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Remembering the mighty Bruce Lee…Continued (1 of 2)

August 4 2017 at 9:34 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)


Response to Remembering the mighty Bruce Lee - By Jon Benn

 
Remembering the mighty Bruce Lee...Continued (1 of 2)
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By Jon T. Benn (excerpts compiled by LJF)


Continued from previous post "Remembering the mighty Bruce Lee - By Jon Benn" dated Feb 21, 2015


...Actually it amazes me that more accidents never happened. Of course, Bruce always tried to take precautions, making sure before the shooting began that everyone knew exactly what moves that they should make and when to make them. We rehearsed everything in slow motion several times before the cameras rolled. Then came more practice in real time until Bruce felt satisfied that the scene could be done in just one take.

Usually, one take did the trick. But if someone goofed and made a mistake in front of the cameras, Bruce seldom got upset. Instead, he just did it again. He never tried to put extra pressure on anyone.

For me, that “one take” approach became a source of real pride. People used to call me “One-Take Benn” because normally I could do everything that was necessary just one time, and it would be enough. I almost never messed up in front of the cameras. By comparison, some other scenes might need up to 20 or 30 takes.


'Then Bruce Hit Me So Hard'
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Still, even I sometimes needed a second try, especially when going up against Bruce’s great strength with all of its force and unpredictable results. For example, in that same office scene, I stood in front of my chair behind the desk. Angrily, Bruce, in his lead role as Tang Lung, a martial-arts fighter from Hong Kong’s rural New Territories who had come to visit some financially troubled family friends in Rome, shook his fists at me and warned me: “Lay-off”. He ordered me never again to bother Chen Ching Hua, the attractive, but vulnerable, character played by his co-star, Nora Miao, or else I might not live to regret it.

Then Bruce hit me with his shoulder so hard that I flew back into the chair (as planned). But unexpectedly, both the chair and I flipped right over the floor.

As Bruce pulled me back up to my feet, he apologized profusely, saying that he was “very sorry”. Despite ay apprehensions that I may have held just then, we still needed to complete the scene properly.

For the next take, Bruce positioned a big guy, who crouched down behind the chair, so it would not flip over again. The second time, he still hit me very hard, but at least I did not fly too far that time.

In fact, Bruce never fully realized the power of his full strength. But definitely, I can testify to it.

When I knew Bruce he always seemed to possess an abnormal, almost “super”, strength. He stood just 1.72 meters tall (5 feet, 7.5 inches) and usually weighed only about 68 kilograms (150 pounds). But another time he did a one-inch punch o me, and I flew back 1.5 meters.

Like most mafia bosses, my character in The Way of The Dragon never took kindly to someone foiling his carefully laid plans. Just once, I got a chance to strike back at the troublesome Tang Lung with my own hands. Probably I became the only man ever to hit Bruce Lee onscreen without immediately taking a bruising in return. But I gained that privilege only because one of my henchman held a handgun to Bruce’s head so there was little that he could do. I hit him and tried to hit him again, but the second time he grabbed my arm. At least, I landed one shot.


Bruce Lee: Best at What He Did
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At all times, Bruce knew perfectly well that he stood apart as the best in the world at what he did, and that made him proud. So he loved to show off his skills in front of the cast. Between scenes, as we waited for the crew to change the lights, he would say, “Hey, watch this.” Then he would drop down from a standing start and balance on his thumbs and forefingers to do a 100 pushups very fast.

We all learned quite a bit from Bruce. Probably the most important thing that I learned personally was never to give up trying to become “the best” at whatever you do. Throughout the many years since then, I have attempted to use his kind of motivation to better myself.


Kicking So Accurately
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As for me on the movie set, I usually gripped a cigar in my fingers or in my mouth, maybe puffing up clouds of smoke, during those periods of waiting. Bruce would come up from behind me, leap into the air and unexpectedly kick the ash off the end of my cigar, yet the cigar itself never moved. Although I felt rapid motion in the air in front of me, luckily his feet never touched my nose. Then he would descend deftly back onto the floor and say, “Hey, Jon! I gotcha again.”

What an absolutely amazing guy! Bruce always hit and kicked that accurately. Happily, he also kept plenty of good Cuban cigars on hand for me.

One of the best things that I did was to bring my own camera onto the set. I took a lot of photographs during the shoots, behind the scenes and while we all rested. At times, other people shot the photos using my camera. Many of those images appear in this book.

On the movie sets or away from them, Bruce rarely stopped working out, or so it seemed to mere mortals like me. During the inevitable waits between, he would punch up to 2,000 times with one first. On the next break, he would do it again, this time using his other arm. At different times, he kicked 500 times with one of his legs and later did the same with the other one. By way of making a humble comparison, if I had tried to kick similarly even once or twice, I would have fallen with a bruising thump flat onto my butt.


Punching-Bag Mishap
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On one occasion, I watched several would-be tough guys play around with a 300-pound punching bag that hung by a strong chain. One of them would hit it a few times, causing it to move an inch or two. Next, someone else would kick it, and at most, it might move 10 inches.

Then Bruce decided to intervene. “Stand back,” he warned. Seconds later, he ran at the bulky bag and hit it with a fierce flying kick. Damn! The bag flew up to the ceiling and broke in half. Stiffing from its innards flew everywhere, dropping down all around us, like an unprecedented Hong Kong snowstorm.

As often happened, even Bruce looked slightly astonished by his destructive force. “Oh, my God,” he said, staring at the eviscerated punching bag. “I am so sorry. Forgive me.”

All of the eye-witnesses to that display, including me, felt deeply impressed. The millions of fans who crowded into the cinemas around the world and watched Bruce’s movies felt exactly the same way about what they saw him do on the screens.


Outlying-Island Getaways
====================
Definitely, most Hong Kong people noticed and paid keen attention to Bruce’s onscreen exploits. As a result, it became increasingly difficult and time-consuming for him even to try walking down the streets because so many fans always wanted to talk to him.

The crowds that Bruce started to attract on Nathan Road in Kowloon and along Hong Kong’s other main streets actually helped me to know him and his family much better. I had a small house at the edge of a beach in Mui Wo on the outlying Lantau Island, a scenic spot away from the urban core, but easily accessible from the city. Bruce would bring his family over to Lantau on Saturdays, or whenever, to escape temporarily from the often maddening crowds that otherwise surrounded him.

On Lantau, Bruce’s children, Brandon, then seven years old, and Shannon, aged three, would go swimming. In those days, the waters surrounding Hong Kong remained clean though.

So I got to know Bruce and his family pretty well. At times like those, I realized that as hard as Bruce invariably worked, he could, and did, relax too, especially when reading or playing with his children.


Driven to Extremes
===============
Typically, Bruce spent some eight hours per day on the movie sets, always working out, punching, stretching or whatever else at every chance between the scenes. When the cameras rolled, he also worked very hard. Then he would go home and often work out for maybe another eight hours on the exercise and training machines that he kept there in his personal gym.

Showing a creative flair, Bruce arranged to have several unusual training devices specially made to his own designs. I recall seeing one of those, a box-like contraption with four holes. One of the holes measured just big enough for Bruce’s fist. Others accommodated three fingers and two fingers while the smallest hole looked just right for one finger. Each hole had razor-sharp edges.

Out of curiosity, I once made the unfortunate mistake of sticking one of my fingers into the biggest hole. Zap! I recoiled, having taken the biggest shock of my life! The box had been electrified to deliver a very powerful jolt. I never again touched anywhere near those holes.

Believe it or not, Bruce would jab at that box hundreds of times, aiming at the various holes, and if he missed, even slightly, he would get badly cut. Meanwhile, the shocks that he received made him pull back very fast. That explains how he developed his remarkable speed and accuracy.

People on the movie sets sometimes slowed down the cameras in amazement because no one could believe Bruce’s fantastic speed. Having worked out with that shocking box accounted for a big part of how he did it.

Some of Bruce’s other training devices had grim aspects too. He used another one at which he would sit down and hold onto two electrodes. Then he reached with one of his feet to turn up the power until he no longer could stand it.

Bruce owned all of the necessary weights and other pieces of equipment for training, and he used them a lot. I wonder if anyone alive today would go to the extremes and endure all of the things that he did in a quest to become the greatest possible martial-artist. Always, I arrive at the same conclusion – that no one else would devote the same effort and make the big sacrifices that Bruce did – at least no one that I have met or know about.

Sadly, Bruce died prematurely in 1973, at age 32, from swelling and a rupture in his brain attributed to an allergic reaction to medication. To this day, I firmly believe that his almost-constant struggle for perfection is what really killed him. The human body can take only so much. Bruce drove himself to extremes, and a small blood vessel in his brain finally gave out, ending his life.

 
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  • Remembering the mighty Bruce Lee…Continued (2 of 2) - LJF on Aug 4, 2017, 9:37 AM
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  • Incredible - Shaolinguy on Aug 4, 2017, 3:21 PM
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