Bruce Lee memories

Ed Parker

I traveled extensively throughout Northern California during the
sixties. It was an interesting experience which afforded me the
opportunity to meet and become friends with many of the Chinese Kung
Fu masters and their students. Gaining their confidence and making
friends was something that had to be nurtured. They felt their art was
sacred and to display or discuss their technical skills was not the
custom. In addition, a number of the Chinese masters in San Francisco
and the surrounding areas had entered the United States illegally as
tutors to the various Tongs who were then at war with each other. To
feature these masters in newspapers and magazines would expose them to
unwanted publicity. Unfortunately they have passed on and it is not
possible to see them at work. As my friendship grew my Chinese friends
were willing to exchange notes on the Martial Arts.

Among my close friends was the late, Jimmy Lee. He and I spent
hours comparing concepts and principles -- he with Kung Fu and I with
Kenpo. Although he was not a big man, he had great control and was
tremendously powerful. He could break five to six bricks with one
stroke using a backfist. You could select the brick you wished him to
break and it was broken without disturbing any of the other bricks. He
was wiry, full of energy, and always seeking the ultimate. He was an
interesting conversationalist who kept you laughing constantly.
In September or October of 1963 I received a call from Jimmy Lee.
His voice was full of excitement and he could hardly contain himself.
"Hey!, Ed", he said, "I just met this kid from Seattle who you've‹f
gotta meet. He is a Wing Chun man and is something else." I tried to
get a few words in and was unable to do so as he rattled on. "Hey,
this kid is not only fast, but boy! does he pack a wallop! He isn't
big, but he hit me with a one inch punch and sent me clear across to
the other side of my garage -- at least 15 to 20 feet. Unbelievable,
unbelievable, I've never seen or felt anything like it. I tell you
once you meet him, and with your ties in Hollywood this guy can be a
big movie star." I finally was able to get a few words in and asked
him who this guy was, where he was from, what nationality was he,
where did he get his training, along with a number of other questions.
He replied, "his name is Bruce Lee, but no relation. He was born in
San Francisco, spent most of his life in Hong Kong where he practiced
Wing Chun. He is in his early twenties, and is presently attending a
University in Seattle, Washington where he teaches a few students Wing
Chun. He is Chinese, but is also part Caucasian." I consented to meet
Bruce in Oakland, California where Jimmy Lee lived and the meeting
took place not too long after this.

Bruce had a navy blue wind breaker on when I first met him and
although his features were predominantly Chinese he was clean cut,
handsome, and definitely looked as if he was a mixture of another
racial strain. He was extremely friendly, joked continually, and was
obviously a philosophy buff judging from his conversation.
He then proceeded to discuss his art, its merits, along with his
concepts. As he began to punch, the sleeve of his wind breaker
literally "popped" the air. His movements were graceful, crisp, and
obviously powerful. As I observed his movements I could see unyielding‹d
balance as his body settled with each punch. He had obviously mastered
body momentum along with the precise angle of incidence as he struck
his targets. All of these factors contributed to lift power upon

Jimmy Lee was right. Once I observed Bruce's extraordinary talent
I knew that I should introduce Bruce to my friends who were movie and
TV producers and directors. The timing was right. Knowing that there
would be a number of my friends who were producers and directors
present at my first International Karate Championships held in 1964 at
Long Beach, California, I asked Bruce to demonstrate his skills.
Bruce's demonstration was captured on film and after the tournament, I
showed the film to Bill Dozier who hired Bruce as Kato in the Green
Hornet series.

While the rest is history, I still ponder over the times that
Bruce and I spent traveling from coast to coast and the memorable
discussions we had. He once asked me about three of the nations top
ranking point fighters and which of these I felt generated the most
power upon contact. Without hesitation I gave him my answer. He was
shocked that I made the same choice he would have. He told me that he
personally worked out with them and had experienced their strikes.
"Tell me how you knew?" he said. My answer was, "Because of the
synchronized timing of body mass with the strike. That's why you're
good, Bruce. Upon impact, your whole body is in focus with your
natural weapon." He looked at me for a brief period and with a slight
smirk on his face comfortably sat back in his chair.

On another occasion after he had returned from Hong Kong he began‹d
to tell me what it was like to make films there. He mentioned how
three or four films would be in production at the same time using the
same sound stage. I asked him how this was possible since the sound
from one stage would obviously interfere with the other. He laughed
and said that they shot each production without sound and daubed in
the sound at a later date. Bruce then proceeded to tell me of his
experiences on a live TV show in Hong Kong where five Kung Fu masters,
including himself, were asked to demonstrate their skills. The first
master got in front of the camera settled into what was seemingly a
permanent stance and invited a second master to throw him off balance.
He was not able to do so and was embarrassed that he had failed. A
third master was asked and he, too, could not do it. The same master
then asked Bruce in Chinese, "Hey, you young punk, you come up and
try." Bruce felt that this was certainly not a polite way to be asked.
Nevertheless, confronting the gentleman, Bruce stood before him,
settled into his stance as he simultaneously punched the master in the
face and dropped him. Bruce's comment was, "When I fight, I punch, I
don't push." Bruce then proceeded to tell me about the fallacies that
some systems adhere to. "They get stuck in the means to an end and
fail to view the end realistically."

This article would be incomplete if I didn't mention something
about Bruce's humor. The following is a story he once told me and
which I tell often at my seminars. "There was a native from China
whose name was Tim O'Riley. Those around him were curious as to how
he, obviously pure Chinese, was given the name of Tim O'Riley. When
asked why he was called Tim O'Riley, he explained while he came‹d
through immigration the man in front of him was from Ireland and went
by the name of Tim O'Riley. When he was asked what his name was, he
said "I told them the truth, Sam Ting." They obviously thought he had
said same thing and he was called Tim O'Riley ever since.

Ed Parker Sr. Memories
Archived with the permission of Ed Parker Jr.
Ed Parker Sr. was the founder of the art known today as American Kenpo.
In these files, Ed Parker Jr. shares his fathers unpublished notes and other memories with us.