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Thread: Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man fight

  1. #646
    Quote Originally Posted by ChungQuanMan View Post
    I know I am really late to the party...and my comments below may have already been expressed in some form (haven't read all of the prior replies)...
    Having read the book Showdown in Oakland as well as other sources I would like to address your points. You can see my views on the fight from previous posts.

    With that preface, a few considerations...

    1. Of the two, who (seems completely) changed their approach to martial arts and their training? That would be Lee.. (You don't typically change what works).
    Based on Bruce Lee's description as I mentioned previously he seemed to have the mind of a perfectionist. He says he won the fight but that he was exhausted chasing Wong Jack Man around the room and that his attacks weren't efficient despite winning. If you're going to consider the implications of details like this you need to analyze the narrative of the person telling the story. If find it very believable that a young Martial Artist that was used to ending fights quickly got a wake up call to the sloppiness and inefficiency of his Martial Art from a real fight that didn't go the way he planned. In real fights you can be the winner and not come out unscathed. If Bruce Lee's narrative is the truth then it is a credit to him that he learned from his mistakes and the limitations of Wing Chun to improve as a Martial Artist.

    2. Which one became a GM at the age of 25? That would be Wong...
    We know today that that many Traditional Martial Artists including Masters and Grandmasters are not great fighters. Many of them have few to no full-contact fights and it is actually a shock to them when they fight for real. I'm not aware of Wong Jack Man competing in any Martial Arts tournaments or getting in to any street fights outside of his fight with Bruce Lee. Holding the rank of Grandmaster speaks to his dedication as a Martial Artist but not necessarily his efficiency as a fighter.

    3. Who did not complete their formal training? That's Lee...(As far as I know, all he had to go on was some amount of Wing Chun from Ip Man and street brawl experience)
    From what I've read Bruce Lee started Wing Chun at the age of 13 and left Hong Kong at the age of 18. So he had 5 years of formal training with Yip Man and his senior students. I've heard that Yip Man saw Bruce Lee as an exceptional talent among his students and decided to have him trained privately after some jealous students demanded he be kicked out of the school when they found out he wasn't pure Chinese. By the time he fought Wong Jack Man in 1964 at the age of 24 Bruce Lee had about 11 years of Martial Arts experience, was running his own school and training with Martial Artists of different disciplines. Bruce Lee's school was called Jun Fan Gung Fu and he was already trying to promote his own approach to Martial Arts with Wing Chun as his base. After the Wong Jack Man fight Bruce Lee says he became more fanatical to improving as a Martial Artist and developing Jeet Kune Do. Based on this information it is entirely feasible that by the time they fought Bruce Lee had more street fighting experience and more skill as a Martial Artist while still needing to learn a thing or two to become a better fighter. Completing a system won't make you a great fighter if there are weaknesses in that system.

    4. My understanding is that Lee wanted the fight kept quiet but then spoke out boldly after the fight. Wong, who is still alive, has remained relatively quiet about the fight over the years. Is this due to Wong's fear or humility
    In the book Showdown in Oakland it is stated that the fight was publicly discussed in Chinese newspapers over the course of weeks before Bruce Lee got his part as Kato in The Green Hornet TV series. Two years after that Bruce Lee told Black Belt Magazine that he won the fight referring to Wong Jack Man as a Kung Fu Cat he fought in San Franciso who ran like a coward during the fight until Bruce beat him in to verbal submission on the ground. Even though he admitted that he was unsatisfied with the performance Bruce Lee claims a clear victory for himself. If I were Wong Jack Man I would have demanded a rematch at that point to protect my reputation. I'm not saying he feared Bruce Lee but if he cared enough about his reputation to talk about it in the newspapers and say that he was open to a rematch at a public exhibition why would he let Bruce Lee bad mouth him in a major magazine like that and allow his narrative to be accepted as the truth for years? Bruce Lee became famous and had a successful acting career years after this fight. Wong Jack Man had a lot of time to set up a rematch. He could have talked to Black Belt Magazine or any papers and pushed for a public rematch if he wanted to.

    Also Bruce Lee clearly did not respect the skills of Wong Jack Man as he could be heard in a phone recording years later calling Wong Jack Man a bullsh*t artist (Start at 5:30):

    5. It is also my understanding, based on the testimony of GM Ming Lum (a friend of Lee's) that Wong came to work the day after the night of the fight - and only one cut near his eyes (From an opening pear hand from Lee?). But Lee supposedly beat Wong into submission?
    According to Bruce Lee himself he punched Wong Jack Man in the back of the head and a long his back on the ground. That would not leave facial damage especially considering that the rest of the time Bruce Lee says that Wong Jack Man was running away from him. His wife Linda acknowledged as finger jab strike to the face at the beginning of the fight so the testimony of Ming Lum actually does not contradict that Bruce Lee narrative of the outcome of the fight.

    6. Who expressed that, if there was another fight between them, that it would need to be public? I think that would be Wong...
    That's mentioned in the book but doesn't say anything about the outcome of the fight. Wong Jack Man could have lost the fight badly and wanted a rematch to redeem himself. Rick Wing actually acknowledged in the book that Bruce Lee had a lot going on in his life at the time. Less than 10 days after Wong Jack Man's comment in Chinese Pacific Weekly proposing a rematch Bruce Lee's son Brandon was born so he had responsibilities to a newborn baby and his wife to consider. A few days later he went to Hollywood for an audition which led to him getting the part of Kato in The Green Hornet and after that he father died on unexpectedly and he flew to Hong Kong to honor his father at his funeral and support family. Then he came back to the United States to pursue a life changing acting career. As far as I can tell a rematch with Wong Jack Man would and should have been the furthest thing from his mind. Remember that the whole point of challenges with Martial Artists with Wong Jack Man was to make a name for himself in the Martial Arts community. With a job as an actor on TV and eventually movies there was simply no need to fight anyone. If anyone could benefit from another fight at that point it was Wong Jack Man.

    7. If Wong lost to Lee in the way some describe, then why didn't this event become big news in Chinatown at the time?
    It was. They argued about the outcome of the fight in local Chinese newspapers for weeks. Rick Wing provided pictures with English translation of these newspaper articles in his book. The fight was held behind closed doors in Bruce Lee's Martial Arts studio. If there was a verbal agreement not to talk about the fight clearly it got leaked to the press. Bruce Lee told Jesse Glover, Leo Fong and others that Wong Jack Man was the one who talked to the press and after demanding a newspaper editor tell him his source for the story that Bruce Lee lost the fight and was hospitalized, which turned out to be from Wong Jack Man he went to the restaurant where Wong Jack Man worked as a waiter. According to Bruce Lee when Wong Jack Man saw him he spilled the tea he was pouring ran away and hid in the kitchen. That is Bruce Lee's narrative of the aftermath of the fight. Rick Wing says that Wong Jack Man came to Jackson Cafe to make peace with Wong Jack Man, tell him he was only trying to promote his school and pointed out that they actually shared a Martial Arts lineage.
    Last edited by MysticNinjaJay; 01-01-2018 at 12:14 PM.

  2. #647
    8. I recall that Lee's wife observed that after the fight Bruce was sitting on the back porch all depressed with his head in his hands.
    Yes, because according to Linda Bruce Lee was very unsatisfied with the fight. Jesse Glover's description in his book recalls that Bruce Lee told him that Wong Jack Man began backpedaling and running during the fight after a brief exchange and that Bruce Lee had trouble closing distance because of his speed and footwork. He said that Bruce Lee was chasing him and punching at him before eventually throwing him to the ground and pounding him on the ground which hurt his fists. According to Linda the fight lasted about 3 minutes. Assuming this is true this actually makes sense in a lot of ways. 3 minutes is long enough to get tired if you are overexerting yourself. What Bruce Lee described is chasing and opponent and nearly punching himself out which we see all the time in combat sports such as MMA. Wing Chun also teaches chain punching on the ground which is actually not an efficient way to strike someone on the ground and hitting the back of the skull as Bruce Lee described can actually break your hand. Based on the description a lone I think Bruce Lee's narrative actually very believable. Wong Jack Man's narrative is few less believable for the reasons I outlined in the previous post. The fight Wong Jack Man described is unrealistically long with a lot of nonsense put in that sounds like someone making up a story who doesn't have a lot of real fighting experience. Wong Jack Man doesn't say he won but some times people make less of themselves in a story to make the story sound more believable e.g. "I didn't win. The fight was a draw but I got the better of him and held back a bit."

    9. From the testimony of George Lee, it may be that Linda was not even in the room for the fight, but peeked in some.
    This is an interesting detail but problematic as Linda insists that she saw the fight. She made a video which was clearly a rebuttal to the book Showdown in Oakland where she says that despite being pregnant she was a witness to the fight, saw the entire thing and stands by her account of the details of the fight which were consistent with what Bruce Lee stated. So we have a case of "He said, She said."

    For me the main problem with Wong Jack Man's narrative is simply the details of the fight according to him. Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Cadwell could be lying or exaggerating but their account is at least plausible. Can anyone make a serious case that Wong Jack Man's narrative described in the book Showdown in Oakland is a realistic account of a fight?

  3. #648
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    The chapter in Matt Polly's new book that everyone wants to read...

    Yesterday’s Crimes: The Brawl That Almost Broke Bruce Lee
    American Shaolin author Matthew Polly sorts through the fact and fiction surrounding Bruce Lee's Bay Area grudge match in his new book, Bruce Lee: A Life.
    Bob Calhoun Mon Jun 11th, 2018 10:01amYesterday's Crimes

    Bruce Lee punishing a young Jackie Chan in Enter the Dragon. (Courtesy Image)

    Bruce Lee was born into a performing family; His mother gave birth to him in the year of the dragon on Nov. 27, 1940 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, while his parents were on tour with a Chinese opera company. His Chinese name, Li Jun Fan (李振藩), included the Chinese character for San Francisco (Fan), and can be translated roughly to “Shake Up and Excite San Francisco.” When Lee finally returned to the city of his birth in his early 20s, the future martial arts superstar did just what his name had prophesized.

    Lee took the stage of the Sun Sing Theatre on Grant Avenue between Jackson and Pacific in August 1964. What started with Lee doing the cha-cha with Diana Chang Chung-Wen, “The Mandarin Marilyn Monroe,” soon became one of Chinatown’s most enduring controversies. It all began during a demonstration of the Wing Chun kung fu techniques Lee had honed on the streets of Hong Kong.

    “In China, 80 percent of what they teach is nonsense,” Lee proclaimed during his show. “Here in America, it is 90 percent.

    “These old tigers,” he continued, criticizing San Francisco’s traditional kung fu masters, “they have no teeth.”

    “That’s not kung fu!” a man in the back of the theater shouted, while the Chinatown audience flung lit cigarettes onto the stage to show their disapproval of this young upstart.

    Before Lee left the stage, he told the hostile crowd that if they wanted to research his Wing Chun, they could find him at his school in Oakland. To everyone at the Sun Sing that night, it sounded like the “Little Dragon” had just issued an open challenge to all of Chinatown.

    “(Lee) was 24,” Matthew Polly, author of the hard-to-put-down new biography Bruce Lee: A Life, explains. “He was trying to make a name for himself, and he was going out there, poking people in the eye trying to get them to change their minds.”

    Polly wrote about his experiences studying kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China for his first book, American Shaolin (Penguin, 2007). He then trained in mixed martial arts for his follow-up, Tapped Out (Gotham, 2011).

    “After writing Tapped Out, I was looking for a project that didn’t involve me getting punched in the face,” Polly says, but he couldn’t stay away from martial arts. When Polly realized the only Bruce Lee biography still in print was from 25 years ago, he was “personally offended.”

    “The most important Asian American to ever live, and the most famous, couldn’t get his one biography when Steve McQueen has a half a dozen,” Polly says.

    Polly spent seven years researching Bruce Lee: A Life, which had him untangling fact from the urban legends surrounding Lee’s rise to stardom, his mysterious death, and the challenge match that emerged from that appearance at the Sun Sing Theatre.

    “Bruce lived a life that was a lot like his kung fu movies,” Polly says, pointing out that Lee accepted challenge matches well into his 30s. “And so whenever somebody wants to tell the story of Bruce, they want to tell it as if it was a kung fu movie, and of course they immediately go to the Wong Jack Man fight.”

    Wong Jack Man was not at the Sun Sing on the night of Lee’s performance, but Lee’s critique of the high kicks of Northern Shaolin kung fu got back to him. Like Lee, Wong was a skilled martial artist in his early 20s who had come to America from Hong Kong. Unlike Lee, Wong venerated martial arts traditions.

    “In the fight between Bruce and Wong Jack Man you have modernity versus tradition,” Polly says.

    After weeks of negotiations, Wong arrived at Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute at 4175 Broadway in Oakland’s auto row on a weeknight in early November 1964. Wong’s pal, David Chin, who had egged on this fight, attempted to negotiate some ground rules, but Lee wasn’t having it.

    “You’ve already got your friend killed,” Lee spat in Cantonese.

    James Lee, one of Lee’s students, locked the dojo door from the inside and took a seat close to where he kept a loaded revolver in case any more of Wong’s friends showed up. Bruce Lee’s pregnant wife Linda was the only other person there on his side, while Wong and Chin had brought four others with them.

    When Wong reached out to shake hands, the tense Bruce Lee threw a powerful shot that crashed into Wong’s orbital bone.

    “He really wanted to kill me,” Wong later recalled.

    Lee followed up with a blistering series of Wing Chun chain punches. Wong backpedaled, blocking Lee’s shots. Lee kept coming. Wong struck Lee in the neck and drew blood with a studded wrist bracelet he concealed in his long sleeve.

    “When Bruce felt the blood on his neck and realized the deception, he went berserk,” Polly writes.

    Wong turned around and started to run. Wong stumbled on a raised platform in Lee’s studio leftover from when it was an upholstery shop. Lee got on top of Wong and pounded him. Chin and the others pulled Lee off of their fallen champion.

    The fight in Oakland only enhanced the reputations of both men. Lee became a Hong Kong-to-Hollywood tragedy who died right before the release of Enter the Dragon (1973), his greatest triumph. Wong earned the title of grandmaster teaching Tai Chi Chuan and Northern Shaolin at Fort Mason Center until 2005. Wong’s subsequent students have claimed their beloved sifu vanquished the arrogant movie star.

    The tiebreaker for Polly in determining just what happened that night in 1964 was that David Chin’s account jibed with Linda Lee’s.

    “I took that as a pretty good guarantee of the truth if Wong Jack Man’s friend thought a certain thing happened,” Polly says.

    “One advantage I have in writing this book over other biographers is that I was actually in a challenge match in China and fought another kung fu master,” Polly adds, recalling an incident he covered in American Shaolin.

    “So certain things rang true to me just based on my own experience,” he says. “I’ve watched challenge matches where one guy freaks out and panics and starts running.”

    Unsatisfied with how ugly the Wong Jack Man fight was, Lee committed to developing his own style, called Jeet Kune Do, and transformed martial arts in the process.

    “What’s amazing with MMA is this is what it’s become,” Polly reflects. “The way (Lee) was teaching is the way a significant portion of the martial arts community now practices.”

    Bruce Lee: A Life by Matt Polly
    Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man fight
    American Shaolin by Matt Polly
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  4. #649
    is it bad if I dont give a sheet about Cantonese Chinatown squabbles in 2018? I mean the canto community is basically dead man

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