Any “complete martial art” has a variety of techniques to deal with each of these situations. Do not be fooled by the rhetoric. Taiji players can box, Wing Chun students can master long-range entry and even the most ardent jujitsu student knows how to throw a kick or two. It is not really the techniques that make these arts different so much as it is their basic assumptions about how they think a fight is likely to start, how they want to guide its progression, and what they believe will give them the best chances of winning. These are the fundamental questions that really differentiate the styles. It is differences of emphasis and opinion that give each art its unique visual aesthetic.
Kung Fu Tea
In 1971, a quirky TV movie aired on the ABC Movie of the Week called Longstreet.
The movie was written by Sterling Silliphant, an Oscar winning writer (In the Heat of the Night) and a student of Bruce Lee. The show was picked up as a series whose debut episode was called “The Way of the Intercepting Fist.”
He also got Bruce some Hollywood work, writing him a memorable cameo in the James Garner movie Marlowe, where Bruce is a Mob enforcer who destroys Marlowe’s office. He also wrote Bruce a pivotal role for Longstreet.
Longstreet was a detective show about an insurance investigator who, while investigating some jewel thefts, is blinded and widowed by an explosion meant to silence him. A key character in the early shows was Li Tsung, who helps Longstreet regain his independence, basically by teaching him Wing Chun / Jeet Kune Do.
Duke Paige: What is this thing you do?
Li Tsing: In Catonese, Jeet Kune Do – the way of the intercepting fist.
Duke Paige: Intercepting fist, huh?
One of the things I find most interesting about this show is how much of Bruce’s subsequent media image seems to have been formed by this series. Whole swaths of the dialog show up in other media, such as Enter the Dragon (“boards don’t hit back”) and in Bruce’s famous interview with Pierre Berton (Be like water, my friend”).
I suspect this is because Silliphant was able to artfully take Bruce’s teachings and style of speaking and turn it into great dialog. Then Bruce naturally was able to use these well-written versions of his teachings which he had memorized for the show. Or, Silliphant just put Bruce’s words and metaphors in the screenplay (giving Bruce more credit!).
I saw this show when it aired (I was 9). I was of course interested in the discussions of how to fight (being a small kid and a wise ass, a bad combination resulting in the occasional beat down). I was intrigued by the combination of philosophy and violence explored on the show. Bruce often said very ambiguous things, which drew me in with more force, the mystery something to chew on, like the Japanese kōan. What does that mean? Fighting without fighting? No style? Even at 9, these words were intriguing and mysterious.
Some helpful Youtuber compiled all the scenes and uploaded them.
Teddy Atlas is former boxer, trainer, and over-all character. He worked with Cus D’Amato and was there in upstate New York when Tyson trained there, until he left under somewhat mysterious circumstances. There is a story he tells about how he held a gun to Tyson’s head. Tyson has had various responses to that. Whatever! No one will know what really happened but those guys.
I do think Wing Chun fighters have something to learn from this style of fighting. In many ways, our style is similar. Done right, Wing Chun is aggressive, presses the action, but is also a bit of a counter-punching style (we seek the bridge). The big flaw I see in most Wing Chun “fights” available online is the so-called Wing Chun is often just chain-punching away without much discrimination. Done right, a Wing Chun fighter has the man sao/wu sau out in front as a triangular guard. Like Peek-a-Boo, we keep the elbows in. We shuffle forward, keeping our balance, keeping structure into the ground through the back foot. But what you often don’t see is discrimination in selecting targets. The way demonstrates Peek-a-Boo, you see the ducking/weaving/sidestepping behavior. Wing Chin is less active, yet we do angle for entry, angle a little back, and this is how we achieve that same goal of avoiding the incoming attacks and finding a new angle-of-attack.
But most importantly, we step in and attack but intelligently, not jumping onto the attack like a lemming. I think Greg once advised me not to “throw yourself to your doom.” You need to develop reflexes which will pick the timing for you. This is why you need to train a lot!