 AM