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.

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17 Responses to “Bruce Lee and Wing Chun by Jesse Glover”

  1. “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.”

    That part reminded of the problem that we have in Aikido.

    “Wing Chun is a fighting art nothing more or nothing less.”
    Very much so. I’m also putting this up on my facebook, hope you don’t mind.

    • i feel you miss the point which is. Its not how much you use of any style its making anything work for you SO A LITTLE CAN BE A LOT IN THE RIGHT HANDS So its about you doing wing chun not wing chun doing you , making it real making you by being honest, I learnt a few aikido moves and my body memory still remembers them after 25 years cause i know the foot work is good and ive use it and it saved me as has wing chun and many others . ITS US HUMANS THATS IMPORTANT IN THE END NOT STYLES So heres to being yourself.
      .

  2. rageholic Says:

    Likes about post;
    -advocates simplicity
    -pressure is good
    -practice required
    -individual ability influences appropriate technique
    -importance of speed

    Things I dislike about this post;
    -nothing!

  3. Mike Rutter Says:

    Great article! I seem to be one of the few Ted Wong trained people that still does some chi sao – and, yes, I use pressure!

  4. Thanks for the article. However I disagree with Jesse’s statements regarding Chi Sau. – “(the) 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….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.” While such an impression may be gained by beginners in the art, and may be true in Jesse’s experience, in fact WC trains to be effective against random attacks and is not bound by the use of, or against, specific techniques.
    From my own observations I agree with Jesse that there seems to be a general lack of awareness or ability to use ‘pressure’ in WC. Perhaps because they leave their teacher to early then try to pass the art on, and so on.

    • His Dark Side Says:

      Thanks for your comment brother Kevin. If Wing Chun was designed to work in a random fashion, then we would have more evidence of it, no? I look at clips on youtube and the fact that you rarely see Wing Chun operate in a non-Wing Chun environment makes me think that “randomness” is something rarely seen in WC practice with its pre-determined drills (lap sau, tui mah, dan chi sau, luk sau, chi sao etc).

      Also I think the point that it is difficult to respond if you wait for the opponent to move first is correct due to response time lag (amount of time it takes for Central Nervous System to process stimulus and for muscle to engage to respond).

      Suki Gosal

      • Unfortunately you rarely see Wing Chun vs. X martial art. The only one who I can think of who used WC in a “non traditional” setting was Bruce Lee himself.

      • Hmmm. Thank you Suki. I agree in part with your reference to response lag time. However let me clarify my response to Jesse’s article.

        Firstly, “(the) 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”. That may very well be Jesse’s understanding and practise; however my understanding and experience is quite the opposite.

        Secondly, re Jesse’s statement 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.”, I was referring firstly in the context of chi sau. In the chi sau I am familiar with, there is no ‘waiting’ for the opponent to make the first move.

        As to your reply ” I look at clips on youtube and the fact that you rarely see Wing Chun operate in a non-Wing Chun environment..”.

        I agree Suki – yet extend that to all martial arts seen on youtube – or at any live event. Whether it is jiu jitsu, aikido, judo, bjj, mma, escrima, stand-up, take-down, – each is shown within their own environment. Some of it is poorly demonstrated, some carefully staged, some very amateur, some wannabee’s. Even an mma bout is within its own environment.

        The only random ‘out of their own environment’ ‘fights’ I see are taken from security footage or cellphones and are very messy indeed. But real-life is messy.

        You write “the fact that you rarely see Wing Chun operate in a non-Wing Chun environment makes me think that “randomness” is something rarely seen in WC practice with its pre-determined drills (lap sau, tui mah, dan chi sau, luk sau, chi sao etc).”.

        The fact is that pre-determined drills are practised in all martial arts whether it be boxing, muay thai, bjj, whatever. Such drills are necessary for helping the practitioner develop skill in their chosen field. Thank you.

      • nonclassical Says:

        right, Suki..so don’t “wait”…CAUSE the opponent to reveal themselves…

      • His Dark Side Says:

        A great succinct comment. Thank you Chris.

  5. Hi do you mind if I repost this on a Wong Shun Leung based website I’m creating …. its a really nice read 🙂 I like the fact the article points out that Bruce Lee’s skills we apparently present in Sifu WSL’s method …. too many people are believing only Sifu Ip Man was the only on to teach Jan Fun Lee.

    My kind regards

    Paul

  6. Hi ,

    Do you mind if I repost this on a Wong Shun Leung based website I’m creating …. its a really nice read I like the fact the article points out that Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun skills were apparently present in Sifu WSL’s method …. too many people are believing only Sifu Ip Man was the only one to teach Jan Fun Lee.

    My kind regards

    Paul

    • ctkwingchun Says:

      Please go ahead and repost it on your website but if you could put a link at the bottom to the original content it would be most appreciated.

  7. Jesse’s comments are “spot on” from my perspective and life experience.

    Tom Keplar

    Tom Keplar’s Non Classical Gung Fu
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/214950342863/

    • His Dark Side Says:

      Thanks for the support Tom. Yes, I understand that you have spoken to Jesse on the telephone and are an admirer of his work.

      Suki

  8. Be your own Master and your own disciple! learn from your experience in life… Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Be kind -Ronald “Manila” Doctor

  9. Dear friends,
    How are you? Hope all it’s ok with you.
    It’s a pleasure to write you.
    I wanted to ask to you a thing. I read in a magazine that Mr Jesse Glover cross trained with people from others jkd period for example from Oakland period. In a former Full Contact magazine i read that he met and share ideas with a person called Richard Corney, Howard Williams’ step father.
    Do you have any recalling or you have ever heard of Mr Corney?
    Thanks a lot and sorry for my disturb.
    Antonio

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