Taky Kimura Interview - 24th April 1999.

Interview conducted by Paul Borrett


PB V For the benefit of those who dont know the story could you please recap on when and where you first met Bruce Lee?

TK V I met Bruce Lee in 1959, he catapulted himself like a bomb into the Seattle area and held us spellbound for five years until he left in 1964 to take part in The Green Hornet series.

PB V Would you say the Seattle curriculum was heavily based on modified Wing Chun?

TK V Yes, when Bruce arrived in Seattle he was well aquainted with a variety of systems but favoured Wing Chun over others because of its straightforward approach.  By the time he arrived in Seattle he had already modified his method somewhat, based on his experience of street fighting in Hong Kong, which he felt classical Asian arts didnt address.

PB V When Bruce began teaching in Seattle, did he concentrate on drills or did he also teach the three Wing Chun forms to you?

TK V He taught us the Sil Lum Tao and that was the only one of the three that I was honoured to be taught.  When he first started teaching us he emphasised stretching and other necessary exercises.  But on the other hand at that stage in his development felt that you didnt need to be in tip-top shape as he felt a fight shouldnt last all that long.

PB V I noticed that when we were working out with Jesse Glover and Jim DeMille that they started us out straight away on double handed sensitivity drills leading up to chi-sao.  When you start with Wing Chun, as Im sure you know, you start out with single sticky hand (doan chi sao).  Did Bruce start you on doan chi sao or did he launch straight into double chi sao?

TK V Well we did a little single hand, but we pretty much jumped straight to the double handed drills.

PB V How much change did you observe in the curriculum over the Seattle years before Bruce moved to Oakland?

TK V I think it was pretty straightforward in the years before he moved to Oakland, it was a composite of things that we drilled over and over.  Even at that early stage of his life he felt that the curriculum shouldnt be based on knowing a great many things, but rather knowing a few things very well.

PB V How much to the best of your knowledge was Bruce taught personally by Yip Man or was it William Cheung or Wong Shun Leung who taught him more frequently?

TK V As I understand it, Bruces father was a very close friend of Yip Man, and that was in fact the main reason Bruce was able to train personally with Yip Man.  Yip Man did very little personal hands on teaching but did so with Bruce because of friendship with Bruces father.  He spoke of William Cheung as being his senior, but as I understand it he had direct access to Yip Man on his own in private lessons.  I think that was a big factor in the speed at which he progressed in the Wing Chun system.  On top of this, according to an old school friend and fellow Wing Chun student, Henry Pang, Bruce would also work out in rooftop sessions with William, Henry and Wong Shun Leung.

PB V Is it true that Bruce phoned you during his L.A. period of development and said chi sao was out?

TK V After he went down to Los Angeles he called me one day and indicated to me that chi sao wasnt really in any more, but there was a strong emphasis on that when he taught us in Seattle so it kind of blew my mind because all of a sudden he said well chi sao isnt the most important ingredient of it any more.  I said My God, what do you mean?  He said well Im working with this fellow Kareem Abdul Jabbar, hes 72 and my eyeballs are right even with his naval, I can stick my leg out straight and he can still hit me with his hands.  He then felt that chi sao wasnt the most important means of training because of size differences.

PB V From my limited experience, the process of trapping is only necessary as a means to clear an obstruction to hit.  Do you think Bruce had got so fast at this point no one could block him anyway thereby negating the need to trap?

TK V Well I think that has a great deal of truth to it, Paul.  I think that he developed the structure of 5 ways of attack coupled with the 4 ranges of combat and he discovered that there is only a fleeting moment when you can use any one thing as you change the distance between you and your opponent.  I think that Bruce developed a greater sense of mobility and footwork at that time and I think that put everything in balance then, rather than over-emphasising any one aspect of fighting.

PB V To your knowledge, at what point did Bruce change from using the Wing Chun Bai Jong stance to the more flexible on guard stance.

TK V Even in Seattle at the point when he was getting ready to leave us the mobility was already there, and the right lead being dominant.  Although I should point out he advocated that we also practice the left lead on our own so as to be well rounded.

PB V How much emphasis did Bruce put on sparring at that time?

TK V Well, we were sparring off and on, but it was in balance with our technique and drill training.

PB - Bruce implemented a ranking system, which when you read all the different magazine articles can be very confusing to the average reader.  Can you help clarify this from your point of understanding?

TK V Well, first of all, he didnt really believe in a ranking system, but he assessed that the western and American mind is geared to the concept that they have to know where they are at any given time.  So to accommodate that he devised a ranking system that was based on the yin yang symbol and colours on the symbol to denote rank.

PB V What do you think it is about the combat orientated arts that holds our interest and provides such welcome side effects of health, fitness and confidence.  I have tried other, less combative and performance based arts, and found I didnt get as much out of them?

TK V Well, if I understand your question correctly, all of us going through our journey of life have to go through the physical aspects of life.  Being in control of oneself physically allows the door to open to other higher philosophical and mental aspects of life.

PB V Unfortunately we dont always stay young forever!  How have you changed your training to cope with that?

TK V Well, I just turned 75 in March and recently over the last year or so Ive had a few physical problems and Ive become a little bit more sedentary.  But I found out the effects of that were that I developed more of an arthritic condition.  I started taking vitamins and nutrients; it helped me to a certain extent.  I guess the analogy is, you can put rich gas into an old car but isnt going to help all that much!  I realised that exercise is probably one of the single most important things in a mans life and can really help slow down the aging process.  I dont do any weight training, or anything like that, but every morning I have a little exercise routine that I go through and it has helped me a great deal.  Unfortunately I havent really improved my eating habits that much, but I think at my age you have to think in terms of moderation and there are a few sins you have to tolerate and live with you know!

PB V Well I think youve earned the right, my friend!  What advice do you have for us youngsters training in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do?

TK V Well, I think if you achieve the wisdom that there is something beyond the totality of the physical being, you get into the philosophical and spiritual aspects of ones life.  Then you see things much more clearly, enjoy life for what its worth and you understand things in terms of helping other people, which I think is the most important thing.

PB V What would you like to see for Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do in the future?

TK V Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do was created to form a sense of harmony and common purpose in the Jeet Kune Do community.  Since Bruce Lee contributed so much in terms of revolutionizing the martial arts he needs to be remembered, to be given acknowledgement for having done so much.  I just want to help in any way I can to keep Bruces image alive and to try to create an environment of cooperation in the Jeet Kune Do community.  To shoot from the heart rather than from the value of the dollar bill.

PB V Thank you very much for taking time out to talk and answer my questions.

TK V My pleasure, thank you Paul.