Enter the Dragon was released 40 years ago—specifically, on July 26, 1973. To commemorate the anniversary of the debut of the most popular martial arts film of all time, we've posted this interview with one of the men behind the movie.

If the revered academy started giving out a Lifetime Achievement Award for Fight Films, Fred Weintraub would be the hands-down winner the first year. His filmography as a producer in the genre is unrivaled: Black Belt Jones (1974), Golden Needles (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1978), Jaguar Lives! (1979), The Big Brawl (1980), Force: Five (1981), Gymkata (1985), The Best of the Martial Arts Films (1990), China O’Brien (1990), China O’Brien 2 (1991), The Curse of the Dragon (1993), Warrior Angels (2002) and Dream Warrior (2003), among others. For most martial artists, however, his crowning achievement is 1973’s Enter the Dragon. Fred Weintraub recently finished dusting off his fondest memories of the film, along with his interactions with its legendary star, and committed them to paper in the form of a book titled Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me. Black Belt conducted this interview shortly before it came out.

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Bruce Lee Movies: The Making of Enter the Dragon

Is this book your autobiography? That’s right, but it’s not like I began it by writing about the day I was born. It’s about the 40 films I did, plus a little of my background. How long did it take you to write it? About 10 years ago is when I started thinking about it and writing things down. For the last two years, I really hunkered down. Do you spend much time talking about the other martial arts movies you’ve done, or is it mostly Enter the Dragon? There’s a little bit about Jackie Chan, who I really like. There’s more about Bruce Lee, of course. It’s divided up into a section on Bruce Lee mythology, one on how Enter the Dragon came to be, and one on the TV series Kung Fu — things nobody knows about.

Get the inside story on Enter the Dragon co-star Jim Kelly from the man himself in this FREE download!
Jim Kelly: Martial Artist and Co-Star of the Bruce Lee Movie Enter the Dragon — A Vintage Interview

What’s your connection to Kung Fu? I had just become an executive at Warner Bros. in their New York office. I was pitched by two young men — Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander — a project called Kung Fu. I commissioned them $3,500 to write the script for Warner Bros. They wrote the script, and later I moved to Burbank, California. I presented the script to the studio, but Warner Bros. wouldn’t make it into a movie. I walked over to the television division and gave it to a man who later became one of my partners. He liked the idea and gave the order to get started. At that time, I had a friend named Sy Weintraub. While I was in LA, he was taking private lessons from Bruce — along with Steve McQueen and James Coburn. One day, Sy said, “You ought to meet this Bruce Lee,” and he introduced us. I found him to be charming, bright and very intellectual. We became good friends. When they were casting Kung Fu, I said, “I have the perfect guy” — or at least I thought he was — and I took Bruce to see Tom Kuhn. Bruce used the nunchaku and just amazed Tom. Tom called me over and said, “Who is this guy?” I said, “He’s going to be a great action star.” He said, “Let me see what the network thinks.” Of course, the network turned him down. They felt the time wasn’t right for an international star. Bruce did not get the part.

Download this FREE interview with David Carradine regarding his role as Kwai Chang Caine in the legendary Kung Fu TV series!
Kung Fu TV Series Flashback: Behind the Scenes With David Carradine (“Kwai Chang Caine”)

What was Bruce Lee’s reaction? Bruce went to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, I [explained a concept for a new movie] to Ted Ashley at Warner Bros. — he was taking lessons in that group and really liked Bruce — and he flipped. So I had a script written and brought it over to the foreign guys at Warner Bros., and they said they could give us a little bit of money — it wasn’t a lot, but it helped. With the script in hand, I went to Hong Kong to have Bruce read it and talk to Raymond Chow about getting some money. Raymond was wonderful, cordial, terrific — he showed me around Hong Kong for the few weeks I was there, and we negotiated constantly about distribution rights. Toward the end, Raymond was upset. He thought of Bruce as his kid and wanted to keep him in Hong Kong. I can’t blame the guy, but Bruce wanted a bigger market. He wanted to be a star; he had it in him. The last night I was there, it looked like the deal was falling through. We went to a Japanese restaurant — at that time, you couldn’t walk the street with Bruce without having 500 people follow you — and sat down. I took my last shot, then looked at Bruce and said, “I’m sorry but you’re not going to be an international star, but I know you’re going to be a great star here.” Bruce said, “What do you mean?” I looked at Raymond and said: “We can’t make a deal. Raymond wants too much territory, and I’ve given him three more [territories] than what Warner Bros. has OK’d. You’ll be great here.” Bruce looked at Raymond and said, “Make the deal.” That night, I made the deal, and Raymond didn’t like it. He ended up putting in a certain amount of money — I think he paid Bruce a hundred grand, also. So without that final command from Bruce Lee, there wouldn’t have been an Enter the Dragon. That’s right. By the way, it was called Blood and Steel at that time. It was only later when Bruce started seeing it get put together that he said he wanted it to be called Enter the Dragon. I said, “Bruce, that’s a title for a kids’ movie.” So he called Ted Ashley, and Ted said to give it to him if he wanted it. In this case, Bruce was completely right and I was completely wrong. Before Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon came along, every small town in America had a beauty parlor and a church. After Bruce, every small town also had a karate school. What karate school doesn’t have a photo of Bruce on the wall? I’ve noticed that it’s the same in other countries, too. Until about five years ago, in countries like India, Enter the Dragon was still one of the most popular pictures. Considering what it cost to make, it’s one of the most profitable pictures of all time. It made so much money the studio even had to pay me. (laughs) Do you consider Enter the Dragon your best work? Every film is your best work. Every film you make you think is good when you read the script. You never know how they’re going to turn out, though, because it’s such a collaborative art. Do you still get questions and requests for interviews about Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon? All the time — but I don’t always answer them. Shannon Lee is there to keep the legend alive. She does a good job. But I think he’d be kept alive anyway. Resources For more information about Fred Weintraub, go here. Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me is available online and in bookstores. For information about the Bruce Lee Foundation, visit bruceleefoundation.org.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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