Editor’s Note: The interview from which this segment is adapted was originally printed in the May 2008 issue of Black Belt magazine. (You can read Part 1 here.) At the time, interviewer Bob Landers wrote, it was “fitting for Ted Wong, the man many consider the foremost authority on Bruce Lee’s art, to go on the record.” During the course of his interview with Ted Wong — who, sadly, passed away on November 24, 2010 — Bob Landers’ goal was to “ask the questions that [had been] on the minds of martial artists but that [hadn’t] been addressed by a person of Ted Wong’s clout.” Ted Wong, age 70 at the time, was still evolving in his physical and intellectual understanding of JKD and still “tirelessly toured the world, educating students on the finer points of Bruce Lee’s legacy and honoring the memory of his teacher and friend.” And so it is, through revisiting classic interviews such as this, that Black Belt honors the memory of Bruce Lee’s student and friend — and its own Hall of Fame’s 2006 Man of the Year — Ted Wong.
You’re one of three people known to have received a JKD certificate from Bruce Lee. How did this come about?
It was a very special moment for me. One evening, I walked into Bruce’s house for a lesson. He pointed to the table and said, “This is for you; you should be very proud of it as I don’t give many of these out.” I realized it was a certificate in jeet kune do. I felt very proud and was at a loss for words.
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What were the private training sessions like?
Often, the private lessons were about working on what he wanted or what he was working on at that time. He might use me as a sounding board — for example, he might perform a certain kick and ask me about the speed, power and timing. Sometimes he would work with me on something I was lacking; I recall working on the side kick for two months. Sometimes we would work on fun things like movie choreography: timing, selling the shot, reaction and camera angles. We didn’t do a lot of physical training together, but he did set up a program for me to work on my strength. It had weightlifting, and sometimes he would show me specific exercises to work on for punching and kicking strength, and sometimes after the sessions he would take me running.
Do you recall any social events the two of you shared?
I have many fond memories of Bruce besides training. Many times after training, we would have a cold drink and discuss martial arts and philosophy. We went to movies and restaurants, and he liked to make trips to bookstores. He invited me, Herb Jackson and James Lee to visit him in Hong Kong in December 1972. James Lee was quite ill at that time and couldn’t make it, so Herb and I took the trip to Hong Kong and stayed at Bruce’s house for a couple of weeks. One of the funny things was that Bruce asked us to bring training equipment because he had nothing to train with. So Herb and I packed our suitcases full of training gear and didn’t pack any clothing or personal items. We figured we would get necessities when we got there.
About the Author:
A longtime student of the late Ted Wong, Bob Landers teaches a jeet kune do group in Tulsa, Oklahoma.