Taky Kimura Interview - 24th April 1999.
Interview conducted by Paul Borrett
PB ¡V For the benefit of those who don¡¦t 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 didn¡¦t 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 didn¡¦t need to be in
tip-top shape as he felt a fight shouldn¡¦t 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 I¡¦m 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 shouldn¡¦t 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, Bruce¡¦s 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 Bruce¡¦s 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
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 wasn¡¦t 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 isn¡¦t the most important
ingredient of it any more¡¨. I
said ¡§My God, what do you mean?¡¨ He
said well I¡¦m working with this fellow Kareem Abdul Jabbar, he¡¦s 7¡¦2¡¨
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 wasn¡¦t the most important means of training because of
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
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 didn¡¦t 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
didn¡¦t 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 don¡¦t 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 I¡¦ve had a few physical problems and I¡¦ve 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 isn¡¦t
going to help all that much! I
realised that exercise is probably one of the single most important things in a
man¡¦s life and can really help slow down the aging process.
I don¡¦t 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
haven¡¦t 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 you¡¦ve 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 it¡¦s 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 Bruce¡¦s 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.