The Big Dragon Who Influenced The Little Dragon

September 17 2016 at 8:49 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

The Big Dragon With The Magic Fist
In 1943, at a young age of 15, he defeated famous Russian boxer, Marceau Love in open match in Shanghai and 3 years later, he beat world heavyweight champion "Black Lion" Luther, an African American in another open match in Shanghai again. He won both fights by knock outs. There were photos and reports on these fights in the old Shanghai newspaper. He was a real Chinese martial arts master who actually fought and won public matches against Western fighters. His nickname was “Big Dragon” and after he won the matches, the media called him “The Big Dragon with the Magic Fists.” This Big Dragon was Master Cai Longyun (aka Choy Loong-Wan), whose Chinese name literally means dragon flying over the clouds.

Influence over Bruce Lee
Master Cai Longyun had contributed a lot to the martial arts world and influenced many martial arts practitioners globally. One of them was the legendary Bruce Lee. In Bruce’s first and only published martial arts book, “Chinese Gung Fu – The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense,” published in 1963, there were many leg training methods being borrowed from Master Cai’s Wushu (martial arts) book, called “The Basic Training of Wushu Exercise.” There was almost an entire chapter on stretching and kicks, including illustrations, adapted from Master Cai’s own material. In addition, Bruce’s other scholarly materials, such as “Tao of Gung Fu,” which were published posthumously, there was even direct mentions of Hwa Kuen, and included pictures of Master Cai in his scrapbook. This proved that Master Cai’s knowledge, and by extension martial art’s foundation has far-reaching influences, and has validity in popular martial arts.

There were many illustrations drawn by Bruce in “Chinese Gung Fu” and many of them were based on Master Cai’s Wushu’s manuals. This showed Bruce had regards of Master Cai’s knowledge and skills, and many of the techniques seem practical as Bruce would cross reference and treated them as a guide in his Gung Fu’s exploration in the early 60s.

According to “Wen Hui Paper,” Master Cai said he felt proud that Bruce had brought honor to the Chinese martial arts and Kung Fu movies. Though someone ever told him that Bruce admired him and had kept Master Cai’s book “The Basic Training of Wushu Exercise” under the pillow, Master Cai never dare to speak about it for fear of people thinking that he was boasting. It was until he saw someone from “Bruce Lee’s Research Society” who provided evidence to support the above claims that he finally believed it was true.

Bruce’s “Three un-landed Whirlwind Legs” In ’64 Karate Tournament/ ’73 ETD Scene
Bruce was an avid reader and had more than 25,000 books in his personal library. Besides “The Basic Training of Wushu Exercise,” he also collected Master Cai’s “Hwa Kuen.” Bruce self-learnt the techniques and exercises from these books. He also paid much attention to the training of his waist and hips, which allowed him to use his kicks flexibly just like his punch.

In his Long Beach Tournament Demo in 1964 and In the movie ETD, Bruce performed a special movement called, “Three un-landed Whirlwind Legs” --- the three consecutive steps which were completed above the ground followed by the Whirlwind kicks. These movements were actually originated from Master Cai’s “Hwa Kuen’s” Three un-landed steps but Bruce modified part of the movements to make it more fanciful. This clears the doubts that Bruce learnt this technique from WJM’s Bak Sil Lum footage. It was Hwa Kuen that he actually learnt it from Master Cai’s Kung Fu manual. In addition, Bruce revised and incorporated Kung Lik Kuen’s (he learnt from Siu Hon-Sung) jumping moves into this Whirlwind kick.

Tao of Kung Fu
On June, 2010, Master Cai was requested to write forewords for Bruce’s Chinese edition “Tao of Gung Fu.” He wrote, “Though I and Bruce had never met each other but through the affinity of martial arts, we had borne a deep relationship….”

It was such a coincidence that both Master Cai and Bruce were born on the same month and same day, i.e. Master Cai’s birthday was on 27 Nov 1928 and Bruce’s birthday was on 27 Nov 1940. Both were born in the year of the dragon and the only difference was the 12 years gap between them. Master Cai was known as the “Big Dragon” while Bruce was the “Little Dragon.” “Maybe this is the special affinity between both of us,” Master Cai said.

Master Cai’s Comments on Bruce’s Kung Fu
Master Cai spoke to some friends (note: probably Jesse Glover, Dan Lee who had visited mainland China before their passing) of Bruce and got to know that Bruce actually saw Master Cai as a learning model in martial arts. They said Bruce was an idol of many martial arts fans and Bruce himself looked upon Master Cai as his Kung Fu idol, probably due to his highly skilled martial arts and his feats over the Western fighters in the 1940s. They also told him that Bruce was very diligent in practicing Kung Fu and had studied many martial arts manuals. His two books “The Basic Training of Wushu Exercise” and “First Routine of Hwa Kuen” were two favorites of Bruce who read it very often during the early 60s. As mentioned above, the first manual is used as a blueprint for Bruce’s first and only martial arts book, “Chinese Gung Fu – The philosophical Arts of Self-Defense.”

As to some rumor that said Bruce did not understand Chinese martial arts, Master Cai denied that. From what he understood, Bruce learnt at least 8 types of traditional Chinese martial arts. Master Cai said, “Bruce first learnt Wu Style’s Tai Chi from his father, then Wing Chun from Ip Man, followed by Yi Chuan from the student of Grandmaster Wong Hong-Joi. He also learnt Jit Kuen, Kung Lik Kuen and Bang Bo Kuen (Praying Mantis) from Siu Hon-Sung. Furthermore, he had picked up Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut from other masters. He also self-learnt “Lo Han Hsin Yi Chuan” from the video demo of a Shaolin monk. Of course, Bruce also self-learnt my famous Hwa Kuen.”

Master Cai continued, “In the early 60s, mainland China published a huge volumes of martial arts books (mostly northern styles). These quality martial arts books have very clear text and scientific systems as well as simple approaches. For those with very good martial arts foundation, they can simply self-learn these skills through the books.” Bruce bought a lot of these martial arts books from HK, and the bookstores in Chinatown of the U.S. and Canada etc. One thing to note is that, Bruce diligently trained his basics from Master Cai’s book, “The Basic Training of Wushu Exercise.” This was one of the reasons why Bruce could use his waist and legs very flexibly and could kick just liked his punch.

Bruce should be thankful to Master Cai for influencing his journey of Gung Fu learning in the early years. Master Cai had contributed a lot to the martial arts world with his many publications, teachings and therefore impacted many generations of martial arts practitioners, especially those in Chinese Wushu. Master Cai had passed away in Shanghai, at the age of 87, on December 19th, 2015. R.I.P.

Photos of Master Cai Longyun:

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  • The “Big Dragon” - Master Cai Longyun - LJF on Sep 17, 2016, 8:52 AM
  • Re: The Big Dragon Who Influenced The Little Dragon - S.Wira on Sep 17, 2016, 2:40 PM
  • Re: The Big Dragon Who Influenced The Little Dragon - Anonymous on Sep 18, 2016, 3:13 AM
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