Wong Shun Leung student, sometimes Wing Chun teacher, and full-time movie star Philip Ng (of Once Upon a Time in Shanghai ) is breaking into English language cinema soon with his new movie Birth of the Dragon.
The film apparently follows a white guy in the early 1960s who becomes a student of Bruce Lee’s back in his Oakland/San Francisco days and culminates in the famous fight between Bruce and Wong Jack Man. From what I can see, the film is highly mythologized, but frankly, the more I find out about the history of Asian martial arts, the more I realize that a large chunk of what we think we know is in fact myth.
I’m in the middle of a bunch of reading about martial arts history and discovering how many of our most basic ideas are probably false (like, the idea that Kung Fu came from Shaolin or that Judo and Jujitsu are ancient arts). There has been a recent upsurge in the serious academic study of martial arts history in the West. I first heard about this material on Ben Judkins’ Kung Fu Tea website. Ben is the Wing Chun student and professional academic who wrote The Creation of Wing Chun (with Jon Nielson) .
Its an odd contrast that I had read about half of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America when I saw the the trailer below for Birth of the Dragon. In the book, I’m getting an historians best take on what happened. In the trailer, clearly we are getting the highly stylized movie version.
But I do think I will like Sifu Ng’s “cool” version of Bruce Lee. Bruce was by all accounts a cocky bastard and highly polarizing — people loved him or hated him in real life. He was clearly able to polish a lot of his rough edges and more irritating characteristics when inventing his screen persona.