Bruce Lee’s Real Fights and Challenges are probably the most talked about thing by Bruce Lee fans after Bruce Lee’s cause of death theories. So we’re going to dive into Bruce Lee’s real fight stories and take a look at 3 times Bruce Lee was challenged by the stuntmen and extras on the set of Enter the Dragon.
Before I get into that, real quick, my name is Prince. This is Golden Bell Training. I like learning cool and interesting stories about Bruce Lee and sharing them with y’all, but my real goal is to promote Chinese Kung Fu and to help people become better martial arts athletes.
In 1971, after The Big Boss broke box office records all over south east Asia and in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee was the biggest thing on the scene, and after Fist of Fury completely shattered the box office, Bruce Lee was a bonafide star. He couldn’t go anywhere without being followed and mobbed by fans, and the other studios had taken notice of The Little Dragon. It got to a point where up and coming “foot and fist” movie actors were openly challenging Bruce Lee in the newspapers, and directors were offering starring movie roles to any Kung Fu man who could shut Bruce Lee’s mouth.
In Bruce Lee’s interview with Ted Thomas, he mentioned that he’d challenged people and that he’d been challenged by people as well. Ted Thomas acknowledged in the interview that he was aware of some of those public challenges, so if it wasn’t true that Bruce Lee was involved in these challenges, Ted Thomas would have said something in the interview.
So by the time of Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee had people challenging because they wanted to make a name for themselves. Well, they were offended about the stuff he said about other styles of Kung Fu compared to his art of Jeet Kune Do; or they didn’t believe that he was as good as people said, and they wanted to see if he was worth the hype. And that’s how we got these stories about the extras challenging Bruce Lee on the set of Enter the Dragon from various sources.
Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub both said in various interviews how guys were walking up to Bruce Lee to challenge him. They both said the guys would stomp their foot 3 times and cross their arms, which I understand to be an invitation to cross hands, or test each other’s skill. Now if you’re not at all familiar with the culture in Chinese martial arts, this idea of crossing hands can be anything from a friendly exchange to a flat out fight. For example, I did a video last year where I mentioned some drama between The Martial Man channel and the kid who runs the Totally Pointless channel.
I said that I have never met Keiren – The Martial Man, or his teacher Liang De Hua, but that I would really like to cross hands with them. Meaning, I’d like to see how skilled Liang De Hua is, not fight him. Now there’s another Tai Chi teacher who is featured a lot on that channel, and all I’ll say is if I were to cross hands with that guy, it won’t be friendly and y’all can tell him that I said that.
Anyway, getting back to our story, on Valentine’s Day in 1972, Fred Weintraub sent a letter to his family from Hong Kong where he mentioned Bruce Lee being challenged by an extra, and he said that Bruce Lee completely wiped the floor with that guy. So it sounds like that may not have been one of those friendly exchanges of skill.
One story that has been making the rounds lately on YouTube regarding these challenges on the set of Enter the Dragon actually comes from Bruce’s wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, who happened to be visiting the set that particular day to see the fight. She said that the extras were taking a break while working on a scene that occured on the tennis court that is supposed to be the courtyard on Han’s island and that’s where the tournament fights were taking place in the movie.
Anyway, this kid is taunting Bruce saying he’s just an actor, and asking stuff like if he can throw a real kick. It’s basically calling him a paper tiger. So Bruce calls him down from the wall, and according to Linda, they have a friendly exchange that lasted for about 30 seconds. Bruce sent the kid away “as a true believer,” and she said that Bruce did not have any more problems from that kid. Now when I heard Linda’s story, I thought that she might be talking about the same fight that Bob Wall recalled after I saw a picture of Linda, Bruce, and Bob all sitting together on the tennis court, but Bob has been known to tell a few different stories.
Now in the case of this exchange that Bruce had with another stuntman extra, Bob Wall says that Bruce Lee was called out by a guy who was bigger than Bruce. They had an exchange going back and forth firing strikes at each other before Bruce finally rammed the guy’s head into a wall and then put him in an arm bar followed by a leglock until that guy gave up. This does not sound at all like the friendly exchange that Linda mentioned in her story. So I’m not sure if these were separate incidents or if maybe Bob Wall was kind of telling stories.
Well, there was an incident that John Saxon witnessed during the 8 days that he was shooting his fight scenes out on the tennis court where another kid up on the wall started to disrespect Bruce Lee. He asked if Bruce could really do the stuff from his movies, like are you really legit, or are you just a bunch of Hong Kong movie hype.
Now it kinda sounds like Bruce is going around beating up on these poor stuntmen, but the truth is that Bruce was all about helping these guys. If you pay attention, these fights and challenges were happening during breaks because Bruce took his breaks with the stuntmen and the extras. Bruce ate lunch with the stuntmen. Bruce was fighting for the stuntmen to be paid more money because without them, there wouldn’t be any scenes on Han’s Island.
Bruce even got in a big fight with Raymond Chow because he wanted to hire 100 additional stuntmen. Some of the guys who went on to become big Kung Fu stars who worked on Enter the Dragon were Lam Ching-Ying who starred in The Prodigal Son, Sammo Hung, who…you know, it’s Sammo! Jackie Chan was in multiple fight scenes, and so was Yuen Biao. Yuen Wah was Bruce Lee’s stunt double. So Bruce worked with at least 4 members of the 7 Little Fortunes, and they all loved him. Even some of these guys who didn’t come from these well known Chinese Opera troupes, Bruce Lee tried helping them too. Some guys would step to him for a challenge, and he’d give them advice on how to improve their Kung Fu. If things got a little too physical, Bruce would even offer to cover their medical expenses, but unfortunately, you just can’t help everyone no matter how hard you try. In the case of this one particular young man, and his brother, they took Bruce Lee’s kindness for blindness.
Remember that letter that Fred Weintraub sent home to his family about how Bruce Lee completely wiped the floor with some kid? Well, this kid was with a group of other stuntmen, and he started calling Bruce Lee out. I mean, you know how it is, it’s easy to talk smack to somebody when you’re with your boys. Now in this case, Bruce couldn’t let this slide because he was worried that this incident could make things difficult for him later, so he called the kid off the wall to fight. The thing is there really wasn’t much of a fight. Bruce kicked the kid in his grill. And I don’t know if he ended up losing any teeth, but he was spitting out a lot of blood. The kid needed to go to the hospital, and Bruce offered to cover his hospital visit. And on top of that, Bruce didn’t want the kid to be fired.
Now I had heard about this incident before, allegedly from Bolo Yeung, but when I found the article that I’d read a few years ago, their source was Beerdy’s back-up channel, and you know how things go with Beerdy, even his Mixed Martial Arts career and fight record is fake. But it turns out that I saw an interview last month with Bruce Lee’s secretary, Madalena Chan, who was also a production assistant on Enter the Dragon. She said that this kid was actually a Triad member, and she had him fired immediately. A few days later after the incident, that kid’s body was found somewhere with multiple stab wounds.
Now to further add to the story, Fred Weintraub revealed in his book, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock, and Me,” that the guy who broke his arm when Bruce Lee kicked Bob Wall was that kid’s brother. He was also a problem on set. So I guess stupidity runs in their family, and as one of my Chiefs used to say when I was in Navy Nuke School, “and the stupid shall be punished.”
So those are 3 times that Bruce Lee was challenged by Stuntmen on the set of Enter the Dragon. This is the first video in a new series that I’m doing called Bruce Lee’s Real Fights and Challenges where I’ll be talking about just that – Bruce Lee’s real fights and times he was challenged. Be sure you’re following the channel so you’ll know when I put out the next video! And if you’re new here and you’d like to check out more of my Bruce Lee videos, a good place to start is my video on why Yip Man stopped teaching Bruce Lee when Bruce Lee first started studying Wing Chun, and then a good follow-up to that video is Bruce Lee’s Real Wing Chun Fighting Skills. I’ve got some really cool stories about Bruce Lee’s fights that are coming soon, so I have to get back to work on those videos, so while you wait on the next video in the series, keep training, remember to breathe, and I’ll see you soon in the next video.
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