Monday, December 16, 2013

IN MEMORY OF: George Lee (1916 - Dec 16, 2013)

Photo Credit:  taken off of Lamar Davis' Facebook page
George Lee and Bruce Lee Nov 1966

It is with sadness I have to report that George Lee, an original student of Bruce Lee's during the Oakland period, has passed at the age of 97 (posted by Chris Kent and Lamar Davis to Facebook). He was best known as the man responsible for developing Bruce's ideas for training devices into reality.

Photo Credit:  taken off of Chris Kent's Facebook page (he credited Steve Kerridge)
George Lee with Allen Joe

Posting his article to Black Belt magazine's column, "The Dragon Spirit" and three pictures in his memory. My deepest thanks to Kent sifu and Davis sifu for the above 2 pictures. Below is a letter from Bruce to George Lee.

Click picture to enlarge
Photo credit:

 Rest In Peace Lee sifu

The Equipment Manager
By George Lee

Bruce Lee conducts dynamic tension training on one of the many homemade apparatuses he used.
One of the things that set Bruce Lee apart from other martial artists of his day was the bevy of unusual homemade training devices he had at his disposal. While other practitioners were training on conventional apparatuses, Lee was designing his own state-of-the-art equipment to give him that added edge. George Lee, who was Bruce’s close friend and sometime training partner, was the man responsible for developing most of Lee’s sketches and blueprints into working devices. What follows is George Lee’s personal account of his working relationship with “The Dragon.” ~Editor

Much has been made of Bruce Lee’s unusual training devices. While I built many of them, it was Bruce who actually designed them. He would make sketches, and then mail or give them to me, and I would bring them home and make the items.

He didn’t use much of the traditional training equipment. At that time, there wasn’t much on the market anyway. Being a machinist by trade, I was able to make his items in my shop in Northern California. It was something I was able to do for my friend Bruce. Whatever Bruce wanted, I did it. He was one hell of a nice guy.

Some of the more difficult devices made were the tombstone, the gripping machine and the shoes. These items took a little longer to make, mainly because Bruce was very particular, and I had to perfect them before they were acceptable to him.

I would make one device and send it to him, and he would say it wasn’t right. He would give me his input, and I would go back to work on it. He was always improvising. He would want me to improve it. Some of the devices would take a little longer than the simpler ones. Much of the other training equipment I made for Bruce was pretty simple, like nunchaku and the three-section staff.

Bruce brought his own wing chun dummy in from Hong Kong; he didn’t make that. The leg stretcher, nunchaku, three-section staff, wrist roller, and the isometric training device to strengthen the forearms were some of the more popular devices I made for Bruce. And the tombstone was certainly one of the most popular items that I made.

The more difficult devices often Took me up to six weeks to complete. The easy ones usually took maybe a week to finish. I put a lot of time into this effort. All of the kicking shields and punching bags I made took time. I made three kicking shields for him: a round one, one that looked like a shoe, and an oblong one. Bruce did not pay me for the devices; I did it as a favor to my friend. A lot of times, he would invite me to his home in Bel Air, California. He would show me a few extra fighting moves that he hadn’t taught anyone else. That and his friendship were worth it for me.

Bruce’s favorite device that I made was the finger-jab bowl. He would fill it with rice or sand or pebbles, and then he would jab his hand into it to straighten out his fingers. He used the punching bags a lot too. There were about seven or eight different ones that he put in his schools.

I still have pictures of all the things I made for Bruce. Most of the items were sold at the auction [of Bruce Lee memorabilia] in Beverly Hills, California, last year. But I still have copies [of the sketches] of all of them.

From Black Belt Oct 1995, Page 18, The Dragon Spirit column

For more on George Lee, please check out:

EDIT:  Posted a picture of a letter from Bruce to George Lee 12/18/13.



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