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Seattle Years

"As long as I can remember I feel I have had this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined." (Bruce Lee)

bruce hong kong cha cha champion

On the eighteen day boat journey back to San Francisco, Bruce made extra income by giving Cha Cha dancing lessons to some of the other passengers on board. Upon his arrival on May 17th, 1959, Bruce moved into the apartment of Quan Ging Ho, a Lee family friend. Whilst attending a house warming, Bruce was introduced to Robert Lee (no relation), who was the elder brother of James Yimm Lee. James had studied Si Lum Gung Fu under professor Wong. When James heard of Gung Fu man Bruce Lee, he tried to get in-touch, but Bruce was moving up to Seattle following a short stay in San Francisco with his elder brother Peter who was about to leave the city to attend college. Around the same time, Bruce's mother called another family friend who lived in Seattle. She was a Chinese woman, her name was Ruby Chow and she ran a successful restaurant business.

Upon his arrival from San Francisco, Bruce moved into a tiny attic room of Ruby Chow's. During the day, Bruce attended Edison Technical High School and in the evening, Bruce was washing dishes in the restaurant kitchen, much to his obvious distaste. In August 1959, Bruce gave a Gung Fu demonstration at Seattle's 'Seafair' exhibition. One person who was greatly impressed by Bruce Lee's demonstration, was black Judo expert Jesse Glover. He persuaded Bruce to teach him and soon other students such as Ed Hart, Howard Hall and James DeMile were training under Bruce Lee's tuition. Whilst attending Edison Technical High, Bruce was challenged by a Japanese Karate man named "Yoiche Nakachi" who kept making bad remarks about Bruce's Gung Fu. Bruce at first resisted, but the Karate man kept insisting that Japanese Karate was better than Chinese Gung Fu. Bruce got angry and finally agreed to fight him.

They decided to meet at the Seattle downtown YMCA on 4th Avenue. There were seven people present including Bruce, Yoichi, Jesse Glover, Ed Hart and Howard Hall. They agreed that Ed would be the timekeeper and Jesse would be the referee. Yoichi changed into his Karate gi while Bruce was just dressed in regular street clothes. Eventually, both Bruce and Yoichi were ready to fight. Ed was looking at his watch and made sure that everyone was ready and said, "Okay, begin!" For a second neither one moved. Yoichi suddenly kicked at Bruce who brushed the kick aside and punched him and kept on punching him, straight blasting him until he hit the wall. Bruce kept on punching and Yoichi's face turned into a mass of blood. Yoichi tried to get away, but Bruce kept right on top of him and then he started to drop. Bruce kicked him in the head as he was dropping and he flipped over onto his back. Jesse yelled, "No!", when Bruce kicked Yoichi in the head. He was lying there, flat on his back, unconscious. Ed Hart recalled that the fight had only lasted eleven seconds. Jesse Glover recalled, "The fact is that Bruce was probably the greatest martial artist in the world. I don't consider myself, or anyone, to be in the same class." Ed Hart and James DeMile who were experienced street fighters, have expressed, that Bruce was the greatest martial artist that they have ever seen.

bruce and taky kimura

Bruce with Taky Kimura

In that same year, Bruce met another Japanese guy, and this person would turn out to be, one of Bruce's closest friends. His name was Taky Kimura and he was Bruce's tenth student in Seattle (see photo on right).

Taky was a Japanese-American who was thirty-six years old when he first met Bruce who at that time was only eighteen. Today, Taky owns a supermarket business and is considered by many, to be nicest person that you could ever have the pleasure to meet. Taky still teaches Bruce's "Jun Fan Gung Fu" to students to this very day. Taky first met Bruce on the school football field when Bruce was teaching one Sunday afternoon. Taky was so amazed and impressed with Bruce's remarkable ability that he asked Bruce if he could join his club. Bruce accepted and for almost a year they met at parks on Sundays. Taky became Bruce's right hand man in Seattle and Rare Super 8 footage from this period, of Bruce Lee and Taky demonstrating Wing Chun Chi Sau (aka Sticking Hands) reveals the amazing agility and speed of the young Bruce Lee. The first informal meeting place for training was the corner of Maynard and Lane. As numbers increased they moved to the parking lot of the Blue-Cross Hospital. These were the most informal teaching periods of Bruce Lee's martial arts career. The main martial artists that Bruce learnt and exchanged ideas from in this period were Fook Yeung and Richard Leung (Choy Lay Fut).

"The first Gung Fu movie that I saw with Bruce was about a Gung Fu man who was like the Lone Ranger. He travelled all over righting wrongs that were done to the common man. After a long drawnout fight scene, the movie ended with the hero defeating the villian and converting him to follow the right path. The last scene of the movie showed the hero walking off in to the sunset to right some more wrongs. This led me to believe that he too would have been happy to have spent the rest of his life doing the same kind of thing."

(Excerpt from Chapter 6 of "Bruce Lee Between Wing Chun & Jeet Kune Do" by Jesse Glover)

Around this same period, Bruce dated his first girlfriend in the United States, a Japanese-American, Amy Sanbo. In early 1960, Bruce's growing reputation led to him, along with fellow martial artist Fook Yeung, to give a television demonstration of the "Si Lum" form and "Jeet Kune" form, for Seattle's local television station. When Bruce graduated from Edison Technical High School, he enrolled in the University of Washington on March 27th 1961, his major was philosophy. His Gung Fu school, then housed in a dingy basement laundry room, was closed, and he opened another on the University campus-district. Taky remembers Bruce performing his one inch punch on football players at the University. "He would take the biggest guy and he would take a chair and place it two feet behind the back of the guy. Then he would execute a punch one inch away from the guy's stomach and the guy would fly into the chair and summersault a few times and end up against the wall, and he didn't punch hard at all, it was a sort of penetrating punch. Those kinds of people you hear come along maybe once in ten thousand years." Taky remembers Bruce calling him from Hong Kong when he had later became a successful star. "He really scolded me for not keeping in touch with him. I said, "Well, Bruce, you don't need me any more, you know, you're up there, and what can I do?" He then replied, "Look you are still my best friend, and don't you ever forget that! Anything you need, just ask and it's yours! I'm the same guy, I haven't changed." And he didn't change, he was the same Bruce Lee I met fourteen years ago and shared some part of his life."

bruce lee in his library

The following is a handwritten essay by Bruce Lee for one of his philosophy courses at the University of Washington entitled : -


Gung Fu is a special kind of skill, a fine art rather than just a physical exercise. It is a subtle art of matching the essence of the mind to that of the techniques in which it has to work. The principle of Gung Fu is not a thing that can be learned, like a science, by fact-finding and instruction in facts. It has to grow spontaneously, like a flower, in a mind free from emotions and desires. The core of this principle of Gung Fu is Tao - the spontaneity of the universe.

After four years of hard training in the Art of Gung Fu, I began to understand and felt the principle of gentleness - the art of neutralizing the effect of the opponent's effort and minimizing the expenditure of one's energy. All these must be done in calmness and without striving. It sounded simple, but in actual application it was difficult.

The moment I engaged in combat with an opponent, my mind was completely perturbed and unstable. And after a series of exchanging blows and kicks, my theory of gentleness was gone. My only thought at this point was "Somehow or other I must beat him and win!"

My instructor at the time, Professor Ip Man, head of the Wing Chun School of Gung Fu, would come up to me and say "Loong, relax and calm your mind. Forget about yourself and follow the opponent's movement. Let your mind, the basic reality, do the counter-movement without any interfering deliberation. Above all, learn the art of detachment."

"That was it!" I thought. "I must relax!" However, right then I had just done something that contradicted against my will. That occurred at the precise moment I said, "I must relax." The demand for effort in must was already inconsistent with the effortlessness in relax.

When my acute self-consciousness grew to what the psychologists refer to as the "double-blind" type, my instructor would again approach me and say, "Loong, preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don't interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it. Don't practice this week. Go home and think about it."

The following week I stayed home. After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then - at that moment - a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of Gung Fu? Hadn't this water just now illustrated to me the principle of Gung Fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all my might - yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then as I was absorbing myself with the lesson of water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the bird flying over the water? This was exactly what Professor Ip meant by being detached - not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.

I lay on the boat and felt that I had united with Tao; I had become one with nature. I just lay there and let the boat drift freely according to its own will. For at that moment I had achieved a state of inner feeling in which opposition had become mutually cooperative instead of mutually exclusive, in which there was no longer any conflict in my mind. The whole world to me was unitary.

(Please note that "Loong" is the English translation of the word Dragon, Bruce's Chinese nickname)

bruce and ip man

Whilst at the University, Bruce used to give lectures on Chinese philosophy. One of these students was a girl named Linda Emery. She had a friend who took Chinese Gung Fu lessons from Bruce and went along as she was deeply attracted to Bruce. They had there first date on the 25th October, 1963 at the Seattle Space Needle after Linda had thrown Bruce down on the ground at one of his classes and Bruce asked her out on a date. She didn't need asking twice and that was the start of a wonderful and loving relationship. In December of that year, Bruce met Ed Parker, a Kenpo Karate instructor, and they became good friends. Ed was holding his first Long Beach Karate Tournament and asked Bruce if he would like to appear and give a demonstration of his art of Gung Fu. Bruce gladly excepted and this demonstration would be a major turning point in his life. On August 2nd, 1964, Bruce gave his lecture and demonstration of Gung Fu. His speed was amazing and his techniques were accurate and expertly controlled. His confidence was felt all around the auditorium as Bruce talked about the art to the spellbound audience. On the 17th, Bruce and Linda were married at a registry office, much to the distaste of Linda's mother Vivian. Taky Kimura was Bruce's best man.