After becoming a martial arts superstar, Bruce Lee decided to challenge his former kung fu teacher to test his skills. Here’s who won.
In the early 1970s, Bruce lee chose to test his skills against his original kung fu instructor – Wong Shun Leung – in a classic “teacher versus student” combat match. The fight came after the actor established himself as a martial arts superstar in Hong Kong. The outcome of the fight was disputed by both sides – although witnesses contend there was a clear winner.
Due in large part to the popularity of Ip man movies starring Donnie Yen, one of the best-known details of Bruce Lee’s youth is that when he lived in Hong Kong he was a pupil of the famous grandmaster of Wing Chun. However, despite their well-documented relationship, which has been repeatedly portrayed on the big screen, Bruce Lee was only Ip Man’s student in a formal sense – Ip Man was not the person primarily responsible for training. by Lee. When Lee joined his school, Ip Man entrusted his senior student, Wong Shun Leung, with the task of teaching Bruce Lee martial arts. It was with Wong – not Ip Man – that Lee learned most of what he knew about Wing Chun. In a letter written to Wong in 1970, Lee admitted that while Ip Man was still technically his master, Wong was really the one who taught him kung fu.
Lee kept in touch with Wong, even after he left Ip Man’s school, traveled to Hollywood, created Jeet Kune Do, and acquired his own students. When his first great martial arts film, The big boss, came out in 1971, Lee reached out to Wong and asked for his opinion on how his skills had developed over the years. According to Bruce Lee: a life by Matthew Polly, Wong provided constructive criticism of Lee’s movements in The big boss, which then led to a challenge. After the completion of Way of the Dragon, Lee brought Wong home to discuss his next photo, Game of death. It was then that Lee revisited their previous conversation and convinced him to do some light sparring.
Wan Kam Leung, a Wong student and witness to the fight, claims that Lee punched Wong in the face, who managed to touch his hand against Lee’s throat. This caused a brief disagreement, as Lee believed he won by hitting the first blow, while Wong argued that the blow to the throat outweighed Lee’s own attack. The sparring continued for a while, and when it was over, the two engaged in a friendly argument over who won, with neither willing to admit the other was better.
Since then, Wan’s comments have shed more light on the fight. He says Lee was the real winner and Wong would have collapsed if Lee had kicked with all his might, considering his legs were “”really powerful”. Wan also revealed that after the match, he had to use a Chinese herbal ointment to massage Wong’s severely bruised arms, which he had hidden from Lee. So it would seem that just like the end of a classic kung fu movie, that of Bruce Lee the fight with Wong Shun Leung ended when the student finally passed the master.
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