The Wong Jack Man vs Bruce Lee fight is one of the most famous and disputed fights to go down in the history of Chinese martial arts. However, to this day, many aspects of the fight is still shrouded in mystery. This is not only due to the fact that it took place in private and had no referee but also due to the conflicting accounts given by the witnesses to the match as well as the two fighters themselves. Here, we will safely lead you into the fight as we unearth who the contenders were and every mystery behind the much talked about fight.
Who was Bruce Lee?
Bruce Lee was a Hong Kong-American martial artist, martial arts instructor, actor, and film director born on November 27, 1940. His Hong Kong and Hollywood produced movies is credited not only with popularising Chinese martial arts in the west but also changing how Asians are perceived in Hollywood movies. Sadly, he died in July 1973, at the age of 32.
Who is Wong Jack Man?
Born in 1941, a year after Bruce Lee, Wong Jack Man is a well known and highly respected martial artist and instructor. He taught various styles of Chinese martial art such as T’ai chi chuan, Northern Shaolin, and Xingyiquanat at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. He trained some of the top martial artists in America. The Grandmaster retired in 2005.
What was The Fight About?
Just as there are conflicting accounts of what actually happened during the fight, there are also conflicting reasons as to what actually prompted the fight. The Bruce Lee camp believes that he was ‘targeted’ by the martial arts hierarchy in San Francisco because he was teaching the secrets of Chinese martial arts to Caucasians. According to them, Lee was given an ultimatum, ” if he lost the match, he would either stop teaching Caucasians or shot down his studio altogether.”
This argument has been dismissed by the Wong camp who argued that race had nothing to do with the Wong Jack Man vs Bruce Lee fight at all. They point to the fact that two of the most revered instructors at the time, TY Wong and Lau Bun (whom Lee had essentially described as toothless old tigers) had non-Caucasians as students. They instead argue that the fight took place because of Lee’s arrogance. Lee had boasted during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater that he could beat any martial artist in San Francisco and had issued an open challenge to anyone who doubted him to step forward and fight him. Lee did not stop at that but sent a mutual acquaintance to deliver a note to Wong inviting the latter to come and fight him. According to Wong, this was what made him show up at Lee’s school to challenge him.
The Wong Jack Man Vs Bruce Lee Fight: Here’s How it all Went Down
The fight took place in the winter of 1964 in Bruce Lee’s kung fu school in Oakland, California. Due to the fact that there was no referee nor was the fight recorded, one has no choice but to depend on the accounts as given by those in attendance. Some of the attendees were Bruce Lee’s wife Linda, his studio associate James Lee, and William Chen, a local Tai Chi instructor. There were reportedly between 7 to 15 people who watched the fight.
According to Linda Lee, the fight did not last up to 3 minutes and her husband won comprehensively. From the get-go, Lee was very aggressive and rained so many punches on Wong that Wong’s associates immediately wanted to call off the match but Lee’s associate, James Lee refused. At a point, Wong attempted to run but Lee dragged him to the ground, and pounced on him like a leopard and kept on pummeling him until Wong admitted defeat with his own mouth.
Contrariwise, Wong’s account has it that the fight lasted between 20 to 25 minutes. From the onset, Bruce was highly aggressive thus forcing Wong into a defensive position. According to Wong, he knew that Lee had rather die than accept defeat and to forestall such deadly occurrence, he kept on blocking Lee’s shots until Lee ran out of steam and gave up. According to wong, he had three chances to land devastating blows on Lee but held off due to the legal consequences.
The third account of the Wong Jack Man vs Bruce Lee fight according to William Chen, had it that Lee came out in an aggressive manner while Wong had a more restrained approach. The fight lasted up to 20 minutes and in his opinion was a draw. Neither of the fighters won the match outrightly.
Which Account is True?
Those who argue that the Wong account should be believed hinge their argument on three grounds:
- First, the fact that Bruce Lee developed a new fighting style known as Jeet Kune Do after the fight. According to them, if he had resoundingly defeated Wong as he claimed, there would have been no need for him to dump the fighting style which had served him faithfully from his teenage days.
- They also point to the fact that Wong went to work the next day at the busy Jackson Cafe where he earned his living as a waiter. According to them, if he had been thoroughly pummeled as claimed by Bruce Lee, he should have been in bed nursing his injuries.
- Thirdly, after Bruce Lee went public with the details of the fight, Wong was forced to grant an interview to a Chinese daily where he related what transpired. Afterward, he challenged Lee to a public fight, if he Lee, disagreed with his own account. Surprisingly, Lee who had a history of never backing down from a challenge failed to pick up the gauntlet.
On the other hand, the Bruce Lee camp argues that he only changed his fighting style because he wanted a fighting style more effective than his normal Wing Chun .
Wong Jack Man may have been the only man to defeat Bruce Lee but we shall never know since the other protagonist in this story is no longer with us. Chances are that if Lee were still alive, he may have mellowed down with old age and revealed the truth about what really happened in the Wong Jack Man vs Bruce Lee fight.