The transcript below is from the video β€œBruce Lee’s First Teacher? It’s NOT Yip Man!” by Goldenbell Training.

Goldenbell Training:

Bruce Lee’s First Kung Fu Teacher was not Yip Man.

What I’m saying is that when Bruce Lee started learning Wing Chun Kung Fu from Yip Man, he had already been studying Kung Fu with someone else. Now some Bruce Lee fans say that Bruce Lee’s first art was Taijiquan, and I talked about this in a previous video about Bruce Lee’s long history with Taiji, but I’m not talking about Taiji either. Bruce studied some other Kung Fu when he was younger, and I think knowing this about Bruce Lee could shed some light on some of the things Bruce looked to accomplish and why he left such a lasting impression on the world after he passed at the early age of 32.

If we only got our information from the biopics and films that show Bruce Lee coming to learn from Yip Man, it would be easy to believe that Bruce Lee was introduced to Yip Man by his parents at a very young age. Dragon: The Bruce Lee story would lead everyone to believe that Bruce Lee was some kind of martial arts prodigy who started training with Yip Man in 1949 when Bruce was only about 8 years old up until he left Hong Kong 10 years later.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is based on the book “Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew,” which was written by Bruce’s widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, and like with most biopics, they took some creative liberties in combining some events from Bruce Lee’s life as told by his wife Linda in her book. According to Linda, shortly after Bruce was enrolled at La Salle Intermediate School, he came home and asked his mother if he could study Kung Fu because he was being bullied at school, and he wanted to learn how to defend himself properly. Linda says that Bruce’s father, Li Hoi-Chuen practiced Taijiquan and that Bruce joined his father once or twice to practice Taijiquan, but it wasn’t suitable for what Bruce had in mind, which was for fighting with the other kids his age. Linda said that Bruce’s mother agreed to pay for Bruce’s lessons, and thus he began studying Wing Chun with Yip Man when he was 13.

Goldenbell Training:

Prior to Linda’s book, there had been a number of other articles written stating that Bruce Lee started learning Wing Chun at the age of 13, and he really did not mention learning anything else, or having any other teachers in those interviews he gave from the time his star began to rise when he was cast to play Kato in the Green Hornet. So if all anyone has ever known is the official word coming from the Bruce Lee Estate that Bruce Lee did a little Taijiquan with his father before he took up Wing Chun at the age of 13, well, I mean then what’s the big deal? I mean, it sounds pretty cut and dry that Bruce really only learned Wing Chun before he left Hong Kong, and that’s it, right? Well, that’s the thing, the story coming from the Bruce Lee Foundation isn’t true.

The first time that I learned anything about Bruce Lee studying Taijiquan was about 7 years ago during a personal lesson with one of my old Kung Fu teachers. He said that Bruce’s father tried to teach him Tai Chi, but he found that Bruce had the wrong attitude, so he stopped teaching him. I mentioned this in another video about Bruce Lee and his history with Tai Chi, but something I didn’t say in that video and something Linda’s story doesn’t make clear is that Bruce Lee wasn’t learning Tai Chi from his father.

Okay, first off, Li Hoi-Chuen started taking Bruce with him to Tai Chi classes when Bruce was 7 years old. Now at this point in Bruce’s life, he was just starting to make movies, and he was spending a lot of time early morning at these studios with his father. So to extend their Father-Son time together, Li Hoi-Chuen thought that it would be a good idea to take Bruce to his Taiji classes to help Bruce’s hyperactivity. I mean, his nickname was “Never Sits Still” for a reason. Little Bruce Lee was all over the place. Also, this was allegedly Wu style Tai Chi. Wu Style Tai Chi with a bunch of old men early morning in a Park is going to be boring for a 7-year-old kid who is already hyperactive.

Look you all, I have taught Tai Chi classes, I know 2 different Yang style Tai Chi forms, I practice and I’m planning to teach an Internal Martial Art right now. That means that I really love this stuff. And look man, I almost fell asleep when I was trying to watch a Wu style Tai Chi guy perform his routine at the last World Taiji Day event I attended in Nashville back in 2019. So if Bruce didn’t actually learn Tai Chi as a kid, well, then I mean, where’s the lie? Where did Bruce really start learning Kung Fu, and how did I find out about it?

Goldenbell Training:

Well, just like in my video about Bruce Lee’s Real Judo Instructor, the answer to that question also came from Bruce Lee’s first student, Jesse Glover. Pretty early into their friendship, Bruce told Jesse that his first exposure to martial arts came through his father’s association with other Chinese opera actors who had to use a lot of Kung Fu moves in their performances. Bruce said that, as a kid, he would ask some of his father’s friends to show him some moves and that he would practice them in secret, away from the rest of his family.

Well, Bruce went on to say that he had really strong feelings for Hung Kuen, or Hung Gar, the style made famous by the Chinese Hero, Wong Fei Hung. Bruce was impressed by its reputation for strong footwork, powerful punches, and the feats of strength attributed to various experts of the style. So the question is, well what happened with Bruce’s fascination with Hung Gar?

Well, Bruce said that he was actually practicing this style, but Bruce got into a fight with someone and things didn’t turn out too well for the Little Dragon, so he started seeking out a method that might be more suited for him.

So Bruce dropped Hung Gar for Wing Chun after a fight didn’t work out in his favor, and for me, that raises 2 questions – 1: how much Hung Gar did he actually know? And 2: who taught him?

Well, that first question, we’ll probably never get an answer to because there aren’t too many of Bruce’s students left, and none of them are talking about Bruce Lee training Hung Gar. And real quick, I just want to say Rest in Peace to Leo Fong who passed earlier today at the time that I’m recording this video. But back to what I was saying, we’re getting this information from Bruce’s first student, Jesse Glover from some of their very first conversations in 1959.

Goldenbell Training:

As a kid, Bruce Lee was a big fan of the Wong Fei Hung movies, and so he would have been enamored with the style that Wong Fei Hung mastered. According to Bey Logan, Cho Tat-Wah and Shek Kin were two regulars in the Wong-Fei Hung movies who also worked with Bruce’s father. You may recognize the name Shek Kin as the actor who played Mr. Han in “Enter the Dragon.” And there’s a cool connection that I am going to bring up in a minute, so keep his name in the back of your mind for a moment.

But anyway, with Bruce’s father being so close to actors who played in the Wong Fei-Hung movies, you know what that meant for a kid like Bruce, right? It meant that he was going to sneak on set to see what these guys were doing. Well, it turns out that Kwan Tak-hing, the actor who portrayed Wong Fei-Hung on and off for 40 years was also friends with Bruce’s father. Now, when I initially came across this information, I was thinking, “Oh snap! Bruce was learning Hung Gar from the actor who was actually playing Wong Fei-Hung,” except that Kwan Tak-Hing actually studied Bak Hok, or Tibetan White Crane.

Now this is kind of funny because that’s what David Chin was also studying at the time of the Wong Jack Man fight. And I’m gonna be talking more about that Wong Jack Man fight in a later video, like some of you guys have been asking me. But I sort of talked about it already in the Tai Chi video that I mentioned earlier, so you might want to check that out.

But as I was saying, Kwan Tak-Hing studied Tibetan White Crane and he only learned enough Hung Gar to make the action look believable on camera for his fight scenes. So I ruled out Kwan Tak-Hing as the person who taught Hung Kuen to Bruce Lee. So that only left one person, Siu Hon-San who played in a lot of those old Wong Fei Hung movies.

Goldenbell Training:

Siu Hon-San was a student of the Jing Wu Association, or Jing Mo Mun, as it was called in Hong Kong. Jing Mo hosted a lot of different styles under one roof, and I believe that Hung Kuen was one of the styles Siu Hon-San studied. Bruce was very close to Siu Hon-San as he often referred to him as “Uncle Siu,” and Bruce did go to Uncle Siu to learn Kung Fu from him. The only thing is that the only time we know that Bruce actually studied with Siu was just before he left Hong Kong to come to America. As a matter of fact, it appears that a lot of the stuff Bruce did in his screen test for “Number One Son” may have been forms that he actually learned from Uncle Siu, and not Fook Yeung as the Fook Yeung fans like to claim. And also, the Northern Tam Tui demonstration that Bruce performed at the first Ed Parker International and again in Enter the Dragon, that was material that Uncle Siu taught him. But this still leaves the question as to who taught Bruce Lee Hung Gar/ Hung Kuen?

So at this point all we know is that Bruce was running around the sets spying on the actors making the Wong Fei Hung movies, and let’s just get this out there. Bruce Lee was a Kung Fu genius. And remember, Kung Fu just means hard work over a long period of time. There are a lot of Kung Fu geniuses. Donnie Yen is also a dancer, just like Bruce Lee, and he’s a Kung Fu genius. Jet Li and Jackie Chan are Kung Fu geniuses. My Sijo is a Kung Fu genius and 99% of y’all watching the video have no idea who he is. So not every Kung Fu genius becomes famous. So this term, “Kung Fu genius” is not some once in a century phenomenon like some of the hardcore Bruce Lee fanboys who have never trained a minute of any martial art might lead some of you to believe.

Bruce Lee was a movement genius and he could see something one time, or maybe a few times and he could remember it and perform it on the spot. So I believe that Bruce did learn Hung Kuen from the actors working on the Wong Fei Hung movies, but I don’t think they personally taught him. I think he watched them practice and rehearse and then he would go home, shut the door to his room, and start practicing what he saw them doing. So who taught Hung Kuen to Bruce Lee? It was Bruce, because he was a bit of an autodidact. And the thing is since he had no formal instruction, he probably ran into someone who either knew what they were doing, or they were just a little bit tougher than him, and things didn’t exactly work out in his favour that time. And going back to one of my first videos, well, eventually he ran into this kid, William Cheung who seemed to never lose a fight, and then from there, he got introduced to Yip Man and Wing Chun. From there, the rest is history.

Now I mentioned earlier something about Bruce having studied Hung Kuen initially shedding some light on what Bruce set out to accomplish. Well, in his final movie, Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee became a worldwide action star. He’d become bigger than all of his celebrity students, even Steve McQueen. But Bruce was also making another student who was Chinese audience.

Goldenbell Training:

In the movie he performs a set that he learned from “Uncle Siu”, who was a Jing Mo student. And Bruce’s character Chen Jun, from Fists of Fury, was also a Jing Mo student. “Uncle Siu” also may have taught Bruce some Hung Kuen material later on. But we don’t know when. The bad guy in Enter the Dragon, Mr. Han was played by Shek Kin, the villain in a number of Wong Fei Hung movies. Bruce was doing all of this to make a statement that He’s the new great Kung Fu hero. He’s the new Wong Fei Hung. Unfortunately, Bruce passed at the early age of 32. But with none of the new foot/fist action stars able to come close to following in Bruce Lee’s footsteps before Jackie Chan emerged as the star of Kung Fu comedy, the studios actually brought back Kwan Tak-Hing to play Wong Fei Hung because no one could fill the shoes of the new Wong Fei Hung, Bruce Lee.

If you want to hear more interesting stories about Bruce Lee, I suggest you check out this video about how Bruce Lee was getting into trouble as a kid, when he wasn’t on the sets spying on the Wong Fei Hong movie actors, or you can check out this video on why Yip Man stopped teaching Bruce Lee in his regular classes. While you wait on my next video, keep training, remember to breathe, and I’ll see you next time.

What I’m saying is that when Bruce Lee started learning Wing Chun Kung Fu from Yip Man, he had already been studying Kung Fu with someone else. Now some Bruce Lee fans say that Bruce Lee’s first art was Taijiquan, and I talked about this in a previous video about Bruce Lee’s long history with Taiji, but I’m not talking about Taiji either. Bruce studied some other Kung Fu when he was younger, and I think knowing this about Bruce Lee could shed some light on some of the things Bruce looked to accomplish and why he left such a lasting impression on the world after he passed at the early age of 32.

If we only got our information from the biopics and films that show Bruce Lee coming to learn from Yip Man, it would be easy to believe that Bruce Lee was introduced to Yip Man by his parents at a very young age. Dragon: The Bruce Lee story would lead everyone to believe that Bruce Lee was some kind of martial arts prodigy who started training with Yip Man in 1949 when Bruce was only about 8 years old up until he left Hong Kong 10 years later.

Goldenbell Training:

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is based on the book “Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew,” which was written by Bruce’s widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, and like with most biopics, they took some creative liberties in combining some events from Bruce Lee’s life as told by his wife Linda in her book. According to Linda, shortly after Bruce was enrolled at La Salle Intermediate School, he came home and asked his mother if he could study Kung Fu because he was being bullied at school, and he wanted to learn how to defend himself properly. Linda says that Bruce’s father, Li Hoi-Chuen practiced Taijiquan and that Bruce joined his father once or twice to practice Taijiquan, but it wasn’t suitable for what Bruce had in mind, which was for fighting with the other kids his age. Linda said that Bruce’s mother agreed to pay for Bruce’s lessons, and thus he began studying Wing Chun with Yip Man when he was 13.

Prior to Linda’s book, there had been a number of other articles written stating that Bruce Lee started learning Wing Chun at the age of 13, and he really did not mention learning anything else, or having any other teachers in those interviews he gave from the time his star began to rise when he was cast to play Kato in the Green Hornet. So if all anyone has ever known is the official word coming from the Bruce Lee Estate that Bruce Lee did a little Taijiquan with his father before he took up Wing Chun at the age of 13, well, I mean then what’s the big deal? I mean, it sounds pretty cut and dry that Bruce really only learned Wing Chun before he left Hong Kong, and that’s it, right? Well, that’s the thing, the story coming from the Bruce Lee Foundation isn’t true.

The first time that I learned anything about Bruce Lee studying Taijiquan was about 7 years ago during a personal lesson with one of my old Kung Fu teachers. He said that Bruce’s father tried to teach him Tai Chi, but he found that Bruce had the wrong attitude, so he stopped teaching him. I mentioned this in another video about Bruce Lee and his history with Tai Chi, but something I didn’t say in that video and something Linda’s story doesn’t make clear is that Bruce Lee wasn’t learning Tai Chi from his father.

Okay, first off, Li Hoi-Chuen started taking Bruce with him to Tai Chi classes when Bruce was 7 years old. Now at this point in Bruce’s life, he was just starting to make movies, and he was spending a lot of time early morning at these studios with his father. So to extend their Father-Son time together, Li Hoi-Chuen thought that it would be a good idea to take Bruce to his Taiji classes to help Bruce’s hyperactivity. I mean, his nickname was “Never Sits Still” for a reason. Little Bruce Lee was all over the place. Also, this was allegedly Wu style Tai Chi. Wu Style Tai Chi with a bunch of old men early morning in a Park is going to be boring for a 7-year-old kid who is already hyperactive.

Goldenbell Training:

Look you all, I have taught Tai Chi classes, I know 2 different Yang style Tai Chi forms, I practice and I’m planning to teach an Internal Martial Art right now. That means that I really love this stuff. And look man, I almost fell asleep when I was trying to watch a Wu style Tai Chi guy perform his routine at the last World Taiji Day event I attended in Nashville back in 2019. So if Bruce didn’t actually learn Tai Chi as a kid, well, then I mean, where’s the lie? Where did Bruce really start learning Kung Fu, and how did I find out about it?

Well, just like in my video about Bruce Lee’s Real Judo Instructor, the answer to that question also came from Bruce Lee’s first student, Jesse Glover. Pretty early into their friendship, Bruce told Jesse that his first exposure to martial arts came through his father’s association with other Chinese opera actors who had to use a lot of Kung Fu moves in their performances. Bruce said that, as a kid, he would ask some of his father’s friends to show him some moves and that he would practice them in secret, away from the rest of his family.

Well, Bruce went on to say that he had really strong feelings for Hung Kuen, or Hung Gar, the style made famous by the Chinese Hero, Wong Fei Hung. Bruce was impressed by its reputation for strong footwork, powerful punches, and the feats of strength attributed to various experts of the style. So the question is, well what happened with Bruce’s fascination with Hung Gar?

Well, Bruce said that he was actually practicing this style, but Bruce got into a fight with someone and things didn’t turn out too well for the Little Dragon, so he started seeking out a method that might be more suited for him.

So Bruce dropped Hung Gar for Wing Chun after a fight didn’t work out in his favor, and for me, that raises 2 questions – 1: how much Hung Gar did he actually know? And 2: who taught him?

Goldenbell Training:

Well, that first question, we’ll probably never get an answer to because there aren’t too many of Bruce’s students left, and none of them are talking about Bruce Lee training Hung Gar. And real quick, I just want to say Rest in Peace to Leo Fong who passed earlier today at the time that I’m recording this video. But back to what I was saying, we’re getting this information from Bruce’s first student, Jesse Glover from some of their very first conversations in 1959.

As a kid, Bruce Lee was a big fan of the Wong Fei Hung movies, and so he would have been enamored with the style that Wong Fei Hung mastered. According to Bey Logan, Cho Tat-Wah and Shek Kin were two regulars in the Wong-Fei Hung movies who also worked with Bruce’s father. You may recognize the name Shek Kin as the actor who played Mr. Han in “Enter the Dragon.” And there’s a cool connection that I am going to bring up in a minute, so keep his name in the back of your mind for a moment.

But anyway, with Bruce’s father being so close to actors who played in the Wong Fei-Hung movies, you know what that meant for a kid like Bruce, right? It meant that he was going to sneak on set to see what these guys were doing. Well, it turns out that Kwan Tak-hing, the actor who portrayed Wong Fei-Hung on and off for 40 years was also friends with Bruce’s father. Now, when I initially came across this information, I was thinking, “Oh snap! Bruce was learning Hung Gar from the actor who was actually playing Wong Fei-Hung,” except that Kwan Tak-Hing actually studied Bak Hok, or Tibetan White Crane.

Now this is kind of funny because that’s what David Chin was also studying at the time of the Wong Jack Man fight. And I’m gonna be talking more about that Wong Jack Man fight in a later video, like some of you guys have been asking me. But I sort of talked about it already in the Tai Chi video that I mentioned earlier, so you might want to check that out.

Goldenbell Training:

But as I was saying, Kwan Tak-Hing studied Tibetan White Crane and he only learned enough Hung Gar to make the action look believable on camera for his fight scenes. So I ruled out Kwan Tak-Hing as the person who taught Hung Kuen to Bruce Lee. So that only left one person, Siu Hon-San who played in a lot of those old Wong Fei Hung movies.

Siu Hon-San was a student of the Jing Wu Association, or Jing Mo Mun, as it was called in Hong Kong. Jing Mo hosted a lot of different styles under one roof, and I believe that Hung Kuen was one of the styles Siu Hon-San studied. Bruce was very close to Siu Hon-San as he often referred to him as “Uncle Siu,” and Bruce did go to Uncle Siu to learn Kung Fu from him. The only thing is that the only time we know that Bruce actually studied with Siu was just before he left Hong Kong to come to America. As a matter of fact, it appears that a lot of the stuff Bruce did in his screen test for “Number One Son” may have been forms that he actually learned from Uncle Siu, and not Fook Yeung as the Fook Yeung fans like to claim. And also, the Northern Tam Tui demonstration that Bruce performed at the first Ed Parker International and again in Enter the Dragon, that was material that Uncle Siu taught him. But this still leaves the question as to who taught Bruce Lee Hung Gar/ Hung Kuen?

So at this point all we know is that Bruce was running around the sets spying on the actors making the Wong Fei Hung movies, and let’s just get this out there. Bruce Lee was a Kung Fu genius. And remember, Kung Fu just means hard work over a long period of time. There are a lot of Kung Fu geniuses. Donnie Yen is also a dancer, just like Bruce Lee, and he’s a Kung Fu genius. Jet Li and Jackie Chan are Kung Fu geniuses. My Sijo is a Kung Fu genius and 99% of y’all watching the video have no idea who he is. So not every Kung Fu genius becomes famous. So this term, “Kung Fu genius” is not some once in a century phenomenon like some of the hardcore Bruce Lee fanboys who have never trained a minute of any martial art might lead some of you to believe.

Bruce Lee was a movement genius and he could see something one time, or maybe a few times and he could remember it and perform it on the spot. So I believe that Bruce did learn Hung Kuen from the actors working on the Wong Fei Hung movies, but I don’t think they personally taught him. I think he watched them practice and rehearse and then he would go home, shut the door to his room, and start practicing what he saw them doing. So who taught Hung Kuen to Bruce Lee? It was Bruce, because he was a bit of an autodidact. And the thing is since he had no formal instruction, he probably ran into someone who either knew what they were doing, or they were just a little bit tougher than him, and things didn’t exactly work out in his favour that time. And going back to one of my first videos, well, eventually he ran into this kid, William Cheung who seemed to never lose a fight, and then from there, he got introduced to Yip Man and Wing Chun. From there, the rest is history.

Goldenbell Training:

Now I mentioned earlier something about Bruce having studied Hung Kuen initially shedding some light on what Bruce set out to accomplish. Well, in his final movie, Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee became a worldwide action star. He’d become bigger than all of his celebrity students, even Steve McQueen. But Bruce was also making another student who was Chinese audience.

In the movie he performs a set that he learned from “Uncle Siu”, who was a Jing Mo student. And Bruce’s character Chen Jun, from Fists of Fury, was also a Jing Mo student. “Uncle Siu” also may have taught Bruce some Hung Kuen material later on. But we don’t know when. The bad guy in Enter the Dragon, Mr. Han was played by Shek Kin, the villain in a number of Wong Fei Hung movies. Bruce was doing all of this to make a statement that He’s the new great Kung Fu hero. He’s the new Wong Fei Hung. Unfortunately, Bruce passed at the early age of 32. But with none of the new foot/fist action stars able to come close to following in Bruce Lee’s footsteps before Jackie Chan emerged as the star of Kung Fu comedy, the studios actually brought back Kwan Tak-Hing to play Wong Fei Hung because no one could fill the shoes of the new Wong Fei Hung, Bruce Lee.

If you want to hear more interesting stories about Bruce Lee, I suggest you check out this video about how Bruce Lee was getting into trouble as a kid, when he wasn’t on the sets spying on the Wong Fei Hong movie actors, or you can check out this video on why Yip Man stopped teaching Bruce Lee in his regular classes. While you wait on my next video, keep training, remember to breathe, and I’ll see you next time.




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