In a blast from the past, nearly half a century ago, the South China Morning Post unearthed an incredibly rare recording from the hidden depths of YouTube. It features none other than famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, speaking with one of his friends and students, Dan Lee.
The conversation, which was recorded in two parts and is just over 20 minutes, is a fascinating window into a very interesting period in the star's life. Back in 1972, Lee had released two of his greatest films, and arguably two of the most important kung-fu action films ever made - Way Of The Dragon and Fist Of Fury.
With the rising wave of martial arts in pop culture, fighting techniques were very much on his mind - and especially the flaws and shortcomings of traditional martial arts. “You saw the tai chi, the self defence,” asserts Bruce. “Well, I hate to tell you this. If you were there, Jesus... we were so embarrassed.”
He went on to praise boxing however - with particular emphasis on the late 'Smokin' Joe Frazier, an undisputed heavyweight champion during the early seventies.
© Joe posing by the ringside in 2006. He passed away in 2011 from liver cancer complications.
“Joe Frazier is a man who is capable of using his tools and who is very determined in his savage, relentless attacks. Whereas those sons of bitches are cowards, turning their heads and swinging their punches. After the second round they're out of breath. I mean, they're really pathetic looking, very amateur.”
“A boxer, when they concentrate on their two hands, they forget how amateurish they are, they do their thing,” Lee said. “Whereas those guys go out there, they haven't decided what the hell they're gonna use.”
The timing couldn't be better - mere months ago, Bruce rose from the grave in Quentin Tarantino's last film, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood.
The film drew a fair bit of controversy for its negative, arrogant portrayal of Bruce… which happens to fit in line with his critical reactions towards fellow martial artists in this recording.
As the second part of the tape winds on, Bruce continues to pick apart the flaws he observes with his contemporaries - first targeting their flashy styles. “I mean, before they contact each other, they do all the fancy stance and all the fancy movement. The minute they contact, they just don't know what the hell to do. They slip and they fall on their asses.”
“If you can move with your tools, from any angle,” he continues, “then you can adapt to whatever the object is in front of you. The clumsier, the more limited the object, the easier it is for you to punch on it. That's what it amounts to.”
Bruce dives further, using the example of Muay Thai fighters. “I saw it in Thailand personally, the bantamweight champion with one of the stuntmen. The kick is too high, too obvious. There is no subtleness, no economy. That's why 80% of knockouts are by hand.”
“Put them in the ring, man, the boxer would just beat the hell out of them. That just goes to show you.”