Chinese Martial Arts

The Man Behind Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do: Gilbert Johnson

On the eve of Tao of Jeet Kune Do’s release, public awareness will be awakened again to the legendary man who wrote this book: Bruce Lee.  As a child, I used to call him “Uncle Bruce.”  But there was another special human being who I regard just as warmly.  And when looking closely at the Tao, this other person was behind the scenes, as well—a devotee who used his time and energy to build the most prolific and modern book in martial arts history. This unsung hero deserves to be remembered within the chronicles of the jeet kune do world.  His name is Gilbert Johnson.

Who is Gilbert Johnson? Why is he of major significance? Let’s begin with the fact that Gilbert was specifically chosen by Linda Lee Cadwell to carefully and delicately tend to the sea of papers reflecting her late husband’s thoughts, words and insights.  The monumental task of organizing and preserving these writings by my honorary uncle would become a sacred endeavor for Gilbert, and he became co-editor of Tao of Jeet Kune Do (and The Filipino Martial Arts, a book by my father, Dan Inosanto). As an accomplished martial artist on his own terms, Gilbert was an inquisitive human being and connected very much with the teachings and principles of jeet kune do.

Before his mission with Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Gilbert was a gifted writer and independent journalist who frequently wrote for Black Belt and other publications during the 1960s and 1970s.  According to one of his family members, Gilbert experienced several life-threatening events in his lifetime, but he managed to survive.  As a freelance journalist, Gilbert also threw himself smack into the middle of the 1979 protests in Isfahan, Iran, and survived to write of his account of the Iranian Revolution. Perhaps because he served in the military, Gilbert was prepared to boldly and resiliently come face to face with the world.

Despite these experiences, Gilbert managed to have a big heart.  He wanted to help people. Gilbert tried to share his enthusiasm and friendship with others no matter how old or young.  I adored this man as a child growing up. He inspired me through the pure essence of his kindness.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, the AIDS epidemic started to spread across the United States, where the illness was labeled a “gay disease.” Sadly, Gilbert was one of the first people I knew to contract the disease via a blood transfusion, which he needed after being involved in a car accident. And because of this, he quickly understood the discrimination and prejudice he’d face. As a result, he became an activist to help spread awareness that AIDS can affect anyone, that compassion is needed, not hate.

In my film The Sensei, I tried to show how this historical attitude affected the martial arts world by featuring a gay martial arts students who had to deal with discrimination.  As a writer, director and producer, Gilbert would challenge me—mind, body and spirit—to address the prejudice that has touched the martial arts community.

As a close family friend to my father and the rest of the original jeet kune do family, Gilbert was a brilliant choice to meet the challenges of putting together the most soul-searching and significant writings of my godfather.  He tirelessly worked and employed the techniques of a researcher and detective. He studied and trained with my father and the other jeet kune do students at our family academy, which was humbly tucked away in our home’s backyard in Carson, California.

Gilbert wanted to understand and explore what Lee was saying through these precious and profound documents that were left behind.  I like to compare his work on Tao of Jeet Kune Do to a doctor helping to deliver a child into the world.

It has been 35 years since Tao of Jeet Kune Do was born into the public eye. I am glad that such writings will be exposed to a new generation and that Gilbert has a place in martial arts history for giving the world such a groundbreaking and spiritual book.…

Wing Chun Kung Fu Grandmaster William Cheung Shows You How to Deal With Low Kicks From a Muay Thai Fighter!

If you’re a wing chun practitioner, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Grandmaster William Cheung. A student of Ip Man, William Cheung lived and trained with the legendary wing chun master from 1954 to 1958. During his study of the Chinese martial art wing chun with Ip Man, William Cheung absorbed the traditional wing chun kung fu master’s complete teachings.

In his three-disc martial arts DVD collection, Street Fighting Applications of Wing Chun, Grandmaster William Cheung, the longtime friend and wing chun training partner of Bruce Lee (whom Cheung at one point introduced to Ip Man!), recalls some of his most dangerous street fights and deconstructs the techniques he used to survive the encounters.

WING CHUN DVD PREVIEW | William Cheung Shows You How to Deal with Low Kicks in a Street-Fighting Situation


In Street Fighting Applications of Wing Chun Volume 3: Muay Thai Melee, the narrative backdrop takes place in the spring of 1962 in Sydney. A friend of William Cheung’s who is being bullied by a fighter from Thailand asks the wing chun fighter for help. William Cheung confronts the Thai fighters and his partners, and it is a dangerous situation, pitting the traditional wing chun kung fu expert against three opponents with brass knuckles. As the fight went on, William Cheung was injured but still managed to devise some creative solutions to stay alive.

Learn how he did it in this DVD! In Street Fighting Applications of Wing Chun Volume 3: Muay Thai Melee, wing chun kung fu grandmaster William Cheung covers:

  • cross-arm drills for close-quarters fighting
  • shin-kick drills
  • execution of stances and entry techniques
  • dealing with elbow and knee strikes
  • defenses against low kicks
  • dealing with multiple opponents

William Cheung is a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame (Kung Fu Artist of the Year, 1983), who has trained since the age of 10, originally under the legendary Ip Man. William Cheung currently operates a worldwide network of instructors based in Australia. During his decades of studying martial arts and Chinese medicine, William Cheung has also become an expert in meridians, pressure points and meditation dealing with internal energies. Today, William Cheung’s programs for the treatment of sports injuries and stress-related illnesses using ancient Chinese-medicine remedies are highly sought across the globe.…

European Martial Arts: Where Combat Sports and Military Training Collide

The Asian martial arts have received a tremendous amount of exposure in the past century and are now almost universally known. Meanwhile, we in the West have neglected many of our own martial arts traditions, which in some cases have fallen into obscurity—much as the Asian systems had at the end of the 19th century. The Japanese martial arts were rescued by Jigoro Kano, Gichin Funakoshi, Morihei Ueshiba and others, who modified the older martial arts techniques and combined them into curricula that would appeal to the public. Likewise, Cheng Man-ching introduced tai chi chuan, a once secret and obscure Chinese style, to America, which led to its spread around the world. Similar success stories pertain to the arts of other Asian nations.


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One reason the Asian fighting methods have flourished is they’ve changed with the times. Many were “modernized”—in other words, they were altered from methods of pure combat to means of self-improvement and spirituality, based mainly on Buddhism but also influenced by Taoism and Shintoism. Witness aikido, which borrowed extensively from the Shinto sect of Omoto-kyo, and iaido (sword drawing) and kyudo (archery), which use physical action as a form of Zen meditation. In China, Taoist styles of kung fu such as tai chi and pa kua have become physical illustrations of philosophical principles. And in Korea, the arts have been molded to reflect the Korean ideals of patriotism and sportsmanship.

The above-mentioned founders wrote scores of books describing their martial arts techniques, as well as their ideas for self-improvement and spirituality. That no doubt helped spread the message of the Asian martial arts to the masses. But what of the Western martial arts, the ones that originated in the countries from which most Americans come? Do they have as much to offer the modern practitioner? It is the opinion of many that they do.

Combat Sports vs. Martial Arts

Boxing, wrestling, fencing, archery and javelin throwing are the best-known forms of Western martial-like play, and although they’re somewhat limited by safety rules, they’re still extremely effective in their own way. They are sports that haven’t developed as methods of self-improvement and spirituality to the extent the modern martial arts have, but they do teach sportsmanlike behavior and build character. This idea of sport goes back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that a beautiful body was as important as a sharp mind.

Sportsmanship is concerned with fairness in competition and grace in defeat. Character involves putting forth one’s best and abstaining from immediate gratification for the sake of later rewards. This Protestant-like value develops self-discipline and the ability to suppress one’s appetites, as well as the capacity to function as part of a team for the greater good, rather than pursuing personal glory and ambition. It also promotes self-sufficiency and the ability to think on one’s feet. Submitting to authority in the form of coaches and referees serves as a model for social conduct. Unfortunately, those qualities are seldom seen these days in professional and college sports.

Boxing and wrestling are at least as well-known as karate and judo, and they can hold their own against any Asian striking and grappling style. They can easily be made more combative and dangerous by incorporating martial arts techniques that are considered fouls in their sports. The two sports were used for combat in the past, but the dangerous techniques were removed for the safety of the players. The fouls can be practiced as prearranged drills in much the same manner as kata from Japanese martial arts. Known as “dirty fighting,” they’re what thugs and ruffians used before the introduction of the martial arts in the mid-20th century. Bruce Lee held an extremely high opinion of the Western martial sports and drew heavily on boxing and fencing while developing jeet kune do.

Boxing

Boxing as practiced by the ancient Greeks involved minimal science. It consisted mainly of swinging- and looping-type blows and little defense other than the ability to “tough it out.” The Romans added a leather hand wrap or glove called a cestus, sometimes with metal studs to inflict more damage as their tastes grew bloodier. As boxing evolved in England, it was influenced by fencing, which added more accurate and powerful linear thrusts rather than swings, and more effective parries rather than simple blocking. The shuffling footwork of boxing is nearly identical to that of fencing, as is the use of strategy to allow one to strike a target rather than just lash out at it. It’s interesting to note that in Japan, swordsmanship also influenced aikido.

The sport of bare-knuckle fighting used many methods that are no longer allowed: the “chopper,” or hammerfist strike; a technique that …

Behind-the-Scenes Video of Jeet Kune Do Expert Harinder Singh Demonstrating How Bruce Lee’s Martial Art Became the Ultimate Fighting System

Harinder Singh is a senior instructor in jeet kune do and a certified kettlebell instructor. He is the CEO and senior training officer of Paul Vunak’s Progressive Fighting Systems and Descendants of the Masters programs. His two-part article, “Roots of Combat,” appears in the July and August 2011 issues of Black Belt magazine and discusses how Bruce Lee’s martial art became the ultimate fighting system.

According to Singh, for Bruce Lee, JKD was not a style so much as it was a path and process of self-discovery and constant growth. “[Lee] refused to refer to [jeet kune do] as a style because he believed doing so would be tantamount to limiting it,” Singh writes in his “Roots of Combat, Part 1” article in Black Belt.


Check out our FREE guide to learn more about Bruce Lee’s views on jeet kune do—Bruce Lee’s Biography and the Birth of Tao of Jeet Kune Do.


Singh goes on to discuss jeet kune do’s inherent design for growth and change, for adaptation to just about any fighting or self-defense situation. Singh writes, “From its classical wing chun beginnings, [jeet kune do] morphed into an ultra-effective fighting system that meets the needs of civilians, military personnel and law-enforcement officers around the world.”

Topics for Hardinger Singh’s two-part martial arts article, “Roots of Combat,” appearing in the July and August 2011 issues of Black Belt, include:

  • wing chun
  • jun fan gung fu
  • jeet kune do techniques
  • kettlebells for martial arts fitness
  • mixed martial arts training
  • Lyoto Machida and his strikes in shotokan karate
  • execution of destruction techniques
  • kina mutai training
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s influence on modern combat fighting
  • mind/body coordination
  • biting, gouging, destructive techniques
  • martial arts conditioning for optimal fighting performance

JEET KUNE DO + BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU + KINA MUTAI ACTION
Martial Arts Video of Harinder Singh Behind the Scenes at Black Belt Magazine


Bruce Lee’s Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense

We recently reimagined Bruce Lee’s Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense with new text, digitally remastered photos, never-before-seen images and a brand-new cover.

This new edition of the landmark book gives martial arts enthusiasts and collectors exactly what they want: more Bruce Lee.

In addition to the master’s insightful explanations on gung fu, this book features digitally enhanced photography, previously unpublished Bruce Lee pictures with the Little Dragon’s original handwritten notes, a brand-new front and back cover, and introductions by widow Linda Lee Cadwell and daughter Shannon Lee.

This new modern edition of the 1963 classic preserves the authority and charm of Lee’s original language. This official reproduction––as sanctioned by Shannon Lee and Bruce Lee Enterprises––features Chinese characters written by the author and painstakingly scanned for this project as well as vintage photographs from Bruce Lee’s personal collections.


Explore the history behind Bruce Lee’s art with our FREE guide—Bruce Lee’s Biography and the Birth of Tao of Jeet Kune Do.


Chinese Gung Fu also comes to life through captioned photo sequences and Bruce Lee’s own hand-drawn diagrams that demonstrate a variety of training exercises and fighting techniques, ranging from basic gung fu stances, waist and leg training, single- and multiple-opponent scenarios as well as an essay on the theory of yin and yang.

In addition, Chinese Gung Fu includes the testimonials from the first edition by James Y. Lee, the legendary Ed Parker, and jujutsu icon Wally Jay as well as contemporary introductions by Linda Lee Cadwell and Shannon Lee to help contextualize this iconic work.

Recently discovered pictures from a lost photo session, which are described by Lee in his own handwriting, round out this new edition of Chinese Gung Fu.

We thoroughly enjoyed recreating this timeless classic by one of the greatest masters in martial arts. Your financial support provides us with the opportunity to pursue projects like this one, so if you’re interested in Bruce Lee or kung fu, please spend a few moments checking out Chinese Gung Fu in our online store — now available in both print and e-book formats!…

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