Wei Kuen Do- The Way of the Integrated Fist
Gm Leo T. Fong is the founder of the art. Leo is an actor, author, boxer, martial artist, and former Methodist Minister who has been making films, acting, and directing since the early 1970s. Wei Kuen Do is complete system and its deeply rooted in Jeet Kune Do as a result of the time that Leo spent training with Bruce Lee. The principles and concepts of WKD are a reflection of the philosophies of combat developed by Bruce. Other elements can be found within the art of WKD such as : Serrada Escrima, Arnis, Western Boxing, Coy Lay Fut, Northern Shaolin, Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, and Wing Chun.
About Grandmaster Fong
Leo Fong was born in Canton, China and immigrated to the United States at the age of five years old with his mother to join his father in Widener, Arkansas where he ran a small grocery store. He is a graduate of Forrest City, Arkansas High School. He received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Physical Education from Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, a Masters of Theology degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and a Masters of Social Work from University of California in Sacramento, California. Let’s explore the exciting life of Leo Fong and the journey that lead him to Bruce Lee and the discovery of his ultimate truth.
His Martial Arts Journey:
Leo’s martial arts journey began at the age of 7 years old on his first day of school. Being the only Asian in school, a group of students surrounded him at recess and began to sing racial slurs at him. When he returned home, his father asked him, “How was school?” Young Fong replied, “Great! Everybody likes me. They even sang to me.” His father asked him, “What did they sing?” Leo replied, “Ching-chong Chinaman.” The father turned red in the face and said to Leo, “They don’t like you. Don’t you know they are making fun of your racial heritage?” The next day at recess, the playground teacher organized a softball game and Leo was designated to play first base. One of the kids hit a single and ended up on first base. He looked at Leo and remarked, “Chink!” Leo punched him in the nose, knocking him to the ground. Unlike his cousins who dropped out of school because of racial intimidation, Leo choose to remain in school and fight. As he encountered other bullies, Leo developed an affinity to fighting. During this time, there were no martial arts schools in Arkansas so Leo sought out the American fighting style of Western Boxing. At the age of 12, he bought a boxing book, “The Fundamentals of Boxing” by the former world welterweight champion, Barney Ross. Leo read the book from cover to cover and then he hung a pillow in his room as a punching bag and proceeded to follow the instructions in the book. The instructions he practiced from the Barney Ross book helped him refine his punching skills and he was able to defend himself quite effectively. He learned early on from the instructions in the book that the left jab and left hook were very effective punches. Bullies who came to him with racist attitude and aggressive wild swings were destined to be knocked out by jabs and hooks. He learned early that a left jab could set up for a left hook or a right cross and with those three punches Leo Fong prevailed against school ground bullies. He had his first formal boxing match at the age of l5 years old and while he lost a close decision, he learned much from fighting in front of an audience. After graduating from High School, Leo enrolled in Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas to study for the ministry. It was at Hendrix he joined the boxing team and received his first formal boxing lessons from an old professional fighter by the name of Kirby “KO” Donoho. In his first year of competition Leo won 7 of his first 8 fights and he scored 5 first round knockouts – all with his left hook.
In his second year in college, Hendrix College decided to disband its boxing and wrestling programs but the local National Guard Unit in Conway, Arkansas invited Leo to join their team. Leo won 5 fights that year with Company G, and also reached the Finals of the Arkansas State AAU Tournament. Leo scored one of the quickest knockouts of the tournament in his quarterfinal fight. He won the second fight by a decision and lost a close decision in the finals to a boxer he had beaten previously in college competition. After his 1950 AAU Tournament competition, Leo continued to compete in three other events; two college tournaments of which he won both by knockouts and the Southwestern AAU Tournament. At the Southwestern he scored a first round knockout, won on a forfeit and was knocked out in the finals. It was after the knockout that Leo decided to retire from competition.
The following summer Leo was hired by the Dallas Board of City Missions of the United Methodist Church to work as an athletic director at Rankin Chapel in West Dallas, Texas. He developed a very strong boxing team at Rankin and some of the members won regional championships in their first year in competition even though none of the boxers had any boxing experiences before Leo’s arrival at the center. After graduation from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Leo was assigned a church in Sacramento, California. This was 1954.
While driving down K Street in Sacramento, Leo noticed a sign on the window of a Dance Studio that read: “Jiu-Jitsu School”. Leo stopped, ran up the stairs and met Bill Luke, the owner who was also a dance instructor. Luke said he had trained under a Judo instructor by the name of Bruce Tegner. Leo trained with Luke for over a year until Luke relocated to Southern California.
Then, Leo heard that there was a Judo program at the Sacramento YMCA so he joined the Y and enrolled in the Judo program. The instructor was Bob Bendicts and Leo received a green belt under Bendicts after over a year of Judo training.
Tae Kwon Do:
In 1958, Leo had met a Tae Kwon Do instructor at Sacramento State University, who held a 4th Degree Black Belt. He agreed to train Leo and two other friends who worked for the Sacramento Fire Department. After three years of training, the instructor (Chong Yuk Yong) graduated from Sacramento State University and decided to return to Korea.
Also in 1958, Leo was speaking at the Jones United Methodist Church in San Francisco, California and after his speaking engagement he went to Chinatown to have lunch. By chance he saw an elderly Chinese man standing on the corner of Jackson Street and Grant Street in Chinatown and he asked the old man if there were any Kung Fu schools in the area. The old man replied, “There’s one down there near the park, and one up there near the Baptist Church on Waverly Place.” Leo asked him which one is the best and the old man laughed, “It’s up to you. An old man runs the one near the park. The one up near the church is run by a younger man.” Leo decided to go with the old man near the park because he thought the older man would have more experience. It was there in a cellar basement kwoon that Leo met Choy Lay Fut Grandmaster Low Bun. That first meeting with Grandmaster Low Bun was an interrogation session as the old man wanted to know the reason that Leo wanted to train in Gung Fu. Finally after about 30 minutes of questioning, Low Bun agreed to train Leo in Choy Lay Fut. Leo commuted to San Francisco Chinatown every Friday evening for over three years, until one evening someone suggested he should check out the Sil Lum School. He and a friend went to the Sil Lum School and at the school there was a student standing in front of the mirror doing forms with small dumbbells in his hands. When he finished, he turned around and introduced himself to Leo, this was James Yimm Lee who would later Introduce Leo to Bruce Lee (no relation). James Lee invited Leo to join the club and he did, this was the beginning of a long-standing friendship with James Lee.
Bruce Lee/ Wing Chun/ Jeet Kune Do
During this period Leo continued to commute from Sacramento to San Francisco every Friday to train with T.Y. Wong at the Sil Lum School until James and Professor Wong had a falling out over ten dollars. James told Leo about the incident and said he was quitting the club. Jimmy said that he would be starting a class in his garage in Oakland and that Leo was invited. Leo followed Jimmy and trained in his garage until 1962 when James told Leo about a young Gung Fu expert named Bruce Lee who would be appearing at Wally Jay’s Annual Luau in Oakland. When Leo found out that Bruce was only in his teens, he was skeptical of his ability. However, at the demonstration, Bruce quickly erased any doubts about his fighting skills, as he demonstrated his speed and explosiveness on several volunteers from the audience. The following Monday after the Luau, James invited several martial artists to his house to meet Bruce. Leo was present in that small gathering. Thus was the beginning of a ten-year relationship with James and Bruce until both of their deaths. During the intervening years, Leo, Bruce and James had many discussions about martial arts and martial artists. Bruce was particularly fascinated by Leo’s boxing skills and his position as a professional minister in the United Methodist Church. On one occasion Bruce asked Leo why he trained in so many different systems of Gung Fu and Leo responded that he was looking for the ultimate. Bruce smiled and said, “Man, there ain’t no ultimate. The ultimate is in you” (as he pushed his index finger on Leo’s chest). Leo was a little confused at the point so Bruce then elaborated. He said to Leo, “With your boxing skills, learn a little grappling, learn how to kick, learn some trapping and you will have the ultimate.” As Leo thought about what Bruce said, he immediately remembered the words of the Gospel in which Jesus said, “The kingdom is within you.” Little did Bruce realize how much influence those words would have on Leo’s life journey as well as his martial arts journey.
Leo began to look inward rather than outward and he began to let go of the need to train at five different styles of martial arts to find the ultimate. Bruce encouraged Leo to seek his own truth and he reminded him many times that a good teacher is one who points the finger to the door but does not go in with the student. The student must enter in and discover for himself what is truth.
Leo also had an impact on Bruce and his martial arts style – Jeet Kune Do, as Bruce began adding the boxing punches and approach to fighting. At the class in Jimmy’s garage, Bruce had everyone getting into classic the Bai Jong stance of Wing Chun with the lead hand high and the rear hand low (by the solar plexus). Leo told him that he didn’t like the position and Bruce said “What do you prefer?” So Leo got into the modern American boxing stance with his lead hand low and his rear hand by his cheek. Bruce took one look at him and said “I like it because I can’t trap your lead hand.” And then Bruce just walked away and let Leo train that way. Over the next few years, Bruce completely changed his primary fighting stance and eventually adopted more of a boxing stance as his own.
The Birth of Jeet Kune Do and the Wong Jack Man Challenge Match
There are many controversies over the birth of Jeet Kune Do and many of the second and third generation practitioners believed JKD was born in Los Angeles. Leo dispelled the myth that it was born anywhere else except in Oakland. In the middle 60’s, a Kung Fu instructor by the name of Wong Jack Man immigrated to San Francisco to teach Northern style Kung Fu. He was also employed at the Jackson Café in Chinatown as a waiter and it didn’t take long for the word to get out through the Kung Fu community that Wong Jack Man was one tough fighter. Even one of Leo’s close Wing Chun friends, Lucky Chan of Sacramento said that Wong Jack Man had the “vibrating punch.” When he hit you, the Chi will vibrate all the way through your body and leave you helpless, much like a Taser Gun. Leo told Bruce about this and he said it was just a lot of B.S. Eventually, one event led to the next and one of Wong Jack Man’s friends brought the news to Bruce that Wong Jack Man wanted to challenge him. The messenger (who instigated the bad blood and was also a Kung Fu practitioner) fueled the flame, going between San Francisco and Oakland with “Wong said this about you to Bruce” and then he would go Wong and say “Bruce said this about you and etc.” Finally, Bruce ran out of patience and told the messenger to tell Wong Jack Man to come to Oakland and settle it once and for all. The match was to be held at a Kwoon on Broadway Street in Oakland that James and Bruce had opened together. When the group arrived, Wong Jack Man had about ten students with him and he immediately wanted to discuss rules. Bruce said, “Hell with rules. Let’s fight.” They squared off but as soon as Bruce advanced, Wong Jack Man turned and ran around the room. Finally, Bruce caught up with him in a corner of the room, grabbed his throat and was about to finish him off, when Wong Jack Man yelled out in Chinese that he wanted to give up. Bruce made him say it in front of his ten students. Leo was in Stockton at the time since it took about 2 hours to drive to Oakland so Leo missed the fight. After it was over, James called Leo and told him that as soon as Bruce hit him with his forward Wing Chun blast Wong turned away and ran and Bruce could not catch him. During the fight, Wong Jack Man scratched Bruce’s neck as he ran around swinging his arms. When Bruce got on the phone, he said to Leo “Man I need more angles. The forward blast is limited against a mobile target.” Leo suggested to Bruce “Go boxing, Bruce – hooks, uppercuts and crosses.” The following week when Leo arrived for his weekly training, Bruce was in James’ basement practicing a repertoire of punches on a glove hanging from a chain. Bruce was moving around like Muhammad Ali and this new approach to combat gave birth to the creation of his art called Jeet Kune Do.
Contact us for more information about Wei Kuen Do
Location: Our kwoon meets at The Dance Conservatory 2050 East Main Street Cortland Manor, NY 10567
If you live in the areas of Somers, Peekskill, Ossining, Mahopac and Cortlandt Manor then you are close enough to come train with us!