Bruce Lee fought Wong Jack Man in one of the most controversial fights of all time. Above is the all-new trailer for BIRTH OF THE DRAGON, inspired by this true event, in theaters August 25th.
The outcome of this fight is passionately disputed among martial artists, yet most people have never heard about this secret match in 1964. Michael Dorgan writes about the event on taichisanjose.com.
Dorgan calls it “Bruce Lee’s Toughest Fight.”
His account begins, “As a 30-year-old freelance journalist with more than 10 years of training in Okinawan Karate and Korean Taekwondo, I moved to San Francisco from the Midwest in 1978 primarily to learn Chinese martial arts. The teacher I found there was Wong Jack Man, and from his students and other martial artists I began to hear whispers of an epic fight he had had with Bruce Lee. Master Wong himself, however, never mentioned the fight. But after a lot of cajoling, he finally agreed to give his first public account of the battle, which was published in the July, 1980, issue of Official Karate magazine.” Wong Jack Man, 1964.
Dorgan sets the stage: “It may have been the most savagely elegant exhibition of unarmed combat of the century. Yet, at a time when top fighters tend to display their skills only in huge closed-circuited arenas, this battle was fought in virtual secrecy behind locked doors. And at a time when millions of dollars can ride on the outcome of a championship fight, these champions of another sort competed not for money, but for more personal and passionate reasons.
“The time was late winter, 1964; the setting was a small kung fu school in Oakland, California. Poised at the center of the room, with approximately 140 pounds packed tightly on his 5’7″ frame, was the operator of the school, a 24-year old martial artist of Chinese ancestry but American birth who, within a few years, would skyrocket to international attention as a combination fighter/film star. A few years after that, at age 32, he would die under mysterious circumstances. His name, of course, was Bruce Lee.”Bruce Lee, 1964
Dorgan continues, “Also poised in the center of the room was another martial artist. Taller but lighter, with his 135 pounds stretched thinly over 5’10”, this fighter was also 24 and also of Chinese descent. Born in Hong Kong and reared in the south of mainland China, he had only recently arrived in San Francisco’s teeming Chinatown, just across the bay from Oakland. Though over the next 15 years he would become widely known in martial arts circles and would train some of America’s top martial artists, he would retain a near disdain for publicity and the commercialization of his art, and consequently would remain unknown to the general public. His name: Wong Jack Man.”
Wong Jack Man, 1964
Dorgan elaborates: “What happened after the fighters approached the center of the room has become a chapter of Chinatown’s “wild history,” that branch of Chinese history usually anchored in fact but always richly embellished by fantasy, a history that tells much about a time and place with little that’s reliable about any particular incident. Exactly how the fight proceeded and just who won are still matters of controversy, and will likely remain so. But from the few available firsthand accounts and other evidence, it is possible to piece together a reasonably reliable picture that reveals two overriding truths. First, considering the skill of the opponents and the complete absence of referees, rules, and safety equipment, it was one hell of a fight that took place that day in December. And second, Bruce Lee, who was soon to rival Mao Tse Tung as the world’s most famous Chinese personality, was dramatically affected by the fight…”
The events of the fight differ in accounts from the time. Even the outcome is unclear: who really won? Both sides claim victory.
But this much is undisputed: Bruce changed his fighting style after the showdown, created a new martial art form called Jeet Kune Do, and landed his first starring role in Hollywood as Kato on the Green Hornet. He went on to become a huge star and an everlasting icon of pop culture — the Dragon. Bruce Lee, 1966
So come see the movie August 25 and witness the BIRTH OF THE DRAGON !