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Ted Wong and William Cheung on Wing Chun History and Jeet Kune Do Origins (Part 3)

Ted Wong and William Cheung on Wing Chun History and Jeet Kune Do Origins (Part 3)

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final part of a three-part excerpt from the out-of-print book Wing Chun Kung Fu / Jeet Kune Do: A Comparison Vol. 1. More than 20 years ago, two legendary martial artists — Bruce Lee protégé Ted Wong and wing chun kung fu grandmaster William Cheung — collaborated on the book. In it, the two legends present histories regarding the origins of their respective martial arts in an opening essay — Part 3 of which we’re proud to present in adapted form from the Black Belt archives. Read Part 1. | Read Part 2.

Obstacles That Shaped Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee found it difficult to practice chi sao (sticking hands) with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the 7-foot-plus basketball star who, at the time, was the center for the University of California, Los Angeles. The length of his arms made him difficult to hit during prep for the film The Game of Death. Size was still too much of a factor.


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He also found that although the sensitivity in the arms developed by wing chun training allowed him good defenses in close range, it did not completely eliminate the threat of being hit. He found, however, that staying outside the opponent’s effective range did eliminate that threat and that he could still hit the opponent because of his superior gap-bridging skills.

The training in Los Angeles was very contact oriented, using striking pads for practice and body armor for full-contact sparring. All techniques were geared toward realistic combat on the street. Conditioning was also heavily emphasized to solve the problem of fatigue encountered in his fight with Wong Jak Man. (See Part 2 for more on Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jak Man.)

Ted Wong: One Interpretation of Jeet Kune Do

At this point, it should be emphasized that Ted Wong’s interpretation of jeet kune do is by no means completely representative of Bruce’s Lee’s entire martial arts progression. Ted Wong learned from Bruce Lee during the later years of his development when his martial art was changing rapidly.

The greatest contrast between students of Bruce Lee is seen between Taky Kimura (one of Bruce Lee’s earliest students) and Ted Wong (one of his last). You would not think that both were taught by the same teacher, yet both claim to keep Bruce Lee’s teaching as pure as possible.

The movements each was taught were merely what Bruce Lee believed was important at the time they each studied with him. Therefore, neither Taky Kimura’s nor Dan lnosanto’s nor Ted Wong’s interpretations of jeet kune do are fully representative of Bruce Lee’s martial arts spectrum.

Dan Inosanto: Carrying the Jeet Kune Do Flame

Dan Inosanto, however, is one of the people most responsible for keeping the jeet kune do flame alive. He has done a great deal to expose the art of jeet kune do to the entire world by holding seminars and writing articles and books since the passing of Bruce Lee.


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Were it not for Dan Inosanto, jeet kune do might possibly have died with Bruce Lee. Dan Inosanto has also gone into his own roots — searching out the many Filipino martial arts and many of the Southeast Asian arts to offer his students jeet kune do concepts through the interpretation of other vehicles such as kali, muay Thai and pentjak silat.

Dan Inosanto’s take on JKD is considered an added dimension in the jeet kune do timeline. He has followed his own light and found the best within himself.

Transmitting Jeet Kune Do in Its Original Form

Although Bruce Lee disliked the word “style” for describing jeet kune do, there was a distinctive character to his way of fighting and training that was unlike any other martial art. In order to preserve this art, jeet kune do has to become somewhat of a style in the sense of being standardized and systematized, because unless some kind of structure is imposed on it, it will not survive in its original forms.

Bruce Lee did not have any plans on how to preserve jeet kune do, so it is the responsibility of his elder students to offer the present and future generations the experience of the original training, formulas, principles and progression of jeet kune do.

A teacher should provide the foundation for the student, then offer his own interpretations and assist the student to find his own best way.

Wing chun does indeed form the foundation of jeet kune do in concept but not in character. There are many wing chun principles in jeet kune do that were taken completely unaltered or were modified:

  • economy of motion
  • directness
  • simultaneous attack and defense
  • non-opposition of force
  • the centerline
  • the four comers

But Bruce Lee also added many new dimensions to his system. His fighting method eventually diverged so far from wing chun, he renamed it jeet kune do.

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