Archive for the Form, Style, or Art Category

‘Enter the Dragon’ Turns 40: What You Didn’t Know About Bruce Lee

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on July 19, 2013 by policetac

Behind every great man is a great woman, and for martial arts legend Bruce Lee, that woman was Linda Emery, who married her dashing gongfu teacher in the mid-’60s. Linda and Bruce were husband and wife until July 20, 1973, when Bruce died of cerebral edema at the age of 32 … just six days before the Hong Kong release of what many consider to be his greatest cinematic achievement, “Enter the Dragon.”

Upon the 40-year anniversary of both the premiere of “Enter the Dragon” (which is now available in a 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray) and the untimely death of its star, we spoke with Linda Lee Cadwell (who has since remarried) about her late husband’s legacy and how his abilities and philosophies have inspired countless others to reach their full potential — and beyond.

[Related: Bruce Lee gets a fantastical origin story in ‘Birth of the Dragon’]

BRYAN ENK: Does it feel like 40 years have passed since “Enter the Dragon” was first released?

LINDA LEE CADWELL: [Laughs] No, I was actually quite shocked when I realized, “40 years?!” It’s a lifetime, to be sure. And like you, a lot of the people who admire “Enter the Dragon” and Bruce were not even born at the time when he was alive. That does put it in perspective and makes it seem like 40 years have passed.

BE: “Enter the Dragon” is considered to be one of the best martial arts films of all time, if not the best. What do you feel have been the most influential aspects of the film over the past four decades and what has made it stand the test of time so well?

LLC: Well it certainly is the gold standard of martial arts films and certainly inspired the genre altogether. I think it’s quite obvious really that the outstanding thing about “Enter the Dragon” was Bruce. The storyline is really nothing spectacular and the technical qualities are fine, but the thing that makes it really stand out is of course Bruce. And the parts of it that people admire so much are on different levels — a person can look at “Enter the Dragon” and admire the physicality of it, the combat, the choreography inspired and performed by Bruce, or they can take it a step further and see that there are bits of philosophical wisdom in it, also inspired by Bruce.

Watch ‘Enter the Dragon’ DVD Clip:

BE: Do you have a particularly good behind-the-scenes memory from when the film was in production, something that happened on or off the set?

LLC: Oh my, yes! Bruce had been wanting to do a Hong Kong/American co-production for a long time, that had been his goal when he first went to Hong Kong to make films, that one day the filmmakers in the West would realize his value and talent and would be ready to do something with him. So it was an important landmark for him and it was important for him that the film be a success. So he put his heart and soul in it, and he was very insistent on some changes to the script. Some people have made the comment that he was very nervous to start the film, that he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown because he was so uptight about the film and making sure it was a success but that was not really the case — he just had some very important things to say about the script and how he wanted the film to be and very insistent on some changes. And I must say that in light of 40 years and we’re still looking at this movie that he was right, and it’s because of Bruce and his insisting on doing certain things and adding certain parts to the film that it’s been such a success for four decades.

BE: My favorite part of the film is the “Hall of Mirrors” scene. It’s a terrific sequence — the choreography, the building tension and there’s something truly iconic about the imagery of the bloody scratches on Bruce’s chest. Do you have a favorite scene from the film?

LLC: Well, of course all the combat scenes are spectacular and unmatched over all these years, but my favorite parts of the film are the more philosophical points that Bruce brings to the picture. For instance, when he’s talking to the young boy and teaching him — that kind of thing makes the film more than an adventure and a “violent film,” it gives it more substance.

BE: How did you and Bruce first meet?

Linda Lee, Brandon Lee, and Bruce Lee, circa 1970 (Photo: Everett)LLC: [Laughs] It’s a fun story, actually! I was a senior in high school in Seattle, Washington at Garfield High School. And Bruce used to come to my school, he was five years older and a student of Philosophy at the University of Washington, he was friends with the philosophy teacher at my high school. So he would come to my high school to give lectures on Chinese philosophy; I was not in that class but I can tell you that every girl at my school knew when Bruce Lee was in the house because he was so dashing and so handsome. And one of my girlfriends who happened to be Chinese was taking gongfu lessons from him. And so the summer after I graduated from high school she talked me into taking gongfu lessons with Bruce, so that’s how we first met — I was his student and it wasn’t long before I was more interested in the teacher than the martial art, though I continued to do it for quite a while. [Laughs]

BE: Bruce is known for founding a martial arts practice and philosophy known as Jeet Kune Do. How would you describe the basic fundamentals of that?

LLC: Well, Bruce would never have described it as a “system,” because a “system” is an organization of certain rules and his way of martial arts did not have any set rules — it is what is best for the individual person who is learning it. There was an aura of just responding to what “is” in martial arts, so you would not have a particular set of movements in response to, say, an attack — like in some forms of karate it’s like “Well, I will punch in a certain way, I will do this or that in certain sequence.” Bruce’s art was not like that — it flowed, like he often said, like water flows and can fit into any container, it flowed to fit into any situation that was presented. So that’s why he called it his “way” of martial arts, not a “system” of martial arts.

There’s a great deal more to it as well, and there are fundamentals to it so that it can be carried on for generations, as it is now. But it’s also a way of personal growth, to learn more about yourself — as Bruce used to say, all knowledge is really self-knowledge, you learn more about yourself and how to fit into a variety of situations. So, in a nutshell, that’s a way of describing it.

[Related: ‘Enter the Dragon’ 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Giveaway]

BE: Do you have a particularly good memory involving a fan of Bruce’s, either an encounter with a fan or a story that a fan told about Bruce?

LLC: Actually, there are so many that I can lump them all into one person, in a way. [Laughs] I’ve received letters over the years and had personal acquaintance with so many people who have told me how they’re truly so inspired by Bruce. And most of the time, especially after the passing of 40 years, it’s because of a wanting to model Bruce as a way of life, in a way of improving their own lives. So not so much “Well, I want to be a martial artist” or “I want to learn how to beat up people” — I think many years ago that was the first thing that impressed people, his fighting ability, but I think after all these years people have discovered there were many more layers to Bruce and he was a person of great depth.

And he did an immense amount of writing, which we are blessed today to still have and has been reproduced a number of times in different forms and I think people use that as an inspiration to improve their own lives.

BE: The 1993 film “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” is mostly based on your 1975 book, “Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew.” How do you feel about the film — was it a good adaptation or was it missing something?

‘Enter the Dragon’ (Photo: Everett)LLC: I have mixed feelings about the film. On the good side I think it hit on the high points of Bruce’s life, the turning points, you might say. For instance, when he hurt his back and then he was laid up for six months, in bed a lot of the time, unable to be his usual physical self — the doctors told him he would be unable to ever do gongfu again and all this stuff. That was certainly a turning point in his life, though the injury did not happen in the way they showed it in the film — they felt they had to make it more dramatic. But the point is he hurt his back and he used that time, the six months or more that he was laid up, to produce most of his writings — the philosophical writings about his method of combat, all kinds of things.

So the film took some liberties, it changed some facts, it had a mythical figure in it that I would not have agreed with but that a person can view on different levels. So there were good things and there were some not so good things and I hope that some day a really wonderful film is made about Bruce.

BE: What are you dedicating your time to these days?

LLC: I have a wonderful life going on. I have a great husband named Bruce Cadwell, I live in Idaho, and between us we have nine grandchildren; I have one grandchild, my daughter’s daughter who is ten years old and I like to spend a lot of time with her.

[Related: Bruce Lee Statue Unveiled in L.A.’s Chinatown]

Actually, you know, my daughter Shannon has taken over the role of perpetuating and preserving her father’s legacy, so I just show up at certain times and of course I’m interested in that goal as well and we have larger goals of some day wanting to build the Bruce Lee Action Museum and people in Seattle are very interested in sponsoring that. It’s a long-term project and that’s what we’re aiming at in the long run.


History of Sil Lum Hung Gar

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on January 25, 2012 by policetac

The legend of Shaolin temple (Sil Lum Jee) boxing has spread to all corners of the earth. Two of the most famous of all Chinese boxers having helped to popularize the Sil Lum Martial Arts are the late Wing Chun Grand Master Yip Man and his student of a couple of years the late Bruce Lee. Lee Jun Fan as his name is pronounced in Cantonese is well respected world wide as the founder of “Jeet Kune Do” or “the way of the intercepting fist” as well as the earlier taught, less eclectic and more traditional “Jun Fan Gung Fu”.

Wong Fei Hung, China’s Celebrated Martial Arts Hero

However, no Chinese martial arts master has been more celebrated then the highly acclaimed Hung Kuen Grand Master Wong Fei Hung. The life of the great southern fist master has been depicted in more then a hundred films and has been portrayed by the very popular Jet Li and Jackie Chan, as well as many other Asian action film stars. The genius of Wong Fei Hung has been encapsulated in his signature creation of the “Fu Hok Suerng Ying Kuen” or “tiger crane double shadow fist” and is preserved in the hand form as it is taught today. One of Wong Fei Hung’s top students, Lam Sai Wing, is renowned in the martial arts world for his demonstrations of the Tiger-Crane form, and for writing the definitive textbooks on Tiger-Crane Gung-fu. Hence, his nickname “Fu Hok Sing Sang” or Mister Tiger Crane.

Hung Gar is a Traditional Martial Arts System

Hung Gar is a traditional Chinese Gung-fu system,and is one of the most practiced of the five primary southern Shaolin systems. Hung Gar’s origin came from the “fighting monks” of the Shaolin (Siu Lum) Temple in Henan province and was practiced along with Ch’an Buddhism, a hybrid of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. As early as 500 AD, Da Mo, a Buddhist patriach from India, taught breathing exercises (Chi Gung) to the monks. This helped them improve their physical bodies so they could endure longer periods of meditation. The breathing exercises evolved into a fluid self defense system that included techniques mimicking five animals – dragon, snake, tiger, leopard, crane. These were developed, in an effort to protect the Henan temple from bandits and invaders.

Jee Shim the Abbot of Shaolin is credited with the origins of Hung Gar

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Shaolin monks reached the height of their fighting skills, warding off intruders and assisting the ruling sovereignty or the neighboring villages against attackers. This was the last native Chinese empire, and the most fertile period for all the arts. It was also during this time when the majority of fighting styles were developed, including Hung Gar. Jee Shim, an abbot originally from the Henan Shaolin Temple, is given credit for planting the seed of Hung Gar, as well as other traditional systems.

Abbot Jee Shim Opens System and Temple to Outsiders

During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1912), in the mid 17th century, Ming family and former officials took refuge in the temple, masquerading as monks. The abbot opened the Shaolin system to these outsiders, in hopes of gaining support to overthrow the Manchurians. Of these followers, Hung Hei Gwan stood out. His talent caught the attention of Jee Shim, who wanted to train him personally. The Shaolin monks, who were supported by the Ming government, were thought to be a threat to the new government. After many attacks to the temple, the Ching regime was successful in burning down the monastery. Most of the Shaolin monks died, defending their temple. Several of the surviving monks, including the abbot, fled to the southern temple located in Fukien province. There, Jee Shim felt the urgency to systematize the training, facilitating mastery of the system in a shorter time span.

Hung Hei Gwan Selected by Jee Shim to Open School in Kwangtung

Hung Hei Gwan was a tea merchant from Fukien, but couldn’t prosper in Kwangtung (Guangdong) under the tyranny of the Ching government. Hung Hei Gwan’s grandfather was an official of the Ming Dynasty, and he, a supporter. Out of loyalty to the deposed government, he changed his family name from Jyu to Hung, in honor of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Jyu Hung Mo. Under the directive of the abbot, Hung Hei Gwan return to Kwangtung province to open a school and spread the knowledge. The system was taught as the Hung Gar (Hung Family) system so it would not be associated with its source. He married Fong Wing Chun who learned the White Crane system from its founder, Ng Mui, a surviving abbess from the Honan Shaolin Temple. (Fong Wing Chun should not be confused with Yim Wing Chun, for whom the abbess named her short-range system known as Wing Chun Kuen, or everlasting springtime fist.)

Hung Hei Gwan incorporated the Crane with the Shaolin Five Animals

Hung Hei Gwan became famous for his martial arts and gained the namesake of “The Southern Fist”. Hung Gar evolved as he incorporated the Shaolin Five Animals style with his wife’s White Crane system. The reputation of the school, and its master, became widespread in southern China. By this time, Jee Shim had more followers. He sent his best students to Hung Hei Gwan for further training. Luk Ah Choi who later became known as the forefather of several traditional Chinese systems, was among the students sent. After his training, Luk Ah Choi was sent to Kwangtung to spread the knowledge.

Wong Fei Hung (1847 – 1924) Learns the Secret Iron Wire Form

In Kwangtung, Wong Tai became a student of Luk Ah Choi. He taught his son, Wong Kei Ying. In search of more knowledge, Wong Kei Ying studied with Luk Ah Choi and other disciples of Hung Hei Gwan. He passed all this knowledge to his son, Wong Fei Hung. During a street performance, Wong Kei Ying and his son, saved a martial artist in trouble for accidentally hurting a bystander. The performer was Lam Fook Sing who was a student of Tit Kiu Sam, whose real name was Leung Kwan, a disciple from the Shaolin Temple. Lam Fook Sing was so grateful that he passed on the knowledge of the “secret form” to the father and son.This form, Iron Wire Fist ( Tit Siu Kuen) is the most advanced form in the Hung Gar system. The Tiger Crane (Fu Hok) form became the signature of Wong Fei Hung. Reputed as one of the “Ten Tigers of Kwangtung”, today, he is immortalized to folk hero status, with many movies and publications portraying his life. Despite his legendary status, Wong Fei Hung’s life was also filled with tragedies; several of his wives died prematurely. A son he trained, died in an ambush, and thereafter, he thought that he could protect his other sons by not teaching them. He later married Mok Gwai Lan, another descendent of one of the five southern systems, Mok Gar.

Lam Sai Wing (1860 – 1943), Wong Fei Hung’s best Student

One of Wong Fei Hung’s best students was Lam Sai Wing, a pork butcher from Kwangtung. He was a disciple for fifteen years before he was entitled to advanced training. From his personal experience, he felt it took too long to gain advanced knowledge. Therefore, he taught openly, including the army of the Republic. Credit goes to Lam Sai Wing for perpetuating the system that we know today and setting precedence for future masters in the Hung Gar system. This system remains closest to its original Shaolin style and has maintained the integrity of the system.

Kung Ji Fook Fu Kuen (Taming the Tiger Form)

The foundation of all other Hung Gar forms. The transliteration of Kung in this specific instance refers to the Chinese character I and is therefore sometimes interpreted as the “I Shaped Subduing the Tiger Form “. There are many other translations: “Cross Tiger Fist Form” and “Taming the Tiger Form”.

This is the oldest form in Hung Gar Kung Fu believed to have been developed by Hung Hei Gwan after his intense training with his Sifu Abbot Jee Shim. This form teaches the practitioner the basic stances and builds his foundation through emphasis on the horse stance as well as developing and enhancing one’s breathing capacity.

This is the longest form in Hung Gar and is one of the hardest. It is while the student is learning this form that his character, persistence and determination to learn the system are assessed. His patience is also put to the test time and time again with this form.

Fu Hok Suerng Ying Kuen (Tiger Crane Form)

This is the most famous and popular of the Hung Gar forms and is said to have been developed by Wong Fei Hung. The Tiger/Crane form combines the black tiger and the white crane with the 1000 pound horse stance, iron bridge techniques, five elements theory and the shadow-less kick (mo ying guerk).The form stresses the cultivation of the Tiger(hard) and Crane(soft) as well as a balance(yin/yang theory) between the two complementing each other in the form. While the Tiger is utilized for teaching one to refine his physical entity (power), dynamic tension breathing skills and courage. The Crane develops whipping power, evasive tactics, waist movement, and calmness of the spirit and balance.

The Tiger form of training provides the hard or external methods of Hung Gar while the Crane form provides the soft or internal balance between the two.

Sup Ying Kuen (Ten Form Fist)

This is an advanced form featuring the five traditional animals of the Shaolin Temple, the Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, and Crane. It also contains the five elements (wood, water, metal, earth & fire) found in Chinese philosophy each of the animals teaches the practitioner an important lesson.

The Dragon (Lung) teaches internal training in Hung Gar. It is the first animal represented in the form. The Dragon is a spiritual and supernatural creature and transcends from the easily understood real world. The power of the Dragons strength can appear and disappear at will. Its domain is therefore internal power and spirit.

The Snake (Say) trains the fingers and is for striking the vital points on an opponent’s body. It is utilized in the training and manipulation of Chi (Vital Energy). It teaches pinpoint hitting of vital areas. The Practitioner focuses his Chi all the way up to his fingertips in order to deliver and generate power correctly.

The Tiger (Fu) is designed to strengthen the constitution and has a fierce spirit. This animal emits ferocity, courage and strength since it is the strongest of the animals. Dynamic tension, vigorous and strong hand techniques in the form of Tiger claws is what characterizes this animal.

The Leopard (Pow) is the embodiment of speed and power. It has swift penetrating attacks. The Leopard fist strikes always involve more than one strike and always at extremely quick speeds.

The Crane (Hok) stresses balance, quick foot movements, pecking, hooking and deflecting movements. It is a lively animal whose essence can be seen in its beak attacks and pecking motion.

The Metal or Gold element (Gum) involves a strong slow stretching power. The entire arm is used as a solid unit. The elbows are always bent slightly in this movement, as there is less susceptibility to the arms being broken.

The Wood element (Mok) is a simultaneous block and strike and is the shortest arm movements in Hung Gar. This element teaches long and short arm sequences.

The Water element (Soy) are strikes which are of a constant nature. A series of battering blows similar to the pounding of ocean waves upon the shores. It is the swinging motion of the practitioner’s arms which are the source of the Water element’s power.

The Fire element (For) is characterized by a straight punch. Its more common name is the Sun Punch because the fist forms the character Sun in Chinese characters. The sun is a fiery mass.

The Earth element (Tow) is the last of the elements and closes the form. It develops a strong foundation. (Boxing is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist and is expressed through the hands). Since the practitioner’s foundation is so strong, he is capable of delivering some very destructive blows.The Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, and Crane are said to give the practitioner five ways to manipulate and use his strength while the Wood, Fire, Gold, Water and Earth elements are said to give him five ways to generate and transform the power in each of these forms.

Tit Sin Kuen (Iron Wire Form)

This form was created by Tit Kiu Sam whose real name Wat Luin Kwan, who was known as one of the best martial artists in the history ofChina. He was one of the famous Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. Through the years he passed his knowledge of the set down to one of his students, Lam Fook Sing, who passed this knowledge to Wong Fei Hung.

This form is the highest set taught in the Hung Gar system. It takes the practitionerinto the realm of internal Kung Fu training, which is the ultimate goal in Chinesemartial arts.Tid Sin’s limited footwork is based solely upon the movements and spirit of the Dragon coupled with vibrating sounds and various intonations of breath controlwith twisting movements which stimulate the internal organs.

Each emotion (Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Sorrow and Fear) is said to be translated into a breathing tone producing different vibrations, which affect different organs. From the breathing sounds comes a strong type of power, which is emitted from within the practitioner.

There are twelve types of training methods (sup yee kiu sau) contained in this form. They are:

Hard(Gong), Soft(Yau), Crowding(Bik), Linear(Jik), Dividing(Fan), Steady(Ding), Inch(Chyun), Lift(Tai), Reserve(Lau), Send(Wan), Control(Jai), and Finalize(Deng). These twelve types of training are designed to control and improve the internal functions of the organs. It is a dynamic tension exercise used to increase the flow of Chi throughout the body. It is an efficient means of body building and stamina development.

The combined pugilism of the Tiger and Crane styles, otherwise known as Hung Gar Kung Fu, is a southern Shaolin system designed to strengthen the physical constitution (the bones of the body) as well as the sinews, breathing, and spirit. It is a most respected system whose training concepts are steeped in morality, rigidly traditional and uncompromising in preserving the original standards of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling 2001
Learn more about Grandmaster Chiu
Impromptu Demo by Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling and Sifu Lopez
Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling with Students at his home near San Francisco

A tribute to Bruce

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on August 10, 2010 by policetac

The Origins of Wing Chun

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on August 10, 2010 by policetac

by Grandmaster Yip Man

The founder of the Wing Chun Kung Fu System, Miss Yim Wing Chun was a native of Canton [Kwangtung Province] in China. She was an intelligent and athletic young girl, upstanding and forthright. Her mother died soon after her betrothal to Leung Bok Chau, a salt merchant of Fukien. Her father, Yim Yee, was wrongfully accused of a crime and, rather than risk jail, they slipped away and finally settled down at the foot of Tai Leung Mountain near the border between Yunan and Szechuan provinces. There they earned a living by running a shop that sold bean curd.

During the reign of Emperor K’anghsi of the Ching Dynasty (1662-1722) Kung Fu became very strong in the Siu Lam [Shaolin] Monastery of Mt. Sung, in Honan Province. This aroused the fear of the Manchu government [a non-Chinese people from Manchuria in the North, who ruled China at that time], which sent troops to attack the Monastery. Although they were unsuccessful, a man named Chan Man Wai, a recently appointed civil servant seeking favor with the government, suggested a plan.

He plotted with Siu Lam monk Ma Ning Yee and others who were persuaded to betray their companions by setting fire to the monastery while soldiers attacked it from the outside. Siu Lam was burned down, and the monks and disciples scattered. Buddhist Abbess Ng Mui, Abbot Chi Shin, Abbot Pak Mei, Master Fung To Tak and Master Miu Hin escaped and went their separate ways.

Ng Mui took refuge in the White Crane Temple on Mt. Tai Leung [also known as Mt. Chai Har]. It was there she met Yim Yee and his daughter Wing Chun from whom she often bought bean curd on her way home from the market. At fifteen, with her hair bound up in the custom of those days to show she was of an age to marry, Wing Chun‘s beauty attracted the attention of a local bully. He tried to force Wing Chun to marry him, and his continuous threats became a source of worry to her and her father. Ng Mui learned of this and took pity on Wing Chun. She agreed to teach Wing Chun fighting techniques so she could protect herself. Wing Chun followed Ng Mui into the mountains, and began to learn Kung Fu. She trained night and day, until she mastered the techniques. Then she challenged the bully to a fight and beat him.

Ng Mui later traveled around the country, but before she left she told Wing Chun to strictly honor the Kung Fu traditions, to develop her Kung Fu after her marriage, and to help the people working to overthrow the Manchu government and restore the Ming Dynasty.

After her marriage Wing Chun taught Kung Fu to her husband Leung Bok Chau. He in turn passed these techniques on to Leung Lan Kwai. Leung Lan Kwai then passed them on to Wong Wah Bo. Wong Wah Bo was a member of an opera troupe on board a junk, known to Chinese as the Red Junk. Wong worked on the Red Junk with Leung Yee Tei. It so happened that Abbot Chi Shin, who fled from Siu Lam, had disguised himself as a cook and was then working on the Red Junk. Chi Shin taught the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole techniques to Leung Yee Tei. Wong Wah Bo was close to Leung Yee Tei, and they shared what they knew about Kung Fu. Together they shared and improved their techniques, and thus the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole was incorporated into Wing Chun Kung Fu. Leung Yee Tei passed his Kung Fu on to Leung Jan, a well known herbal Doctor in Fat Shan. Leung Jan grasped the innermost secrets of Wing Chun, attaining the highest level of proficiency. Many Kung Fu masters came to challenge him, but all were defeated. Leung Jan became very famous. Later he passed his Kung Fu on to Chan Wah Shan, who took me and my elder Kung Fu brothers, such as Ng Siu Lo, Ng Chung So, Chan Yu Min and Lui Yu Jai, as his students many decades ago.

It can thus be said that the Wing Chun System was passed on to us in a direct line of succession from its origin. I write this history of the Wing Chun System in respectful memory of my forerunners. I am eternally grateful to them for passing to me the skills I now possess. A man should always think of the source of the water as he drinks it; it is this shared feeling that keeps our Kung Fu brothers together.

Is this not the way to promote Kung Fu, and to project the image of our country?

Yip Man