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First-Generation Bruce Lee Student and Jeet Kune Do Instructor Howard Williams Passes Away

First-Generation Bruce Lee Student and Jeet Kune Do Instructor Howard Williams Passes Away

The staff of Black Belt was told that on April 2, 2012, first-generation Bruce Lee student Howard Williams passed away. The cause of death is being reported as a heart attack.

Williams took up jeet kune do when he was 15 or 16. He studied under Bruce Lee and James Lee in Oakland, California, for five years.

Williams kept a low profile in the ensuing years until Dr. Jerry Beasley, having noticed increasing interest in “original JKD,” organized the a jeet kune do training camp in Radford, Virginia, in 1993. Beasley formulated the curriculum around the offerings of two first-gen practitioners: Williams and Ted Wong. I was fortunate to meet and talk extensively with both men.


Bruce Lee was more of a boxer at heart than most people know. Find out how the boxing techniques of Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis influenced his development of jeet kune do techniques in this FREE Guide — Bruce Lee Training Research: How Boxing Influenced His Jeet Kune Do Techniques.

Williams was soft-spoken and smile-prone, but under that gentle exterior lay a man capable of explosive movement and phenomenal hand speed. In each class, he’d demo the particular technique he wanted the students to work on—often a punch or a trap—then answer questions on technical topics. He’d really beam, however, when a question about Bruce was posed.

“Howard could have been a popular JKD instructor — a lot of people said he was one of the best — but he preferred to stay out of the spotlight,” Beasley said. “He was very likable, and people remembered him fondly. It’s very sad to hear of his passing.”


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  1. Stephen says

    It is sad to know that such a man even existed. Not only that he was a student under sijo Leee, but such a talent gone by as many did during the old masters of Okinawa did back in the day. I`m truly saddened that such an in
    dividual with such blessed talent is gone.
    Sincerly A Fellow Martial Artist:(

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. A Year in the Chinese Martial Arts: The Events and Stories that made 2012, Part I « Kung Fu Tea linked to this post on December 27, 2012

    [...] April 2, 2012, Howard Williams, another first generation Bruce Lee student and instructor, passed away.  Williams eschewed the [...]

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