Bruce Lee and Wing Chun by Jesse Glover
Bruce Lee and Wing Chun
by Jesse Glover
When Bruce came to the U.S. in 1959 he knew about sixty percent of the Wooden dummy, the first form and parts of the second and third form but his Wing Chun training didn’t end there.
Fook Young a friend of Bruce’s father continued Bruce’s instruction in Wing Chun. Fook Young was a Chinese opera star from the time that he was ten. Each time that he joined a new opera he had to learn the Gung Fu style that Gung Fu master favoured. Fook Young learned many many styles and he taught parts of them to Bruce. One of the style that he taught Bruce was Red Boat Wing Chun. The areas where Bruce excelled were sticking hands, closing, chasing and punching.
In Wing Chun and maybe in other arts people seem to suggest that someone is better than another person simply because they know more of the system than the other person. I would like to suggest that one can excel in the application of certain aspect of a system that will easily overcome someone who knows more of the system but can’t do it as well.
Wong Shun Leung was the person who talked about Bruce’s exceptional skills in many of the articles that he wrote or was interviewed in. Since I learned from directly from Bruce beginning in 1959 I know how he look felt and moved. When I saw a tape of Wong Shun Leung doing the first form and demonstrating various techniques it was clear to me where most of Bruce’s Wing Chun came from because he moved just like Wong.
If a person can close on their opponent before he can activate his neural system there isn’t anything that the opponent can do regardless of how many techniques he knows. By the time that Bruce returned to Hong Kong for the second time the only person who had a chance of stopping Bruce’s attack was Wong Shun Leung.
When I think about Wing Chun I think that certain aspects of it are great. At the same time I think that other aspects of it are not practical for the average student. Wong Shun Leung said that Wing Chun is a good horse but few people can ride it. I totally agree with this statement. The techniques in Wing Chun that anyone can learn are chain punching ,chasing, simultaneous punching and blocking and certain aspects of sticking hands. A lot of the material in the forms can’t be applied by most people in combat.
I think that the Wing Chun concept of sticking hands is one of the greatest concepts in martial arts but I think that very few people can stick very well. One of the reason that I think that it is so difficult to make work is because it like most art is designed to work against the specific techniques that the style uses. For each of the major techniques there is a counter that is supposed to be applied when you are attacked in a specific way.
The major problem with this idea is that most of the people that you are likely to get in a fight with are not Wing Chun men and they are not likely to attack in a Wing Chun manner. What seem to be readily apparent if one takes the time to look is that it is very difficult to determine what attack an opponent is using if one is waiting for the opponent to make the first move. This is particularly true in the area of sticking hands.
Over the years I have stuck with many Wing Chun men and few of them could apply the techniques that they advocated. Bruce advocated the use of pressure in his sticking and few of the people that I stuck with knew what to do against pressure. Lately the idea of pressure is gradually being adopted by various Wing Chun people but there are still vast numbers who are not aware of it’s existence.
Pressure adds a whole new element to the game. It allows you to develop the central nervous system in ways that cannot be done otherwise. With the use of pressure and a heck of a lot of practice your arms and body can learn how to offset your opponents actions before you cognitive brain is alerted.
Bruce was a master of this form of attack. Bruce developed such a quick close that few people could make even a simple response to his attack. If someone was able to respond he simply shut them down with pressure sticking and continued with his speedy punching attack which was unstoppable at close range. Picture this if you are standing five to six feet away from your opponent and he can close the gap before you can react what chance do you have. This was Bruce.
According to Wong Shun Leung ( the best modern Wing Chun fighter) Wing Chun is a fighting art nothing more or nothing less. He said that nothing is sacred in the style and that the criteria for using something should be your ability to make it work. I think that this is an idea that is not pursued by most Wing Chun practitioners.