PART 5 of 5: Last Interview of the late Dan Lee (1930-2015)

September 24 2016 at 7:59 AM
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Response to Last Interview of the late Dan Lee (1930-2015)


Q48: It was said that Bruce had a personal library with huge collection of books. Have you seen it before?
DL: Once, I went to Bruce’s library and to my bewilderment, there were plenty of books on the book shelves. They were mainly English books on various martial arts like Western Fencing, Boxing, Karate, Judo etc. Besides martial arts, he also collected books on various subjects like religion, philosophy, psychology, marketing, sales, motivational etc. There was a portion of Chinese books such as different kinds of Chinese Kung Fu, I-Ching, art of war, combat strategy etc. I took a Tai Chi book out from the shelf and saw many texts were being underlined, circled and with words written here and there. It seemed like Bruce had penned many notes regarding his thoughts, comments and reviews. Then, I asked him, “Bruce, can you let me bring this book home to read?” Bruce said, “No, you can get it yourself, my books are not for loan.” (Laugh) Alright, since he didn’t want to lend it to me as those were his favorite and precious collections, then, I should start my own collection instead. Hence, from then onwards, I began searching for various kinds of martial arts books in the Chinese bookshops.

Q49: Recently, Tommy Gong (Note: Chinese name Liu LuQuan) has published a book. There’s a page which shows the Chinese calligraphy in Kai font - “Jeet Kune Do” written by you. Now these 3 characters have become the common Chinese JKD characters used over the world. Can you tell us when did you write these words?
DL: Before publishing the book, Tommy asked me how I should introduce myself in his book. I said I’m “the only mainland Chinese student of Bruce Lee who had been to College.” After the book was out, he edited a bit because there were some errors in the Chinese/English words and also some mistakes in the translation. Those Chinese/English technical terms translation was done by his wife. She isn’t well-versed in Chinese. I wrote an entire page and suggested he made corrections. He thanked me. What I saw now is the old edition. He hasn’t sent me the new edition. The Chinese characters, “Jeet Kune Do” used in his old edition was written by me.

There’s a story behind these 3 characters. There’s a Kung Fu magazine in the U.S. called “Inside Kung Fu” and its founder knew me very well. In his magazines, many articles usually need to introduce some Kung Fu names and Chinese characters, like Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut etc. Once I saw and wrote to him saying, “The content of your magazine is good but that Chinese calligraphy of the Kung Fu names are horrible. They look as if were written by a kid who is not even up to the standard of a primary 2 or 3 students. Who wrote them?” He replied, “In that case, please help me out.” I said, “Ok!” I’m no calligrapher but I’ve learnt calligraphy during my high school days. Since he requested my help, I tried to my best to fulfill his request.

So, within a year, in every issue, all those Chinese characters like, Ba-Kwa, Hsing-I, Tai-Chi etc. were all written by me. There’s an issue which talked about JKD. So, I wrote “Jeet Kune Do” these 3 characters. Later, Inosanto intended to publish a book, he saw and liked these Chinese JKD characters. So, he copied them onto his book without asking my permission. Consequently, many JKD schools copied these characters from Inosanto’s book and printed them on their sports attires, T-shirts etc. I was astonished because those words were ok but not very well-written as far as professional Chinese calligraphy is concerned and couldn’t be treated as the treasured scrolls of calligraphy. I’m also no professional calligrapher and have no rights to call my words the treasured scrolls of calligraphy. Since they have been used over the world, then, let it be. It doesn’t matter, I’ve never asked for copyrights; just treat them as my little contribution to JKD (Laugh). I plan to pick up calligraphy again but I’m really tied up with practicing martial arts. There’s not much free time left, and until now, I haven’t resumed my calligraphy learning.

Q50: Sifu, do you have time to write for both of us the treasured scrolls of calligraphy?
DL: Not treasured scrolls of calligraphy. (Laugh)...I’d love to.

Q51: You once pointed out that there may be some errors in the JKD’s Tai Chi symbol. How did you discover the errors?
DL: That was after Bruce’s passing. One day, I found that the Tai Chi Chuan’s symbol and the JKD’s Tai Chi symbol which we see nowadays are different. I thought Bruce might have been in a hurry and drew the Tai Chi symbol incorrectly. Nevertheless, the JKD’s symbol banner which Bruce wrote and hung in our LA kwoon previously was correct.

Where was the error? I’ve shared with both of you before. The boundary between Ying and Yang in Tai Chi Symbol is not “S” shape but an opposite of "S”shape, like the reflection of "S" shape. Why so? Bruce put an arrow on each side of the Ying and Yang. There are rationales behind it. We Chinese called “Wu-ji-bi-fan” which literally means “things turn into their opposites when they reach the extreme.” From small to big, from mild hard to extreme hard, and from extreme hard turn into soft, this is the interchange of hard and soft. JKD emphasized “Using No Way As Way; Having No Limitation As Limitation,”and both Ying and Yang must co-exist.

Since Bruce taught the Tai Chi’s Ying/Yang theory belongs to the Taoism’s philosophy, then, the symbol’s design ought to print correctly. It shouldn’t be printed in the opposite way. Therefore, I shared my discovery with a few JKD’s friends. But they said, “Ahh…The 2 symbols look almost the same, it doesn’t matter.” I then stopped talking about it. True, to rectify the symbol is quite a big deal, not an easy task since it has been used all over the world for a long time.

When I come to China in 2009 and tell you guys about this discovery. You all felt the same way as me. Then, I urged China’s JKD must print the JKD’s Tai Chi symbol correctly. You guys did respect my suggestion and really rectified the symbol. It really took you all a lot of courage to do the amendment.

Q52: We ever saw you playing Tai Chi in a video clip of Bruce’s backyard training video. Under what circumstance was that clip being filmed? Was Bruce really interested in Tai Chi Chuan?
DL: Once, Bruce asked me, “Dan, didn’t you learn Tai Chi Chuan before?” I replied, “Yes, just for a year. My teacher is Master Tung.” He said, “Alright, then show it to me, I will film it down.” At that time, Bruce had just bought a new home video camera, which cost him over US$1,000. It’s a brand new technological product that was released in the market but not many people had owned it then. I told him, “Bruce, I’m not good in it.” He said, “I don’t care, you just demonstrate it to me.” So, I showed him the complete form of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. Bruce then said, “I will keep this footage as a record and put it in my study room. In the future, if there’s opportunity after my retirement, remind me that I ought to really go deeply into the learning of Tai Chi Chuan, the nature of water, soft and hard, etc. I’ll use a year to study it.” However, after Bruce’s passing, I have totally forgotten about this incident.

One day, Linda was tidying up the study room and she saw the video footage. She was surprised to see me playing Tai Chi Chuan. I told her “Don’t see it, that is too immature and horrible, I just learnt for a year and have not properly mastered it then.” I watched it myself and thought wow, it’s really no good and I felt quite embarrassed to see it. In fact, Bruce at that time wasn’t really wanted to learn Tai Chi Chuan from me. He just wanted to keep a record as a reminder to himself so that by the time he retired, he would then have time to study more in-depth about the Ying-Yang theories plus the soft Kung Fu. Also, he planned to put in time and effort to specially study Tai Chi. Unfortunately, he had no more such opportunity.

Q53: While you practiced and taught JKD, and at the same time, you were also doing Tai Chi Chuan. How do you manage to balance the relationship of the 2 systems? Has anybody ever doubt that you mixed Tai Chi Chuan with JKD?
DL: Some people said, “Dan, you learnt Tai Chi, are you going to put it into JKD?” I said, “No, I just hope to learn the soft Kung Fu from Tai Chi Chuan and then use the Tai Chi training to strengthen myself.” Did you see Tai Chi form in JKD? Someone must be kidding. I never wanted people to misunderstand me, like say, “Oh, Dan Lee is going to put Tai Chi into JKD with embellishments.” No, I’ll never do that. I just want to comprehend the soft Kung Fu in Tai Chi Chuan and understand the combined techniques of the hard and soft Kung Fu. Among the JKD men, only Dan Lee talked about soft Kung Fu and the co-existence of hard and soft Kung Fu. I followed and practiced Bruce’s Tai Chi’s Ying and Yang philosophy. Believe me, I have never let Bruce down.

The JKD’s Tai Chi symbol which was drawn by Bruce has a very, very deep meaning in it. There’s philosophy within. We can learn and increase our wisdom through this learning of the traditional philosophy but never add the non-essentials and embellishments into JKD. It is against Bruce’s wish and the way to the development of JKD.

Until I grow a bit older, I feel the path which I took is correct. One should develop soft in the beginning. JKD is more towards hard, lesser in soft. So, in the past, I learnt about soft, the water nature of Tai Chi Chuan and comprehend the power of the water. I always do my best to be a man of integrity, trustworthy and abide the professional code of conduct. Also, I know that life lies in sports, one must exert oneself constantly, then he will prolongs the longevity of his life. Nobody has asked me about my age. I feel I’m in good health, in pleasant mood, my life is stable and other areas of my life are all well-balanced. After doing JKD, I feel very powerful on the hard side and upon doing Tai Chi, I feel calm, serene and peaceful. I don’t possess the feeling of contending with others in terms of power struggle all the time. Thus, to me, the practice of Tai Chi can be seen as part of my JKD training. Hard and soft are merged together and it helps to maintain a balance in life. Everyday I do my exercises and trainings. My Kung Fu is still progressing. If there’s opportunity, I will let you guys see my progress. How about that? (Laugh)

Q54: In your opinion, how should we teach JKD in China?
DL: How should you teach in China? Just follow what Bruce taught which I imparted to both of you. To ensure continuity of inheriting JKD appropriately, we must respect Bruce’s stuff, respect our teachers and the teachings. So, we must inherit the things Bruce taught. To teach JKD in China, the most fundamental things must be taught. From there continue to develop and flourish; follow the principle and develop but remember never take something from here and there and mixed them together and then called it JKD. In China, the ways you attempted to inherit and the steps you attempted to develop are all up to you to decide. I’ve no opinions. But you cannot say you’re teaching “Dan Lee’s JKD.” Remember, JKD is Bruce Lee’s JKD, just like Ted Wong and Me. We are loyal to Bruce and follow what he taught us, then proceed with the teaching and development of JKD.

The stuff I taught both of you belongs to Bruce Lee. I’m loyal and devoted in imparting them to you. Hence, both of you have already sufficient stuff to teach. Bruce was against the idea of putting a commercial label on JKD that time. But I do hope you can develop and flourish JKD in China. This doesn’t go against the principle of Bruce. I’ve done my best to impart JKD’s skills and knowledge to you and help you solve the problems. Now, I hand over the fire torch to a new generation and provide encouragement in the path of your development. I feel I’ve already fulfilled my responsibility of the inheritance of JKD’s. You can assume the responsibility of the mission of JKD’s inheritance in China.

China JKD International Federation (CJIF) is a good organization for developing JKD in China. Your president Mr. Zhong HaiMing has translated the complete version of the “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method” (Note: with The Estate’s consent) and has made an enormous contribution. The pictures are very clear and it comes with both Chinese and English text which makes it easy for the Chinese readers to read and understand. The translation is also well-done. I often read and recall about the things Bruce taught us. 80%-90% of the stuff can be found in this book. There are plenty of basic and classic things in there. Although, there are numerous of JKD books available in the market but none can be compared to “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Methods.”

We are lucky that in this generation, we have Bruce’s writings, photos, videos etc. All these can act as the references to your JKD trainings and teachings. But remember you do not need to say Mr. So and So taught you or Bruce Lee was your grandmaster, right? I’m just fated to build a bridge for you. You can still take Bruce as your Sifu directly, study his hand techniques, footwork, bodyworks etc. and those principles, theories behind his skills and strategies. Seriously go and experience, verify and enhance your skills and knowledge. People who attempted to embellish on JKD wasn’t correct. No need to add on. The ready stance, footwork, bodywork, punching, kicking, elusiveness, sparring, fitness conditioning and 5 Ways of Attack etc. are the areas you need to train and teach.

Q55: Sifu, thank you very much for spending over 2 hours to accept our overseas telephone interview. On behalf of “Chinese Wushu” magazine, we’d like to thank you for your kind assistance. We’ll bear in mind Sifu’s teachings and instructions and do our best to spread Bruce’s JKD and will not let you and CJIF down.
DL: You’re welcome. I’ll continue to pay attention to you, support you and encourage you. I’m also willing to answer any questions or doubts pertaining to JKD. Just like before, please feel free to give me a call if you have any questions. Goodbye!

Part 5: Photos of Dan Lee & others:

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 Respond to this message   

  • Dan knew the true meaning of JKD - Chaochihao on Sep 24, 2016, 9:21 AM
  • Dan Lee - the real JKD man - shaolinguy on Sep 24, 2016, 3:14 PM
  • Great article! Enjoy reading! - nt - Jon on Sep 24, 2016, 7:08 PM
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