By Daniel Lee
(Taken from “Knowing Is Not Enough”, Summer 1998)
Until today, many fans and students believed that there existed only three surviving audio interviews with the late martial arts pioneer and philosopher, Bruce Lee. One, an audio version of a video interview that Bruce Lee granted to Canadian journalist, Pierre Berton while the latter was in Hong Kong shortly after the release of Lee’s first film, The Big Boss and now known as simply The Lost Interview; the second, an interview conducted in Hong Kong with British broadcaster Ted Thomas shortly thereafter; and the third a telephone interview that was conducted by Alex Ben Block in August of 1972, on the set of Lee’s third film, The Way of the Dragon.
Now a fourth- and I believe, final- interview with The Little Dragon has surfaced but, unlike the previous three, this was not originally conducted for broadcast or print media purposes. It was in fact recorded solely for one man’s personal edification and further instruction in Lee’s martial art and philosophy of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. And, of he four interviews with Lee presently in existence, it is my opinion that this fourth and final interview is perhaps the most significant discussion with Bruce Lee ever recorded.
For on thing, the interviewer is Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus member Daniel Lee, an immensely talented martial artist in his own right (a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame and world renowned T’ai Chi Chu’an master) - as opposed to simply a western journalist unfamiliar with the martial arts. As a result, the questions he asks are pertinent to advanced level martial artists.
Secondly, Daniel Lee is himself Chinese, which means that a mutuality of culture, philosophy and values is brought forth which allowed Bruce Lee a tremendous comfort level in which to fully express himself. And finally, Daniel Lee also happened to have the privilege of being one of Bruce Lee’s actual first-generation students, which means that the questions he asked his sifu that day hold particular relevance to the art and science of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. As Dan Lee has made only one public presentation of this recording, which was at Bruce Lee’s funeral in Seattle, and as this issue marks the 25th anniversary of Bruce’s passing, we felt it appropriate to present part one of this historic conversation in this month’s issue of Knowing Is Not Enough.
Because of the length and thoroughness of this interview, we will be breaking it into two parts, with part two published in our next issue (Fall 1998). This will set the stage for our winter interview with Daniel Lee, who will then have a forum to discuss the interview, its background, and significance (in addition to sharing with us additional experiences he had in training and talking with Bruce Lee).
It is Daniel Lee’s intention to have the original master tape of the conversation digitally re-mastered to enhance the sound quality and to make it available to members of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. He has declined any and all offers to “market” this wonderful recording, but donated it freely to Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do to assist us in our fund raising efforts to preserve and perpetuate the teachings of his sifu, Bruce Lee.
The tape begins midway through a sentence spoken by Bruce Lee, who is describing how unprepared for real combat the Chinese martial artists were that he witnessed during a recent tournament in Hong Kong …
… You saw the T’ai Chi self defense; you saw all the self-defense in there.
It’s all posturing.
Well, Dan, Dan, Dan, I mean I hate to tell you this; if you were there with … plus the foreign friends sitting next to us watching the Goks and Bai Choys – Jesus, you would be so embarrassed!
Yeah, it’s like a free-brawl.
It’s not even a fee-brawl. You see a free-brawl, at least, I mean, that’s Joe Frazier! I mean a man who is capable of using his tools. And who is very determined in his savage, relentless, attack. Whereas those sons of bitches are cowards. I mean, turning their heads [away from their opponent while they are] swinging their punch, and, after the second rough, they’re out of breath. I mean, they’re really pathetic looking, I mean, very, very, amateurish. I mean even a boxer, when they concentrate on [just using their] two hands – disregard how amateurish they are – they do their thing!
That’s right; they’re in a war.
Whereas [when] those guys go out there, they haven’t decided what the hell they’re gonna use! I mean, before they [make] contact with each other, they do all the fancy stance and all the fancy movement but, the minute they [make] contact, they don’t know what the hell they’re going to do! I mean that’s it. They miss and they fall on their asses, and they clutch and hold and wrestle, and, I mean, the whole Hong Kong, they call it “little kids fighting.” That’s their interpretation – even in Hong Kong! I mean can you imagine that? I mean even those guys see it that way, so what do you think the appreciation of people over here [would be]? Well, none – period. So what I’m hoping to do in film is to be just that, man. To raise the level …
You have a real mission there.
It not only will raise the level but you have to upgrade [the level of martial art over there]to gain respect from the Western world.
That’s right man. That’s what I hope to do, man! Because like here, I mean the reason I’m coming back is Warner Bros. wants me to do a television series but I don’t think I’ll do it now. I’m going to concentrate on Hong Kong and do it. And actually I might be able to expand it to here like the Italian pictures such as A Fistful of Dollars and things like that – if the quality can be uplifted. And that’s what I’m … you know, more and more simple to me [laughs] as a human being. And more and more I search myself and the more and more the questions are more and more listed and more and more I see clearly.
It’s really the simplicity.
It is. It really is, man. What it is, is that what man has to get over is the consciousness. The consciousness of himself.
I always remember you saying “you have to sharpen your tools.” That’s it too; if your tools are working properly, then you can use them.
That’s it, you see? Here it is: if you can move with your tools from any angle, then you can adapt to whatever the object is in front of you. And the clumsier, the more limited the object, the easier for you to potshot it. [laughs] That’s what it amounts to! Really what it is, is that it utilizes the body to come to some sort of a realization in this regard as to whatever your pursuit might be. In my case, the pursuit of becoming moment to moment, whatever that thing is. And constantly questioning myself; “What is this, Bruce?” “Is it true or is it not true?” “Do you really mean it or not mean it?” Once when I’ve found that out, that’s it. I mean, like my coming back to refuse the television series is one of the major decisions.
You’ve actually reached the point; where you’ve become quite philosophical. You see the ultimate goal.
Well, let me say this, I haven’t as yet been able to control my anger. I mean, violent anger.
Well this comes with age [laughs].
Well, not only that, but I mean if I would only take the time to just stop for a few minutes I would be able to control it – but unfortunately, I mean, like, let’s say if Lo Tai-chuen were man enough – instead of going to the newspaper – to walk up to me and slap me – that’s the end of him! I mean, [laughs] I have yet been able to “turn the other cheek,” man.
Well in fact I think the fact that now unlike ten years ago when you would have said “okay, Lo Tai-chuen, pick the time!”
“Pick the time?” I wouldn’t – “pick the time?” – I wouldn’t even say anything! I would just show up right in front of his door waiting for him! That’s all there is to it. I mean, I have yet refused one challenge ever since I was in the United States – all these B.S. artists, all of them. They mention it. I just accept it. I mean, you know the first question I ask myself is this: “Do I have any fear or any doubt about this man?” – I don’t. And: “Do I know what his intention is?” – Yes, I do. And then: “So what the hell you gonna do about it?” – Nothin! [laughs] That’s it! I mean it takes a hell of a lot for me not to do anything than to do something.
The fact that you made this decision actually [reveals]a process of maturity.
That’s right [catches himself] – not “maturity – there is no such word as “maturity.” Rather: “matur-ing.”
Damn right, man.
As in constantly striving?
Yes, because when there is a maturity, there is a conclusion and a cessation, man. That’s the end. That’s when the coffin is closed. I mean, you might be deteriorating physically in the long process of aging but, man, in your daily discovery – it’s still the very same every day.
I think you’re actually getting to the point of – you remember the two “Chinese Scrolls: Yee Mo Faat, Wai Yao Fatt?”
Yee Mo Faat, Wai Yao Fatt, Yee Mo Haan, Wai Yai Hann.”
You’re reaching these points. Approaching these points.
Yeah, that’s the most important thing, man. Because when there is a “Way,” man, therein lies the limitation. And when there is a circumference, it traps. And if it traps, it rottens. And if it rottens, it is lifeless.
That’s right. Well, whatever you’ve said has made a great impact in my training, in my thinking in martial art as a whole. I mean it seems like once you talk to you and work on this, you never ever go back to what you’ve been doing; Kempo or whatever it is; you reach another level of understanding and you looking back.
Well, because man [the species] is constantly growing. And when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas or “Way” of doing things, that’s when he stops growing.
Yeah, very much so.
[laughs] Yeah, well, I’m lucky. That’s about it.
Well actually you have influenced many people in terms of freedom from their original boundaries.
Well, I hope so.
Danny [Inosanto] was just excited all over yesterday! He was really turned on.
Yeah, he was at my house the night before.
So he doesn’t want us to do any more heavy bag; he wants us to just actually [use the] instep a little bit. We just had three people [training] yesterday. That’s all he’s going to teach within our little group.
Yes because when you use your leg it is much better to use it to kick at the foam pad or something like that. Watch out with the side kick on air kicking too much because it’s bad for the knee joint.
The knee joint is dangerous, huh?
Well, I mean, if you snap it too much without resistance at the end, you know? Just think about economical movement.
Did you know that there is a kickboxing association right on Hollywood Boulevard? I’ve yet to go see it.
They have kickboxing? You have seen kickboxing? I saw it in Thailand, personally. The bantamweight champion, in fact, was one of the stuntmen in our film. Well, the problem with them is that they are the “John L. Sullivans” of the feet. I mean, no finesse.
I imagine that if they manage to step in and rap you on the rear of your thigh – that’s what usually causes their opponents to completely give up; they just rap them into it.
Well, not all of them do that, I mean they can do that [to you] if you are stationary, but not when you are constantly moving – I mean, man!
The Japanese martial artists have incorporated the sweeping kick under the Thai fighter’s high [hook] kick – you can really see the Thailand people when they reach – their foot is in the air and then [they] try to kick. And the moment they kick the Japanese drop and move in and sweep their foot away or make a Judo throw and the Thai is having trouble just maintaining balance because the kick is too high.
And too obvious! That’s the whole deal, you see. There is no subtleness, no economy. That’s why …
No subtleness – and no broken rhythm either! You can see it coming!
That’s it – “John L. Sullivan!” That’s why 80 percent of their knockouts are by hand.
Then why would this guy who owns the kickboxing school be making all kinds of boasts?
Oh man, you just put him in the ring [with a western boxer], man, the boxer would just beat the hell out of him. So, that goes to show you.
END OF PART ONE
1 Cantonese translation: “National Art (Wu-shu) Tournament.”
2 Lo Tai-chuen was a Hong Kong-based martial artist who thought he could make a name for himself by challenging Bruce shortly after The Big Boss came out and Bruce became famous. He challenged Bruce publicly through the newspapers, but Bruce realized that he had nothing to prove to anybody and so declined the challenge.
3 What you learn and discover daily is an ongoing process, i.e. an evolution – Ed.
4 Cantonese translation: “Using no way as a way.” NOTE: Bruce had two Chinese scrolls that use dto hang on the wall of he and Linda’s apartment in Barrington Plaza that stated in Chinese characters: “Using no way as a way, having no limitation as limitation.” This phrase also became the motto for Jeet Kune Do.
5 Cantonese translation: “Using no way as a way. Having no limitation as limitation.” – this is the actual phrase that Bruce Lee had encircling the yin-yang logo of his martial art.
6 Bruce Lee is referring to his first film for Golden Harvest, The Big Boss, which was filmed on location in Thailand, where kickboxing is a national sport.