Birth of the Dragon iTunes Code
A Character Study Inspired by Bruce Lee's Toughest Fight
By Mike the Geology Teacher on September 3, 2017
Only 12 people got to see what may have been the fight of the century. It took place in 1964 behind closed doors and lasted about 2o minutes. The participants were two of the most proficient martial artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, yet represented a contrast of opposite philosophies. Wong Jack Man was a 135 pound master of the graceful Northern Shaolin style of kung fu, a traditionalist to the core. Bruce Lee was 141 pound exponent of Southern Wing Chun kung fu, who had trained himself to Olympic level athleticism. By 1964 he was well on his way to rejecting formal kung fu in favor of his own interpretation he would later call Jeet Kune Do.
Years after the fight, martial artists and movie fans still disagree on who won a fight they had never seen, relying on accounts that mostly came from people who weren’t there. This fight is the inspiration for the movie Birth of the Dragon. When you read that a movie is “inspired by” actual events it’s important to remember that historical accuracy is usually left on the cutting room floor. For example, Wong Jack Man is initially shown as a Shaolin Monk, rather than merely an expert in Shaolin martial arts, and a representative of Shaolin temple fighting monks.
But at this time in Chinese history,the Shaolin Temple was closed; the communists had basically outlawed traditional kung fu in China. What training that took place did so in secret. But somehow Wong Jack Man is a famous fighting “monk” from China. If he had been that famous a traditional martial artist in mainland China at that time he’d have been shot or put in prison and worked to death.