Wong Interview íV 25th April 1999.
conducted by Paul Borrett
íV Sifu Ted, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us.
íV No problem.
íV Growing up in Hong Kong you must have had some exposure visually to martial
arts, if not hands on.
íV Not really actually, I think there was more going on in Mainland China.
You know, back then in Hong Kong, it wasníŽt like here.
Here you can open the Yellow Pages and find lots of martial art schools;
back then in Hong Kong you had to know somebody to train.
So really my first exposure to martial arts was in 1962 in the United
íV For the benefit of those who doníŽt know, could you recap on how you first
met Bruce Lee and what your first impression of him was.
íV Basically, I met him for the first time in 1967 when a friend told me he was
teaching in Chinatown, I was too shy to introduce my self so a friend took me
íV Back then you were very shy?
íV Back then essentially my character was very shy, but Bruce helped me a lot
íVWell we have seen some of your sense of humour this weekend!
people have talked to you about your training with Bruce Lee.
Have you also had the chance to train with any other students from the
L.A. days, like Larry Hartsell, Dan Lee, Dan Inosanto or Richard Bustillo?
íV To be honest I haveníŽt had much of a chance, I pretty much worked on my
own and taught just a few friends, itíŽs only recently that I have been in
touch with my old friends from the Chinatown days.
íV What would you say was the core of what Bruce Lee taught you?
- The basic core of Jeet Kune Do is an emphasis on simplicity.
In the beginning we concentrated on a basic stance and footwork, basic
tools like punches and kicks. It is
essentially a work in progress one day you work on one thing then the next day
you are trying to perfect another, not really trying to learn too many new
things but rather a refining process. The
learning process is really in three different stages, the first one learning the
ížformíĘ and the right body mechanics, the second stage learning the
coordination and balance, and the last stage is how to apply all this.
you are constantly going back and forth between the stages, there is always
something new to learn about each stage later on in the learning process.
This is basically the process that Bruce taught me with.
íV It appears that most of what you did with Bruce Lee was in an ížempty
handíĘ format, did you ever get the chance to work with him with any weapons,
particularly knife work?
íV No, Jeet Kune Do is essentially an empty hand approach, occasionally Bruce
and I would pick up a knife for the fun of it, but itíŽs not really emphasized
in Jeet Kune Do.
how do you think Bruce Lee most helped you to develop as a martial artist, what
was the most helpful thing he gave you?
íV The most helpful wasníŽt really just learning punching or kicking, or to be
a tough guy who thinks he knows how to fight. You know, thatíŽs really not what is important, the reason I
learnt martial arts is not really for fighting I did it because the study of
martial arts is acquiring a skill, itíŽs challenging. Actually I started martial arts very late with no previous
experience and thatíŽs even worse.
íV How old were you?
íV I was twenty-nine.
So for me, martial arts was an opportunity to overcome obstacles both
mentally and physically, to improve my body, be flexible and to gain courage.
Again, I was really shy in nature, he (Bruce Lee) really changed my
attitude, and he really gave me a lot of encouragement.
What Bruce Lee gave me helped me function a lot better as a human being,
gave me self-confidence and self-sufficiency, but I didníŽt realise that until
many years later.
íV You often stress footwork and mobility in your teaching, this is presumably
a large part of what you learnt from Bruce Lee?
íV Yes, he always emphasised footwork, I never really understood why at the
time, but footwork and mobility is really one of the cornerstones of JKD.
íV When you first started training with Bruce there was a period of time when
you were training with the other students in Chinatown.
Although most people feel you were fortunate to have no previous martial
arts training, did you feel intimidated by the experience of some of BruceíŽs
íV Oh yes I did feel quite intimidated, go to class everyday and I was probably
the worst in the class. But one
thing about Bruce was that he would look at each student as an individual and
wouldníŽt treat everybody the same. If
this guy is kind of clumsy, doesníŽt have the potential that other students may
have, this didníŽt matter so much, your character was more important to him.
If you tried hard he would make more time for you.
íV With regard to the recent book, ížWing Chun and Jeet Kune Do a
ComparisoníĘ, which you wrote with William Cheung, who had the idea for the
íV It was William CheungíŽs idea, back in 1989, his editor phoned me out of
the blue and asked me to do the book with William.
The main reason for choosing me as the JKD part of the book was because I
trained with Bruce at the later part of his training.
At the time I really didníŽt know what to say, so I asked them to give
me a little time to think about it. Later
they phoned me again and said William Cheung is in town would you like to meet
him? So I met him, he seemed like a
really nice guy, I really liked him, we talked about the book and I decided to
go ahead and do it. I think Jeet
Kune Do is very misunderstood by most Wing Chun people, so it was a very good
chance to show both sides a little of the others art.
So in all IíŽm pretty happy about the end product.
íV During the course of the seminar I have to say IíŽve been very impressed
with your fitness and fluidity of technique and skill in mobility.
It must be hard over the years to keep motivated to maintain those
íV Actually it wasníŽt hard at all, even though Bruce passed away so long ago,
just thinking about him helped to motivate me.
My training is really a daily ritual.
íV What kind of training schedule do you currently work out to?
íV I try and do something every day, reading, making notes like Bruce did about
any new discoveries I make, conditioning, I do more conditioning than I do
technique work now. Over the years
you are getting older, but IíŽve been punching and kicking for so long that
remains fairly constant, so I try to work more on my fitness and conditioning a
little more in recent years. More
like physical maintenance.
íV As the only student who trained with Bruce with no previous martial arts
background, what advice do you have for beginning students with no previous
íV Be patient, doníŽt give up, I know Jeet Kune Do is not easy.
Simple doesníŽt mean easy, in the beginning it is very complicated.
íV By simple, you mean refined?
íV Right, right! True refinement means simplicity.
íV Over your years of teaching what do you think is the most satisfying thing
you get out of teaching?
íV Being able to share my knowledge and being able to see the student
progress. My mission or purpose if you like is to preserve and perpetuate
BruceíŽs art. It doesníŽt stop
here there is the second and third generation.
íV What would you like to see in the future for Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do?
íV Right now it is really in the stage of infancy, really I want to expose
BruceíŽs art accurately to more people, let them know about us and what we are
trying to achieve. I believe the future is very bright for us as we continue to
take it one step at a time.
íV Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.
íV It is my pleasure and an honour to be a part of all this.