Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bruce Lee: The Daniel Lee Interview

This Month: Bruce Lee: The Daniel Lee Interview Part I
(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 the 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 one 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 Tai Chi Chuan 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. (1)

-- J.L.

BRUCE LEE: You saw the Tai Chi self-defense; you saw all the self-defense in there.

DAN LEE: It’s all posturing.

BL: 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!

DL: Yeah, it’s like a free-brawl.

BL: It’s not even a free-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!

DL: That’s right; they're in a war.

BL: 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.

DL: You have a real mission there.

BL: Yeah, really.

DL: 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.

BL: 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.

DL: It’s really the simplicity.

BL: It is. It really is, man. What it is, is that what man has to get over is the consciousness. The consciousness of himself.

DL: 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.

BL: 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.

DL: You've actually reached the point; where you’ve become quite philosophical. You see the ultimate goal.

BL: Well, let me say this, I haven’t as yet been able to control my anger. I mean, violent anger.

DL: Well this comes with age [laughs].

BL: 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 (2) 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.

DL: 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!

BL: 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? Nothing! [laughs] That’s it! I mean it takes a hell of a lot for me not to do anything than to do something.

DL: The fact that you made this decision actually [reveals] a process of maturity.

BL: That's right [catches himself] not maturity there is no such word as maturity. Rather: maturing.

DL: Maturing?

BL: Damn right, man.

DL: As in constantly striving?

BL: 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. (3)

DL: I think you’re actually getting to the point of you remember the two Chinese Scrolls: Yee Mo Faat, Wai Yao Faat? (4)

BL: Yee Mo Faat, Wai Yao Faat, Yee Mo Haan, Wai Yao Haan. (5)

DL: You’re reaching these points. Approaching these points.

BL: 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.

DL: 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.

BL: 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.

DL: Yeah, very much so.

BL: [laughs] Yeah, well, I’m lucky. That’s about it.

DL: Well actually you have influenced many people in terms of freedom from their original boundaries.

BL: Well, I hope so.

DL: Danny [Inosanto] was just excited all over yesterday! He was really turned on.

BL: Yeah, he was at my house the night before.

DL: 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.

BL: 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.

DL: The knee joint is dangerous, huh?

BL: Well, I mean, if you snap it too much without resistance at the end, you know? Just think about economical movement.

DL: Did you know that there is a kickboxing association right on Hollywood Boulevard? I’ve yet to go see it.

BL: 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. (6) Well, the problem with them is that they are the John L. Sullivans of the feet. I mean, no finesse.

DL: 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.

BL: 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!

DL: The Japanese martial artists have incorporated the sweeping kick under the Thai fighters 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.

BL: And too obvious! That’s the whole deal, you see. There is no subtleness, no economy. That’s why

DL: No subtleness and no broken rhythm either! You can see it coming!

BL: That’s it John L. Sullivan! That’s why 80 percent of their knockouts are by hand.

DL: Then why would this guy who owns the kickboxing school be making all kinds of boasts?

BL: 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.



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 Lindas 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.

This Month: Bruce Lee: The Daniel Lee Interview Part II
(Taken from Knowing Is Not Enough, Fall 1998)

In the last edition of Knowing Is Not Enough, we presented the first installment of the world premiere of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus member, Daniel Lee’s wonderful interview with his sifu, Bruce Lee. The interview, recorded in 1972, reveals the warm, personal side of Bruce Lee in which he speaks openly about his beliefs regarding martial art, his philosophy of life, how he dealt with being challenged, and what he thought of arts such as Thai kickboxing. This month, we pick up from where we left off with part two of this historic interview. All members of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do join with us in thanking Daniel Lee for sharing so openly with us of this very personal and educational recording. -JL

DANIEL LEE: I know you’re busy. I just wanted to be sure that I at least had a chance to say hello to you.

BRUCE LEE: Thank you. I’m glad to hear your voice again. I’m selling my house, you know.

DL: I heard. Danny (1) told me about it. Anything if you want me to clean or anything let me know.

BL: Thank you. Well, this time I’m getting the Bekin Man. (2)

DL: The Bekin Man?

BL: Yeah, [laughing] the hell with all this! Too goddamn much trouble. I’ll just let them do it. Right now I’m just sorting out what I need. In fact, I’m just going to bring some of my books, some of my clothes, and that’s about it.

DL: Are you going to store some things, and then when you come back you’ll get another?

BL: If I come back, depending on [how] the film situation is here; if it is good, then I’m going to buy another house.

DL: I think whatever you do over there [in Hong Kong] will have tremendous impact on your work over here [in America] because …

BL: Well, depending. Depending how the quality of it is going to be. I mean I’m not talking about myself alone, you see. I mean directing, budget-wise, cinematographer-wise a lot of things. I mean lighting everything. (3)

DL: Do you think that Hong Kong [the movie industry] is up to [US] standards?

BL: Not really but it could be, I mean …

DL: Given the manpower and the facilities?

BL: That’s right. I mean, its Hollywood of China.

DL: Right! You can make more films sometimes in a year, than [you could in] the Hollywood area.

BL: I mean that’s about it, you know.

DL: Actually in The Big Boss (4) you speak Cantonese, right?

BL: Yep.

DL: Then what do they do?

BL: They just dub it. All the Mandarin pictures are dubbed. All of them.

DL: Is [The Big Boss] going to come out over here sometime? [Do you know] when?

BL: Yeah, well it will be but I don’t know when because, like I told you, because of its tremendous success they’re really holding it back trying to get the best deal they can. They’re trying to distribute it. Rank (5), you know, in England, is trying to distribute it all over England. I don’t know how the deal came about. I opened a film company recently, called Concord, and my partner is coming over next week, so I should find out more about it [then].

DL: Good. We’re eagerly waiting for this film to be here.

BL: Okay, man. I think you will like it, [it’s called] Tong San Tai. (6) Sim Mo. (7)

DL: Sim Mo you’re still in the middle of that, right?

BL: No, no, no. I’m finished [shooting that movie] already. I died afterward.

DL: Oh that’s historical figures, you have to …

BL: No, no, no. You see [in the movie] I am Fok Yuen Gap’s student. I’m not Fok Yuen Gap himself. That is more interesting because Fok Yuen Gap is, you know, sort of limited because you’ve got to follow how his history goes, you see. So I’m actually portraying his student.

DL: Oh, you’re portraying his student!

BL: Yeah, and it’s very interesting because I fought with a Japanese and a Russian and all that just like Fok Yuen Gap and the fight scenes are really tremendous. I mean, I like them, myself, so you can imagine if I enjoy them, the regular people should really dig it.

DL: Do they fight in their own style? The Russian, for instance, like a Russian wrestler?

BL: No, no, no. The Russian fights like karate, boxing, wrestling everything, all together. And I bite him and everything [both laugh]. Man, all hell breaks loose. At the end, you know, Jo Gai (8), you know, at the rented area. Remember? When Dogs and Chinese are not allowed in the park, and all that. Remember, in Shanghai?

DL: Yeah, I know the history.

BL: Well, exactly. We’re doing that. And at the end I died under the gun fire. But it’s very worthwhile death because it means, you know, Sim Mo Goon (9) and the Chinese, and all that. I walk out and I say Screw you, man! Here I come! Boom! And I leap out, and leap up in the air, and [then] they stop frame and then ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bang! like [the ending of the movie] Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid except they stop the frame so that I’m in the middle of the air, you know?

DL: Uh-huh. It’s a very honorable end.

BL: Yep according to the Chinese fashion, of course! [laughs] And the audience will eat it up!

DL: I know that.

BL: Boy, you should see the film goers in Hong Kong! They are very, very they’re too much! I mean [laughs] when they don’t like [a film] they just say Dooo La Pho Me Noo Ah! (10) like that. And when they like it, they clap their hands, you know. And that’s what it is.

DL: Well I think you’re going to have four more films coming up in that same idea and more higher

BL: It is. In fact the third film (11) I’m going to Europe to film it. It’s about a Chinese who doesn’t know how to speak English, [and] lands somewhere in a Western country. He carries his ancient weapon (12) and darts and all that. And then the fourth one is going to be very, very much like The Silent Flute, only it’s not, you know. Where it shows a man started off well, you’ll see it in the future. I mean it’s very meaningful and entertaining as well.

DL: I heard [that] there’s a film, a picture made over here, something about Chinese Gung Fu and all that, [it was made] while you were in Hong Kong.

BL: Yeah, it’s a television deal.

DL: It’s called “Kung Fu”, or something like that.

BL: Yeah, it’s called “Kung Fu”, and I was supposed to do it but the network decided against it. And Warner Bros. wants me to be in another television series. But I’m glad they decided against it, know you? Because [laughs], if not, I would have been tied up this year.

DL: That’s right. They’re just shooting that here.

BL: Yep.

DL: Well when you come back [you can] do another good series.

BL: Naw, television is really I mean

DL: It’s a one-shot job, isn’t it?

BL: Yeah, you look at all [of] the television series I mean all of them are gimmicks; shallowly treated.

DL: Very much so.

BL: I mean, you look at [television series such as] Mannix and Ironside; it’s all fast money, you know what I mean? Unlike a film where you can put a few months in it and work on it. But not television. Man, you’ve got to finish [an episode] in one week. And how can you keep up the quality every week? And people get tired of it. I mean, it’s not my bag, you know what I mean Dan? I mean, my personality, you know?

DL: You want to really actually get deeper into the quality of [what it is you’re doing].

BL: That’s right, man. That’s right. Money comes second. That’s why I’ve disbanded all the schools of Jeet Kune Do; because it is very easy for a member to come in and take the agenda as the truth and the schedule as the Way, you know what I mean?

DL: Well, I think you have to pick a few of the true die-hard followers who don’t go out and say This is JKD! You know?

BL: Yeah, that’s why I tell Dan to be careful in selecting more students. And so you should help him in that area

DL: Very true. So you can rest [assured] on me.

BL: Great.

DL: I’ve been working with Dan (13) a lot anyway, we’re real close together.

BL: Great. Well, Dan, what do you do? Dan, I told him last time, is becoming very stylized; he does all the preparations before kicking and it seems like his consciousness is really dominating. Something is bugging him, you know what I mean?

DL: Yeah. Well, I think that too much of the heavy bag kicking has affected him, in that he’s got too much body twisting instead of just going right in zoom!

BL: Yeah; [you] get the power in the momentum, rather than in the preparation prior to that. Because you can kick a heavy bag that way but you cannot kick an opponent that way.

DL: Yeah, well his instep yesterday I think he was checking because his toe was touching first instead of flat.

BL: Yep, I told him that.

DL: So he’s working on it real hard and we sort of had a taste of it and were trying not to get too much heavy bag work, rather [were going to focus on getting] the suddenness of the movement.

BL: Yeah.

DL: Well if you have any [time] before you leave [for] any training sessions or something.

BL: Training sessions! [laughs] I’ll be so god-damned busy! [both laugh] Well, anyway.

DL: I want to see you personally too. Sometime.

BL: Okay, man. Okay, so let’s see now, I …

DL: I want to see you. It will be another year or so before you come back.

BL: Yeah. Well, anyway I have your phone number. So, if anything should happen I’ll give you a call.

DL: Okay.

BL: Okay?

DL: Come over, [even if] just [for] a few minutes [would be] satisfying.

BL: Okay, Dan. Great.

DL: Good talking to you, Bruce.

BL: Take it easy, man.

DL: Take care now.

BL: Take care. Thanks for calling, Dan.

DL: You’re welcome.

BL: Thank you.

DL: Bye-bye.

This marked the last time that Daniel Lee ever spoke with his sifu, Bruce Lee.


1 Dan Inosanto

2 The Bekin Man was a professional moving company in Los Angeles, California.

3 Depending on how high the overall quality of the films Bruce was being paid to appear in was, then it would determine if he could make films full-time and, thus, be able to afford to commute between Hong Kong and America.

4 The Big Boss was Bruce Lee’s first film for Golden Harvest Studios in Hong Kong.

5 The J. Arthur Rank Film Company of Great Britain.

6 English translation: Chinese Big Brother also: The Ching Wu School/Fist of Fury.

7 The Mandarin version of this name (and the one that was mentioned in the English translation of Fist of Fury, released in North America as The Chinese Connection was Ho Yuan Chiau. Ho Yuan Chiau was a famous Chinese martial artist known as the Yellow-Faced Tiger. He was also a martial art teacher of considerable renown, having founded the Ching Wu School of Self-Defense in Shanghai the school is still in existence today.

8 English translation: Jo Gai = Borrowed/Rented area and The Eight Country Federation For Armed Forces.

9 English translation: The Ching Wu School.

10 English translation: Ahhh! It can’t be like that!

11 This film would turn out to be The Way of the Dragon, later released in North American as Return of the Dragon.

12 The ancient weapon Bruce is referring to here is the nunchaku, or two-section club that he employed during his dojo and Mr. Suzuki fights in The Chinese Connection.

13 Dan Inosanto, who served as Bruce Lee’s assistant instructor at Bruce’s LA Chinatown school.

 Stickgrappler's note:  Any mistakes in transcription are all mine.

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