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The Asian ApertureThe Dragon and the Tiger Book Review
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, February 6, 2011    Share

Despite the fact that all the classic Bruce Lee movies were filmed in Hong Kong, his martial arts skills really developed in the United States.
While pursuing Haslam's Used Bookstore in Downtown St Pete on Central Ave, I ventured to the Martial Arts section and spotted The Dragon and the Tiger by Sid Campbell and Greglon Yimm Lee. The book chronicles a young Bruce Lee arriving in San Francisco and then moving to Seattle and Oakland. The Dragon of the title is Bruce Lee and the Tiger is James Yimm Lee, who pioneered martial arts instruction manuals. James Yimm Lee was a welder living in Oakland who practiced kung fu in his spare time. He wrote some of the earliest known martial arts books ever in the U.S. Lee wrote the text and collaborated with fellow martial arts enthusiasts to take step by step photographs to bring illustrations to aid the text. Also, Lee printed up the books himself and sold them from his home through mail order ads.. His early books are highly collectible today. Eventually his path would meet up with Bruce Lee and a long friendship would develop that helped Bruce Lee move away from traditional Kung Fu to a more progressive martial art system that Bruce created called Jeet Kune Do.
When Bruce Lee was a preteen, he was extremely disliked by his fellow peers. One day they waited after class and beat him severely. This led Lee to seek out the boxing style Wing Chun. Bruce spent 4-years mastering this boxing art and won all of his roof top challenge matches. Bruce Lee loved to fight and his increasing involvement with street gangs put a strain on his father who was a Peking Opera Star and actor in highly successfully Hong Kong movies. Bruce's parents decided to send him to America to confirm his American citizenship, (Bruce Lee was born at The Chinese Hospital in San Francisco Chinatown, which is still around,) and to avoid the Hong Kong police who were threatening to take the young Lee to jail.
Bruce Lee arrived in San Francisco and stayed with a family friend. Lee's father was on tour in New York City and Lee went to visit. Bruce Lee was at a great loss of what to do because his Wing Chun teacher, Yip Man, was back in Hong Kong and Lee's skills were just not developing. Through Chinese friends in NYC, Bruce Lee met up with Sifu Gin Foon Mark, a teacher of southern Praying Mantis. Lee's skills increased through Sifu Mark's instruction and key elements that would be present in Jeet Kune Do were in development. Mark stressed freestyle sparing vs set two men patterns and this had a major effect on Lee's own martial arts philosophy. A two men set is a type of drill where two students stand facing each other. One student throws a punch and the other student blocks, punches, or kicks back depending on the technique being learned. This type of training is ok for developing basics but cannot compare to hard full contact sparring, which is more like a real street encounter.
Following his crash course in Praying Mantis, Lee returned to San Francisco and moved to Seattle where he worked as a busboy and later a waiter at Ruby Chow's restaurant in exchange for a small apartment located above the restaurant. The daily grind of cleaning tables did not sit well with the 18-year old Bruce Lee. He yearned to get out of this low paying job with no future. Also, his temper would flare up anytime a customer demanded service and tried to argue with Lee.
Growing increasingly wearily with his current plight, Lee began teaching his friends Wing Chun. He was able to quit his job and become a teacher full time. Soon, he was sought out by the best martial artists all over the West Coast. This led to Bruce meeting up with James Yimm Lee in Oakland. James was an inventor who designed his own martial arts training equipment. Lee was impressed with all the various equipment in James' basement and this influenced Lee to have his own specialized equipment made for him. James also helped Lee to create his first published book called Gung Fu that has step by step pictures of Kung Fu basics, different styles, kicks, punches, and blocks, etc. This was the start of a long friendship between the two men. James became Bruce's student shortly after.
After Bruce Lee married Linda, they couple moved into James's house in Oakland, CA. It was doing this time that the first Bruce Lee martial arts school opened in Oakland, (the exact location is now a Toyota dealership.) This was actually Lee's second school as another school in Seattle was operating. It was in Oakland, training with James and others that Jeet Kune Do was born.
The book The Dragon and the Tiger does a great job of telling the story of how Bruce and James met. It also shows Lee's martial arts growth.
The main problem with the book is the many typos that should have been corrected by an editor before publication. For instance, one of the picture captions read “Bruce Lee's very fist commercial Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.” To which, you can insert your own jokes.
A lot of the sentences are poorly written and awkward that makes reading a chore when you have to stop and translate the bad English into something that has meaning.
On the plus side, the book does a good job describing Bruce Lee's young adult years in the U.S.
If a better editing job was done, this would be a great book instead of just being average. If this is your cup of tea there is also a second volume.
Rating: Due to numerous bad sentences and typos 3 out of 5.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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