Born during the year of the Dragon in 1940, Lee Jun Fan, (later known as Bruce Lee or the Little Dragon) would grow up to make a tremendous impact on both the worlds of action cinema and martial arts. Son to actor Lee Hoi Cheun, Bruce Lee found himself growing up as a child actor, performing in numerous Hong Kong films before the age of 18.
As a teenager who often found himself in trouble on the streets of Hong Kong, he was introduced to Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) kung fu through a friend. Before long, Bruce Lee began his own study of the martial arts under the legendary Yip Man. Though a student of Yip Man, Bruce Lee's primary trainer and instructor in Ving Tsun was his good friend and senior martial arts brother, Wong Shun Leung.
Wong Shun Leung had coached Bruce Lee through perhaps the most important challenge match of his fighting career. As the first serious match that Bruce Lee had ever participated in, Sifu Wong acted not only his coach, but was also respectfully asked by his opponent to be the referee. Placed in a difficult position, Sifu Wong agreed that he would be Bruce's coach during the breaks, and only referee the actual rounds.
Bruce Lee was anxious during the first round of the fight and got himself hurt and bloodied. Fear of what his father might say almost drove Bruce from continuing the match, but Sifu Wong convinced Bruce that if he had forfeited, he would be looked upon forever as a quitter, and that is a fate much worse than being scolded by his father. He continued and advised Bruce to not use any more fancy techniques and just go straight out to destroy his opponent. In the next round Bruce Lee did just that, and won his match. After Lee's victory, Grandmaster Yip Man himself had credited Wong Shun Leung with whatever successes that Bruce Lee would have in his future after this match. If Wong Shun Leung had not persuaded him to fight on, Bruce might have given up on the martial arts altogether.
Sifu Wong Shun Leung also related that Bruce Lee was quite the clever trickster. During the period that Bruce Lee had trained with Wong Shun Leung, he would ask but be denied private lessons from his senior kung fu brother. Sifu Wong Shun Leung simply thought it would be unfair to his other students and kung fu brothers if he were to offer private lessons to one but not another. So Bruce Lee decided upon a ploy. He would arrive to Wong's house early to tell the other students that Wong was ill and was in no condition to teach. When he made sure that there were no more students coming, he would attend a private class with Sifu Wong Shun Leung while playing dumb to the fact that he had coaxed the others not to attend. This went on for a few sessions until Wong Shun Leung finally caught onto Bruce's tricks.
At the age of eighteen, Bruce Lee escaped his troubles in Hong Kong and returned to the land of his birth. Upon arriving in America, he would earn his money by first working in a Chinese restaurant, teaching dance, then finally as a martial arts instructor. His approach to the martial arts would take on several evolutions during his short lifetime. However, each time his art of Jun Fan Gung Fu (based upon Ving Tsun) and Jeet Kune Do advanced to another level, they returned closer to the philosophies taught to him by master Yip Man, and his senior kung fu brother, Wong Shun Leung.
In 1973, at the age of 32, Bruce Lee abruptly left this world just as his dream of becoming a globally accepted actor became a reality. His phenomenal achievements paved the way for many in both the path of martial arts and cinema. His influence can still be seen and felt around the world. Without Bruce Lee, both the martial arts and cinematic world today would be a very different place.
Please see the Ving Tsun history section for more details.
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