Thursday, May 4, 2017

Learning From Criminals: What we can learn from criminals to keep ourselves safe



By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved



This video has been making the rounds since last month and millions of people have seen it; the video I’m speaking of is the armed robbery at a Jimmy Johns restaurant on April 26, 2017 in Kansas City.  Quickly becoming the topic of conversation both online and among survivalists and those who study self-defense, this video is a perfect example of several habits that criminals exhibit before, during, and after their crimes.

Here I will go over four lessons that we take away from this video that will help us become better prepared for criminal violence when it does occur and help us be able to spot it in advance so hopefully we can avoid it all together.

Here is the video and the lessons we can take away from it are below:



Lesson One: Criminals often use a ruse to get close to their victim.  He could have put on a ski mask and just ran into the restaurant waving the gun and screaming like he was robbing a bank but instead he walked right up to the store employee and ordered a sandwich and even asked about their choices of cheese. 

Criminals know that seldom is causing panic in their victims something they want to do.  Panicked people make mistakes, take longer to complete tasks, behave unpredictably, and might just turn and run away.  Therefore most criminals don’t want to alert you to the fact that you’re being victimized until they are standing right next to you and feel they have control of the situation.  A practice known as an “interview” is the method of choice where a criminal approaches you from a safe distance and engages you in seemingly harmless conversation to distract you while they close distance, and then once they’re right next to you and you’ve lowered your guard and they suddenly attack.

An example of this might be you’re unloading a shopping cart and putting bags of groceries into the trunk of your car and you see a man about to walk by on the way to the store’s entrance but just when is about 10 feet from you or so he says, “Excuse me…I’m running a little late today.  Do you know what time it is?”  Nearly by reflex you put the bag you’re holding down and look at your watch only to look back at the man and see he is standing right next to you and he’s holding a gun and ordering you into the car.

If he would have just walked right up to you then you might have got defensive and perhaps saw him pull the gun from his pocket and started to run away or maybe just caused a scene that drew unwanted attention.  By asking what time it is he appeared harmless and took advantage of a psychological tick we have where our brain automatically tries to answer any question that we’re asked.  Asking questions has the effect on our brain where we switch from paying attention to what is in front of us and we start to think of the answer even if we don’t want to or we are uninterested in the question.  This is a very effective technique for distracting people, getting them and keeping them engaged in dealing with us, and getting them to exhibit predictable behaviors and it is used by everyone from salesmen to psychologists to those who teach the power of effective conversation.

The question about the time seems so harmless and our natural instinct to look at our watch is so ingrained that we do it without really thinking even though common sense tells us that we should probably not take our eyes off an approaching stranger.  We don’t even notice that the stranger who starts the conversation from a distance where we feel fairly safe begins to slowly walk towards us and close the distance with us as soon as we start to answer. When we take our eyes off of them and look down at our watch that is the perfect opportunity for them to take those final quick steps and pull their weapon or strike us without us ever seeing it coming.

Not only is this an effective method for getting close and distracting us but it creates a safety mechanism for the criminal as well.  Just like any predator about to attack their prey, the criminal predator rarely just runs over and attacks his intended victim without carefully testing them first.  While some criminals, often the ones desperate or on drugs, will just rush someone and attack seemingly at random, most criminals will carefully test their intended victims and at any point if they don’t feel comfortable they can just walk away and be just some guy who asked  you for the time and then walked out of your life.

Before a criminal attacks their intended victim they will ask themselves four questions:

Question Number One: Is this person the right target?  When selecting a victim the criminal has to make sure that they’re not wasting their time or putting themselves into a situation that they cannot control.  They want to make sure that they’re confident that the intended target has the ability to give them what they want and is in the right place.  A criminal might find the perfect target but if they’re in a crowded restaurant they probably won’t be able to execute and get away with the crime.

The criminal wants to find someone who appears to be able to give them what they want and is vulnerable.  Vulnerable typically means appears weak, is accessible, and is distracted.   In the same way that a hunting lion targets those of the herd that are young, old, weak, injured, and alone as opposed to the big strong and healthy, no criminal wants to get into a fight and risk becoming injured or arrested so the criminal will often find someone they believe they can overpower and will not try to defend themselves.  Whether criminals realize it or not they are serious students of psychology and most become very adept and reading body language. 

Someone that carries themselves in a way that makes them appear small often lacks confidence and has a more fearful personality so someone with their head down, shoulders rounded, arms held into their body, takes small steps, and has poor posture is probably someone that will instantly give up when confronted violently.  On the other hand someone who carries themselves in a manner that makes them appear large often has a more confident personality so someone with their head up, shoulders back, arms held away from their body, takes long confident strides when they walk, and has good posture is more likely to have the confidence and the emotional capability to try to defend themselves if attacked.
During interviews criminals admit that basic body language plays an important role in determining who they will and who they will not attack.  In fact, serial killer Ted Bundy once stated that “he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the tilt of her head, the manner in which she carried herself, etc . . .”   In numerous interviews criminals have admitted that just like a seasoned poker player folds nearly all their hands and only plays the hands he thinks he can win, the common criminal passes right by most people and only attacks those people they think they can victimize successfully.  Ideally that want someone who is smaller in stature they then are (so take note of someone approaching you who is larger), of a particular gender (depending on what they want to accomplish some criminals only target a certain gender that they feel can provide that thing to them or only feel comfortable attacking women since women are generally weaker), of a particular age (some criminals only target the young or the old), those that are alone, and those exhibiting passive body language.
In addition to body language criminals also admit they look at a person’s walking pattern.  Several studies with convicted criminals have been done where women were filmed walking and then the images were converted into black featureless figures so the only thing that set one woman apart from another one on the screen was their size and how they moved when they walked.  Those women with short strides relative to their height, small arm movements, exhibiting low energy, moving slower, who primarily just shifted their weight forward and backward when they walked, and who primarily just moved their feet up and down when they walked were universally chosen by convicted criminals to be the ones that they’d likely select to rob or rape.
Conversely, those women who walked with long strikes relative to their height, had larger arm movements when they walked, exhibited higher energy, walked faster, who shifted their weight in all three dimensions while they walked, and who’s walk consisted of bigger movements swinging their feet when they walked were seen as less desirable targets to be robbed or raped.
The researchers noted that this seems to correspond to the level of perceived power that the walker possessed.  Those with less perceived power walked with smaller slower movements while those with more perceived power moved with larger and more energetic movements. 

Subsequent studies were conducted with both male and female victims and also included the intended targets wearing clothes.  It was found that when it comes to selecting a male to attack the same rules apply but the size of the intended target becomes a greater consideration in the decision as the larger a man is the more physically powerful he is assumed to be.

When it comes to clothing criminals routinely chose those wearing skirts over pants and who were either barefoot or wearing high-heels over flat shoes.  This makes sense because skirts often restrict movement more than pants and victims can’t move as fast in high-heels or barefoot then they can wearing flat shoes.  Numerous studies have clearly shown that clothing is something that criminals do take into consideration when picking a victim although the level of confidence a person is displaying and whether the person is paying attention to their surrounds or not is of more importance. 

As a side note, although it is widely reported on the internet I have yet to find a single study that shows that criminals prefer to victimize women who wear ponytails over other hair styles.  The thinking is that they can grab the ponytail and use it to control the intended target but if a criminal wants to grab you by the hair it doesn’t matter how it is worn.

In addition to body language and style of walking the level of awareness the intended target is demonstrating is highly important.  Even if a person is small and exhibiting weak body language, if they have their head up and are looking around them to see who is near them the criminal will often determine that they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to them because they’d see them coming and probably just run away or they could possibly have time to pull a weapon. 

Criminals want you to be distracted and they also feel that a weapon is an equalizer to size and confidence.  Even if you’re a guy who is a 6 foot tall, 300 pound bodybuilder and you’re walking down the street with big movements, if you’re looking down with your face in your phone not paying attention a criminal might think you’re a perfect target because they can walk right up to you and take you by surprise.  Once they’ve taken you by surprise and they have that gun or knife in your face they may not be too worried about your size, or they might just walk up and club, stab, or shoot you first and then rob you once you’re on the ground bleeding.

In addition to this your level of accessibility is essential to determining if you are the right victim or not.  They’ll watch you and ask themselves if you’re alone or headed to an area where you’ll be alone?  Do they have the opportunity to approach you later in an area where the two of you will be alone together?  If you’re with someone that could alert you to danger or possibly assist you in fighting back then they’ll probably pick someone else.

If a criminal decides you can give them what they’re after and you exhibit weakness so you will most likely not fight back when attacked then they’ll often watch you from a distance and determine how accessible you are.  If they decide you are a good candidate they may watch you for some time because they know that accessibility can quickly change.  If you’re with friends and they wait it out perhaps your friends will leave and you’ll be alone, perhaps you’ll leave the safety of the group at some point and use a restroom or walk to your car; either way stalking and basic surveillance is important to any criminal and it may take place for a couple of seconds or several hours or even days.

Your level of accessibility is determined by four factors.

1.)  How aware of their surroundings is the intended target?  If a target sees you coming they may attract help, pull a weapon, or even turn around and run away.  The perfect target is distracted and not paying attention to their surroundings at all.  This means the criminal can just walk right up to you and take you by surprise and take control of the situation before you have the opportunity to try to protect yourself.  Therefore it is important to not only be aware of your surrounds but look like you’re aware.

2.)  How freely can the intended target move?  Again, are you wearing tight clothing that restricts your movement?  Are you barefoot or are wearing high-heels that make it hard to run?  Are you limping or have your foot in a cast so you probably cannot move very fast at all?  Are you disabled in any way, perhaps missing a limb or blind? Are you sick?  Are you young or old?  Do you have a child in your arms?  Are you loaded down carrying shopping bags?  All these things are indicators of whether you can move freely to defend yourself or escape.  Therefore it is important that you don’t weigh yourself down with bags or restrict your movement with clothes.

3.)  Who is around the intended victim?  Criminals don’t want other people to come to your aide or be able to identify them.  Ideally the criminal wants you to be isolated so they have totally privacy when they commit their crimes.  Therefore, any time you are going someplace where you’re isolated or if someone is trying to get you to go with them to someplace that is isolated you should be aware that you might be in danger.

4.)  What location is the intended victim in?  A criminal wants totally control over you and the environment when they commit their crime.  They prefer to attack in an area where the intended victim is trapped or has their movement restricted and they’re isolated from anyone that can help them.  A criminal may often follow an intended victim for some time waiting to strike once they enter such an area.  An example may be a criminal who hangs out in a large shopping mall, finds a victim, and then follows them at a distance until they enter the parking lot and then they attack once the victim gets to their car.  In fact, there are certain areas where most violent attacks occur and you should be very aware and cautious whenever you enter these areas.  They include parking lots, parking garages, and out of the way areas like elevators, public bathroom, and hallways.  Essentially, if there is an area where a lot of people congregate or have to go (shopping centers, schools, banks, ATMs, etc), any area around that area that gives a degree of privacy (parking lots, alleys, bathrooms, back hallways, etc.) are a likely area for a criminal to strike.  Parking lots and gas stations remain two of the most dangerous areas you can be in and deserve special vigilance when you are there.

After the criminal has decided that you exhibit the right passive qualities, you are distracted, and you are accessible and in the right location they will go to the next question:

Question Number Two: Can I approach unnoticed?  Any criminal has to get close enough to you before they can attack you and this is where the level of awareness you display really comes in.  If you are standing in a parking lot unloading your shopping cart and placing bags into the trunk of your car but while you do that you are glancing around and taking note of everyone you see, even though you may be “right” in all the other ways the criminal may determine that they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to you without you noticing. 

A great method of deterrence that numerous studies with convicted violent criminals have confirmed to be effective is to simply make eye contact for a brief second with everyone around you.  Since a criminal wants to go unnoticed until they are very close and ready to attack having their intended target make eye contact with them from afar will send the message that they’ve been “seen” and will normally make the criminal chose another victim.  Eye contact is also an assertive action as most passive people lower their eyes and don’t make eye contact so this also communicates to the criminal that you just might try to fight back.

It is important to note that you want your eye contact to be very brief as anything other than a quick moment of eye contact could appear to be a challenge to others who would see you as a potential rival.  Unfortunately the tribal mentality is alive and well in some people and a woman who is out seeking a man or a man who is out in what he believes to be “his territory” might take more than a quick second of eye contact to be act of aggression by one of their same sex.

Another benefit of making brief eye contact with those around you is to take advantage of a technique called the “look away.”  If someone is watching you, perhaps sizing you up, they don’t want to be seen watching you.  If they see you look at them they will suddenly look away as if they’ve been caught doing something wrong.  If you ever make contact with someone and they quickly look away and act like they’ve been caught watching you then that means they have been watching you and you should take note of them as a potential attacker.

One additional method to determine if someone is watching you is to yawn and then quickly look at them.  Yawning is, in fact, contagious and if they yawn right after you then that means that they were most likely watching you.  One thing to keep in mind is you have to make sure that no one in the area was yawning already because you want to rule out them yawning in response to someone else, them yawning anyway because they were tired, or you yawning in response to watching them and not realizing it.  While this method seems a little weird or nonscientific it was taught to me by a former CIA officer who said it is one of many legitimate counter-surveillance techniques he learned during his training.

Lastly on this topic, this is also where not being alone can be an effective deterrent to crime and having a dog can be either better.  Not only does a dog pose a physical threat to a criminal (assuming you get a larger dog) most dogs will see you coming a mile away and alert their owner well in advance.  Having a dog, especially a big dog can be a great deterrent against criminals.

Question Number Three: Can I invade their personal space?  At this point a criminal has observed your body language and overall behavior and determined you can give them what they are after, you probably won’t be able to fight back, you’re alone, and they approach you from a distance without you seeing them.  They’re now standing maybe 10 feet or so away from you and the question is can they invade your personal space without you stopping them.

Everyone has a bubble of personal space around them that they feel violated if it is encroached upon.  While a stranger asking you for directions from 8 feet away may not make you feel threatened if the same stranger was to ask you for the same directions while standing 3 feet away it probably would.  The problem for the criminal is whether or not they can invade your personal space so they can put their hands on you, or pull their weapon, without you trying to stop them.  This is another example of why criminals love to target people who are distracted and not paying attention because they can just walk right up and invade their personal space without them realizing it.

The last thing a criminal wants is to start to invade your personal space and have you try to stop them or make a scene to alert others.  If these happen then the criminal will typically just go find someone else to target.

A criminal will use some tricks to distract you while they invade your personal space so that hopefully you won’t notice when they do it or at least you won’t try to stop them.  The typical method, known as the “interview,” is to approach you like they were going to walk right by you and then once they are near you, but still at a safe distance, they will engage you in conversation and probably ask you a couple harmless questions to distract you.  Here are some typical interview techniques that are commonly used.

-Asking if you have a cigarette or a light.  If they get lucky you will look away to retrieve one for them which will give them the excuse and opportunity to walk right up to you.  If don’t have either they might switch the subject and ask a different question.

-Asking for the time.  Here they hope you’ll look down at your watch and give them a brief moment to close the distance or attack you.  If you’re in this situation always say, “no” or keep looking at them and bring your watch up to your eye level so you can keep your eyes on both at the same time.

-Asking for directions.  This is probably one of the most popular.  First, it gets them an excuse to talk to you.  You can yell out what time it is to someone from 15 feet away but getting directions is a more detailed affair so they have an excuse for wanting to get closer.  This is also used by criminals in cars quite a bit where a car will stop next to you and either the driver or a passenger will get out and ask for directions.  At any other time you’d think you might be in danger but it could seem reasonable that a lost person in a car might stop and ask someone for directions. 

Second, by asking for directions they appear lost which makes them appear vulnerable and your natural reaction is to want to help them instead of see them as a threat.  Third, it gives them an excuse to talk and tell you how they became lost and this drawn out conversation can be used to get you to lower your defenses or to inch their way closer to you little by little.  Fourth, it gets you to stop and think.  When asked where the nearest gas station is or how to get to the local hospital you will instinctively come up with the answer in your head even if you don’t want to and since directions can be complicated and you might have to decide which location is closer than another or perhaps even which is open at this hour you may have a few things to think about and this gives the criminal a great opportunity to get close without you noticing.  Fifth, it gets you to look away.  The best case scenario for a criminal is that when they ask you for directions that you look and point over in the direction they need to go.  They want to get your attention off of them and out “there” in the direction you need to go and while you’re not looking at them they can get closer or even attack.

An old misdirection trick used by magicians, pickpockets, and other criminals is to get you to take your eyes off of them and get you to look at something they’re holding. A typical method would be to have a map with them.  Not only will this prop make them a more convincing lost person which will increase your likelihood of helping them but the map can be used to hide their weapon so either you can’t see it until it’s too late or anyone passing by will not be able to see them point it at you once they get close.  The other use for it is to get you to focus on it.  Even if you don’t want them to get close to you if they hold the map out to the side at arm’s length and then point to the map you will naturally be drawn to focus on the map and once you’re looking at it they’ll just walk right up as if they’re sharing the map with you and you probably won’t even notice that they’re picking your pocket, pulling a weapon, or even that they’re now standing next to you.

Question Number Four: Do they exhibit passive or fearful qualities?  This is the last question a criminal will ask themselves and they ask themselves this question at each stage from selection of their target, to stalking, to closing the distance, to launching their attack.  They want you to be passive and not try to stop them when they walk right up to you so throughout this process they test you little by little to see how you react and how much they can get away with.

All predators test their prey before they attack.  Even a shark that is large, powerful, and has you out of your natural element and into his won’t just swim up and launch their attack.  They’ll test you a few times to see how you react just to make sure that they’re not in danger.  First the shark will swim up and bump into you to see if you’ll turn and attack.  If you don’t then it will often swim up and give you a quick nibble and then quickly swim away to see if you’ll turn and attack then or if you’re good to eat.  Since humans are not their natural food if a shark does bite a human they will typically notice the unfamiliar taste and spit it out and just swim away.  When people survive shark attacks they usually do so because they are at this stage of the attack.  However, if the object they bit was something the shark wants to eat the shark now knows that the object is both tasty and won’t fight back so now it goes in for the full attack.

The point is that when a predator chooses their victim they are very picky and let most people pass by.  When they find the right person they will continually test them to see if they are in fact the right victim.  They might observe their target for a few minutes without the target noticing and thereby pass that test.  Then they might be able to walk up to them unnoticed and pass that test.  Then the criminal might be able to invade their personal space without them objecting and that is a big test that they just passed. The ultimate test of course is if you let them touch you.  How much you let them get away with before you object or try to stop them, and if you do whether some simple intimidation will get you to back down, is the test.

Each step gives them confidence to do the next step, however, if at any point the intended victim responds with confidence and aggression instead of fear or passivity the whole thing may be called off.  If the criminal stands 8 feet away and asks for directions but you tell them “no” or (my personal favorite) “I’m sorry, I’m new to this area but there is a store right there and I’m sure they can give you directions there” in an assertive manner there is a good chance they’ll just walk away and pick someone else.  When you refuse to help them you fail their test and they will often try again by seeming more desperate, getting aggressive, or just taking a big step towards you and if they do that you have to become very assertive and tell them to stop.  If you assertively communicate to them that you will not tolerate them invading your personal space they’ll realize you will most likely create a scene which will get the attention of others and probably attempt to fight back. 

How much they will test you after you assert yourself depends on how badly they want you for a victim and how much attention they are willing to draw but here 99% off all criminals will leave at this point or well before.  If a criminal doesn’t leave at this point they probably will try to kill you.

You also have to be prepared to deal with intimidation.  Typically if a criminal looks at you and sees that your assertiveness is solid they will just walk away, however if they don’t think it is 100% solid or if they are more desperate to victimize you they may see if they can get you to back down with by first telling you a sad story about their situation and trying to close the distance again, and if that doesn’t work they’ll become aggressive and see if they can intimidate you into backing down.  If you can keep firm and show them that you won’t be intimidated that sends a clear signal to them you don’t plan on being victimized today and they’ll almost always leave.

Two other important tests criminals give is if you’re walking can they get you to stop.  If you’re walking or driving and a criminal engages you and is able to get you to stop they will consider that an act of compliance and passivity on your part.  If you’re walking or driving and someone is trying to get you to stop don’t stop moving unless you know it is safe to do so.

The other one is if they come to your home and see if they can get you to open the door.  Contrary to what movies show most home invasions don’t happen in the middle of the night they happen during the day with most happening about dinner time.  It makes sense if you think about it, a home invader wants to gain access to the home, overwhelm its occupants, and gather everyone in one room to control them.  In the middle of the night everyone is spread out all over the house in their respective rooms and someone could use that to get away or contact the police.  In the stereotypical nuclear family during the day the kids are at school, the husband is at work, and the wife is home alone so there is only one person to overpower and control and you know exactly where she is because she is standing in front of you answering the door.

The reason dinner time is when most home invasions occur is because it is towards the end of the day and people are winding down and dropping their guard and everyone is most likely grouped in one place.  You can kick in the front door, rush in, and catch everyone right there at the dinner table.

The front door is the main point of entry for most burglars and home invaders and they’ll either force the door open or get you to open it for them.  They’ll often knock on the door and say they’re lost and ask for directions, pretend to be a delivery guy (some even steal UPS uniforms and show up with a box with your address on it), say their car broke down and they need to use your phone, say they’re injured and they need help, say they accidently hit your car, or they accidently hit your pet. 

This is why it is important to use your peep hole and leave the door shut and locked until you identify exactly who is there.  If someone needs help tell them to stay there while you call for help, and don’t rely on door chains to keep someone out.  If you open the door even a few inches they will usually throw their bodyweight against the door and force their way in.

The real lesson here is to understand how this testing process works and be able to spot it and fail their test it when it happens.  The sooner you can pick up when a criminal is testing you the better you will be able to send a strong message that you are way more trouble then you’re worth.

Lesson Two: Most criminals will get close to you and put the weapon right next to you or in your face.  Whenever I teach handgun disarmament one question I almost always get asked is, “how do you disarm someone who is 8 feet away?  After all only a complete idiot would actually walk right up to you and stick a gun in your face where you have an opportunity to take it away.”  I agree but not all criminals are bright.

The thing to keep in mind is that a criminal sees their weapon as their source of power.  Instead of understanding that a handgun is a tool whose purpose is to kill they use it as a tool to intimidate.  A criminal will naturally want to get as close to you as possible and they’ll want to put the gun right in your face if they can because this allows them to feel in control.

Another reason why criminals will put their weapon right in your face is because they know that once they’ll pull their weapon that you’ll most likely focus on that and if they stick it right by your eye you won’t be looking at their face.  Many people who have had a gun put right in their face clearly remember looking into the barrel but don’t remember the criminal’s face even if they got a good look at it and some criminals rely on this.

The truth is that if a criminal wants to shoot you they will most likely just walk up and shoot you but if they want something from you they will want to get close to you and how close they get to you depends on how comfortable they feel with you.  There are things you can do to make them feel comfortable enough with you to make them want to walk right up and hold the gun against you where you can simply reach out and take it and there things you can do that will make the criminal nervous where they’ll back up and keep their distance.  If a criminal is close enough to you then you have a chance of disarming them.

Lesson Three: Very few criminals know how to properly use a gun.  Most criminals have little to no training in the correct use of firearms.  The typical criminal is not out at the range practicing good fundamentals; when their gun is not held in the face of a victim it is tucked in their waistband or kept in their sock drawer.  This is another reason criminals like to get close because most don’t know how to properly align the sights and aim the gun so to hit anything they need to be close.  This is also a reason why 97% of single gunshot wounds are not fatal and why if someone pulls on gun and you turn and run away you’ll have about a 98% that they won’t shoot at you.

Two reasons that this video is so popular is because the restaurant employee is so calm that it seems like he doesn’t even feel threatened.  The other reason is that he actually was in very little danger since the gun that was put in his face was basically just a paperweight at that moment.

If you look at the video you’ll see that when the robber pulls the gun he racks the slide but he makes the mistake of holding onto the slide as it goes forward and his hand interferes with the action enough that the gun gets what is called a “stovepipe malfunction.”  You can clearly see the slide is back and a round is sticking out of the ejection port.  That guy can pull the trigger all day long and it won’t fire until that malfunction is cleared.

You can see that when the robber notices this he actually tires to hide the gun from view to hide the malfunction.  At this point he already showed the gun to the employee so he was trying to hide the fact that something went wrong.  However, once he tells the employee to open the register and he hesitates (it is not clear if the employee hears him at this point because at first he spoke very softly) the robber then puts the gun right in his face to give him the encouragement.  Even when he knew he couldn’t shoot anyone with the gun he still decided that he had passed the point of no return and stuck it right in their face anyway.

It is thought that perhaps the reason the employee was so calm was he noticed that they gun cannot fire however during interviews with the press he didn’t mention that he even noticed this.

Lesson Four: Criminals are often stupid.  This criminal, who was caught mere hours later, made a lot of stupid mistakes.  First, the reason he was robbing anyone is because he needed to pay off his drug dealer.  The lesson here is don’t get involved with drug dealers.

Next, he robbed a place with a high risk of being caught and a fairly low risk of payout.  I don’t know how much money he needed but robbing a fast food place like that isn’t very smart.  He said he thought about robbing a gas station or a McDonalds but he chose the Jimmy Johns because the thought the lights were dimmer.

Now I had to rewrite this because I just realized that I wrote three pages on how I would rob a store and my concept of a “soft” vs “hard” robbery I don’t want to give any ideas.  However, he showed his face to everyone putting it clearly on camera, wore very identifiable clothes, and then stayed in the area after the robbery.

After the robbery Jimmy Johns called the police and then this video got put on YouTube pretty much right away.  A couple of hours later a retired police officer who’s friend had emailed him the video notice the man standing in front of him at the 711 was the robber and he called the police who then stopped his vehicle and arrested him shortly afterwards.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Take on Bruce Lee


By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved


Note To Readers:  This is an opinion piece about my feelings about Bruce Lee and how they were formed.  If you don't agree with them that is fine.  If you decide to comment please remember that is an opinion, I admit that all stories are biased and have to be taken with a grain of salt, and I state that I might not know the truth because I wasn't there.  However, these are the things that form my opinion and I have as much right to mine as everyone else does.



There is no doubt the impact that Bruce Lee had on the martial arts world and cinema in general.  Even though he died in 1973 he still appears on magazine covers and people are still making movies and videos about him and his teachings.  There is no doubt that the practice of martial arts would not be so widespread and popular today if it wasn’t for him.  For that, we all owe Bruce Lee a debt of thanks.

That being said, I never cared for Bruce Lee.  Even though being a lifelong martial artist I’m not only expected to revere him but also get a partial erection at the mention of his name I have never been a Bruce Lee fan, in fact I’m more of a Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris guy.

One of my first martial arts instructors was a family friend who was quite skilled in both the Dragon and Cobra systems of Kung Fu.  He had learned them while he stationed overseas during his military service.  When I would meet him on the weekends hee would show all kinds of wonderful things and then he’d tell my about this great master named Bruce Lee.  I was quite young and had never heard of this guy but from the stories my instructor told me I thought this Bruce Lee guy must have been the greatest master ever to live.  I became hooked and wanted to learn everything I could about this great man named Bruce Lee.

One day after a workout he handed me a VHS tape and told me it was a copy of the greatest martial arts movie ever made…and it starred none other than Bruce Lee himself.  I was so excited that as soon as I got home I put it in right away…and then my heart sank.

You see, I was a young kid in the early 80’s and I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about the martial arts.  I would always tune into the ABC Saturday Afternoon Matinee because often they would play martial arts movies.  A lot of them were downright stupid but they were the only exposure I had to martial arts for a long time so no matter how dumb they were I watched them eagerly.  There was one movie they showed more often than other martial art movies and I couldn’t remember the name but it starred a skinny Chinese man with horrible acting skills.  The movie made me cringe especially since the guy was so over the top screaming that I knew that my dad, who hated martial arts, would walk into the room and have to make some hillbilly comment.

This skinny Chinese guy in this Saturday Matinee wasn’t a very good actor and every time he screamed I cringed because I thought he made martial artists look stupid, he had that very uncomfortable shot where he kills Bob Wall’s character by jumping on him and makes a bunch of faces that to me looked like he needed to use the toilet, and to be honest I didn’t think the fight scenes were very good.  I had seen a lot of martial arts movies with big elaborate fight scenes but to me it looked like he just threw a bunch of fancy kicks and I wasn’t impressed at all.  When that movie came on I’d watch it but I wouldn’t be excited about it.

To my dismay when I put that VHS tape in and hit play, readying myself to see the greatest martial arts movie ever made, and then that came on my heart sank.  This was it?  This guy was Bruce Lee?  Out of respect to my teacher I learned more about Bruce Lee and he even let me borrow a stack of old karate magazines filled with articles about Lee.  I tried to get excited but I just couldn’t.

The more I learned about him the less impressive he seemed.  He was well known for his power, speed, and overall prowess and that was impressive but then I also read that he trained for over 5 hours a day every day.  If anyone trains that much they will of course get very good after a couple years and if they put 10-15 years of that kind of training it they have no other choice but to become awesome.  This is one of the main reasons why the old Chinese masters were capable of incredible things; training was a main focus of their daily life and after 30 plus years of training over 5 hours a day there was no way they could be anything other than incredibly skilled.

People wrote about Lee’s focus and drive but to me he seemed like a guy with obsessive compulsive disorder.   Instead of being impressed by his focus and ability I felt sort of sad for him because to me it appeared to be kind of a compulsion.  I read that even at parties he would sit by himself and didn’t really open up unless someone wanted to talk about martial arts.  He did have other talents but if the only thing you can talk to other people about is martial arts then that just doesn’t seem healthy.

Bruce Lee grew up a rich kid in Hong Kong with a father who was a famous actor and his mother was from the Ho-Tung Bosman Clan which was one of the wealthiest families in Hong Kong. They have been likened to the Kennedys or the Rockefellers. Lee was rich and spoiled and got the acting bug early, in fact thanks to his father he appeared in 20 different movies during his youth.  By all accounts he was a little punk, a gang member (the gang was called “Tigers of Junction Street”) who ran around and got in fights all the time, often with off-duty English soldiers and sailors and on rooftops.  Rooftop fights were frequent in Hong Kong and very popular among the youth.   Some of the rooftop fights were to settle arguments and other times they were arranged for money.  By all accounts Lee we active in both the fighting and administration of these fights.

When he wasn’t acting he was running the streets causing trouble and it got so bad his father used his influence and money to get him into the most prestigious martial arts school in Hong Kong owned by the famous Grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu, Ip Man.  

Bruce Lee as a child

4 month old Bruce Lee's immigration documents prior to him leaving San Franciso where he was born

Bruce Lee learned Wing Chun from Ip Man for two years, starting at age 16 in 1957 until he left Hong Kong in 1959.  Even though Lee had only two years of training in Wing Chun and didn’t learn the complete system he did get something other students didn’t; his fellow students said that he showed such interest that he regularly trained in private with Ip Man which was unheard of.  Even in Ip Man’s school the regular training was done by senior students and it was said that the number of students who learned directly from Ip Man, even occasionally, can be counted on one hand.  Regardless of whether it was Lee’s enthusiasm for the art, his father’s money, or the fact that very few other students wanted to work with Lee due to his mixed ancestry (Lee was 1/4 English according to a statement given by his mother to US Immigration ) as to why Lee was singled out and often taught directly by Grandmaster Ip Man and his most senior student, it was a great honor.

Bruce Lee posing with Grandmaster Ip Man


 Bruce practicing Wing Chun on the wooden man

It is obvious that Bruce Lee knew martial arts but how much he really knew is up for debate.  He trained in Taijiquan under his father but it is unclear how much he actually learned from him.  Lee only received instruction in Wing Chun from ages 16 to 18 so even though he learned from a famous grandmaster he still only had 2 years of training in what was supposed to be his primary style.  Lee openly admitted he didn’t learn the entire Wing Chun system and there is a story that after Lee got famous he went back to Ip Man and offered him a large amount of money to learn the final forms he’d missed but not only did Ip Man refuse,  he threw Lee through a wall.  How much of that is true?  Who knows but we do know that 2 years is hardly enough time to learn that much.

Lee did study western boxing in school and even won a championship in 1958.  His brother, Peter Lee, studied western fencing and he also practiced with him.  So to his credit we can say that in addition to some Taijiquan and two years of Wing Chun Lee was also an accomplished amateur boxing champion and knew some western fencing.  Plus, Lee fought regularly growing up so he did quite a bit of actual fighting experience.

People then say that when he came to America he learned Judo from Gene LaBell and Tang Soo Do from Chuck Norris and they rattle on 20-30 names of recognized experts he trained with and try to convince you that he learned their style.  This is partially true at best.  It is a fact that Lee trained with Chuck Norris, for example, and that Norris helped him with his kicking technique but some people claim that because of this you can say that Lee knew Tang Soo Do and this just isn’t true.  While Lee did train at different times with Norris, LaBell, Ed Parker, and other recognized names he learned a few things from each of them but he did not actually enroll in their schools and spend years going up through the ranks to actually learn their styles.


If you think about it, the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do (the name Lee gave his method of martial arts), which is to learn from everyone and only “absorb what is useful,” it makes sense because Lee didn’t have the opportunity to learn a complete and entire style.  Giving everything I’ve ever read Lee probably had somewhere around an intermediate level knowledge of actual martial arts and his skill came from training feverishly in what he did know.

All this "absorb what is useful and discard what is not" and "style is a prison" stuff to me sounds like b.s. from a guy who didn't even know one style himself.  If you don't know a complete style then really how can you accurately judge the usefulness of knowing and following a style?

Lee came to the US in 1958 at the age of 18 and started teaching in 1959 in backyards and parks and then opened his first school in 1963.  He opened his second school a year later in 1964 with is senior student being head instructor.  He famously fought Wong Jack Man in 1965 (more on this later) and afterward decides he needs to alter his style because it was too slow and ineffective and then later the same year he has his son Brandon.  The next year, 1966, Lee starts filming “The Green Hornet.”

Young Bruce Lee with wife Linda and young son Brandon

Lee teaching young Brandon how to punch

 Interesting note about “The Green Hornet,” Lee did not get the role because he was skilled in martial arts.  The truth is the director thought Lee might be crazy because he started kicking things, swinging nunchakus around, and asking him to feel his muscles during the audition.  Lee got the role because he was the only Chinese actor they found that could correctly say the leading actors name correctly (Britt Reid).

Shortly after this Lee becomes famous and charges up to $250 an hour for private lessons (with inflation that would be like charging over $1,800 an hour today) to celebrities like Steve McQueen, James Coburn, James Garner, Lee Marvin, Roman Polanski, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. 

In 1967 Lee opens his third school and “The Green Hornet” series ends.  Then in 1969 his daughter Shannon is born.  In 1970 he injures his back while lifting weights and begins keeping a training journal of his methods that after his death would be published as a book called the “Tao of Jeet Kune Do.”

Lee's Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in LA with some famous faces

In 1971 Lee moves to Hong Kong, signs a contract with Raymond Chow, and begins filming his first big movie “The Big Boss.” In 1972 Lee films scenes for “The Game of Death,” the “Chinese Connection,” and “Return of the Dragon.” In 1973 he begins filming “Enter the Dragon” and that year on July 20th he dies.

That is a brief overview of Lee’s life.  The point of going over that is to show that while he might have been a great fighter he didn’t have time to become a true master of the martial arts.  Lee’s time was spent either teaching, running his schools, parenting, cheating on his wife, or working in the TV and movie industry and he didn’t have the time to go to a legitimate master while in the US and learn from him for 10 plus years to learn the higher aspects of the arts.  Sure, he could punch and kick really well but that doesn’t mean he had a master’s grasp on the arts.

The people that knew him say that while fighting Lee really only used a couple techniques and they were all from Wing Chun.  Lee used a “straight blast” (charging forward with rapid vertical punches in your centerline) and classic Wing Chun finger attacks to the eyes and throat.  All these are highly effective during a real violent altercation but don’t show a huge depth of knowledge.  This doesn’t take anything away from Lee (I have a small handful of techniques that I consider my “go to” techniques as well) it is just that it doesn’t add evidence of advanced learnings.

 Lee teaching showing a Wing Chun technique that goes for the eyes

Bruce Lee’s general attitude and behavior were another reason why I never really cared for him.  By all accounts Lee was a cocky egomaniac who loved to cheat on his wife. His first serious girlfriend (who turned him down when he purposed), Amy Sanbo, stated that he cheated on her and she wished Linda (the woman he did marry) luck because she knew he would do the same to her too.  Amy Sanbo went on record calling Lee a “macho pig” on more than one occasion.  Lee did cheat on Linda repeatedly and when he died he was in his mistress’s apartment.

 Lee's mistress in Hong Kong

A good reason why I don’t care for Bruce Lee can be found in the story of his fight with Wong Jack Man in 1965.  Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man (wrongfully portrayed in an upcoming movie called “Birth of the Dragon” as a Shaolin Monk) fought privately with only a handful of witnesses but the accounts by witnesses are very different.

Lee’s camp tells two different versions (which is instantly suspicious), one by Lee on camera during an interview, and the other by Linda who was one of the witnesses.  The basic version is that the Chinese martial arts community was mad at Lee for teaching non-Chinese and challenged him to a fight to settle the matter.  Wong Jack Man, a respected master who taught Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Northern Shaolin Boxing, was selected to fight Lee and the fight was very one sided.

The version I hear the most is that the fight lasted 2-3 minutes at most and ended up with Lee chasing Wong around and punching him in the back of the head.  Lee’s camp said that right at the beginning of the fight as Lee began to attack Wong jumped back, went on the defensive, and then turned and started to run away. 

They even say his students tried to jump in and stop the fight.  The version Lee told during a taped interview added on that he threw Wong to the ground, got on top of him, held his fist menacingly in his face and made him state that he gave up.  Linda’s version goes further and said that instead of threatening him with his fist Lee pummeled him “into demoralization” and made him say twice that he gave up before he stopped hitting him.

I don’t believe these versions at all, after all either Lee beat him bloody or he didn’t, why the two different versions?   Wong and some of the other witnesses tell a different version that makes more sense but also has some anecdotal evidence to back it up.  Plus Wong was an established and respected master in the community while Lee was still a young upstart trying to build his legend.  There is a monitory interest for Lee and those trying to make money off of his image to tell things a certain way.

Wong’s story is that the fight had nothing to do Lee teaching non-Chinese and the Chinese martial arts community never openly challenged him like Lee claims.  Instead, he says that Lee (remember he was in his 20’s and still immature) was a cocky little shit who ran around talking shit about the Chinese martial arts community and saying that no one could beat him.  Lee openly challenged almost everyone he could find and he quickly gained the anger of the martial arts community. Even people in the Chinese martial arts community that tried to befriend him found it very difficult due to his ego and his constant disrespect of established masters.  In the Chinese culture respect for one’s elders is very important and by all accounts Lee showed very little.

One story is that he challenged a well-known master named T.Y. Wong, or "Professor Wong" as he was known (his full name was Wong Tim Yuen).  Lee had a very successful go of it in Seattle at the time with a very successful school, great reputation, and he has just defeated another popular kung fu expert to further grow his status, however in the summer of 1964 he moved to Oakland, California to further his collaboration with the likeminded James Lee (a former student of T.Y. Wong) and take advantage of San Francisco.  At the time the US had to main centers for marital arts, Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area, all the top masters and best fighters (Chinese and non-Chinese) were coming out of these two areas.

 San Francisco's Chinatown around 1950

The heart of the martial arts community in the Bay Area at the time was Chinatown and the martial arts community, and Chinatown as a whole, was regulated by T.Y. Wong and Lau Bun.  T.Y. Wong was a master in Shaolin Kung Fu, who ran the Kin Mon Kung Fu School, and Lau Bun was a master in Choy Li Fut, who ran the Hun Sing Kung Fu School, and they were enforces for the Hop Sing Tong (Chinese Mafia).  It was their job to collect debts, settle disputes, curb drunken behavior at nightclubs, train Tong soldiers, and regulate the community as a whole to minimize police involvement. 



 Master T.Y. Long preforming techniques from Shaolin animal styles

 Fellow master and Tong enforcer Lau Bun with senior students at his school

Both T.Y. Wong and Lau Bun were incredibly skilled and tough as nails, which is why they were recruited by the Tong, and being part of the martial arts community in the Bay Area at the time meant dealing with one or both of these two.  These men took their job seriously and didn’t allow the martial arts community in Chinatown to devolve like it had in Hong Kong where youths were brawling every day and organized fights on rooftops were common.

Lee had a run in with Lau Bun in Chinatown when he first arrived in the US.  Reportedly 18 year old Lee walked into Bun’s Hun Sing School and was acting cocky so Lau Bun threw him out.  This caused a rift between Lee and the martial arts community at the time and shortly after Lee left for Seattle.  When Lee got back to the area in 1964 he found the martial arts community there, and Lau Bun, remembered exactly who he was only now he was a better fighter and a lot more cocky.

The story goes that Lee walks into the Kin Mon School and openly challenged Master T.Y. Wong to a fight but since Wong was a friend of Lee’s father, and being a long time Tong enforcer he had nothing to prove, he didn’t think it was appropriate for them to fight so he declined.  Lee didn’t take “no” for an answer and asked several times.  Finally when Lee got the message and turned to leave Lee suddenly turned back and tried to sucker punch Master T.Y. Wong.  Master Wong slapped Lee across the face, told him to leave, and then walked away.  The students present to this disrespectful act spread the story through the Chinese martial arts community and many people became very angry with Lee about his cocky and disrespectful behavior.

Check out this video to see pictures of T.Y. Wong and a demonstration from one of his students

 Check out this video to learn more about the famous Grandmaster Lau Bun

 When news of this altercation spread throughout the community many local kung fu practitioners wanted to attack Lee out of revenge on behalf of T.Y Wong but he spread the word that Lee was merely “a dissident with bad manners” and this act of charity, most likely out of his friendship with Lee’s father, probably saved Lee’s life.

On an interesting side story that shows how the Chinese martial arts community operates, James Lee, the likeminded Kung Fu practitioner who Lee had left Seattle to collaborate with and authored his book “Chinese Gung Fu: the Philosophical Art of Self-Defense with, was a former student of T.Y. Wong who left on very bad terms.  One unlikely story is that the contentious split was caused over a disagreement about $10.  The version James Lee tells later in his book “Wing Chun Kung Fu” is that one day James Lee was practicing a form in the studio when he noticed T.Y. Wong’s son practicing the same form but it seemed a little different.  He watched the youth practice and he realized the kid was practicing the same form he was but a different version.  The version the kid was doing was much more refined and meaningful and then he realized that Master Wong was teaching others a watered down version of the art and keeping the real version for his own family (a common practice among Chinese masters) and T.Y. Wong’s refusal to teach him the “real” version is why he left and what fueled him to become like Bruce and seek a more meaningful version elsewhere.

James Lee who is credited with introducing Bruce Lee to bodybuilding

About the event James Lee writes in his book, “I realized later that the whole repertoire was just a time-killing tactic to collect a monthly fee. In disgust, I quit practicing this particular sil lum [Shaolin] style.”  The feud between James Lee and T.Y Wong was legendary throughout the martial arts community and was probably one reason Bruce chose to challenge Master Wong.

The book Bruce Lee and James Lee published together, Chinese Gung Fu: the Philosophical Art of Self-Defense,” even had a section on the various styles of Chinese martial arts that seemed like it was a purposeful insult to the entire art of classical Kung Fu.  They showed sections with “slower” styles versus “more effective systems” (Bruce’s system) and in it James Lee, who played the part of the “slower system,” even wore his old uniform from the Kin Mon school.  This was an obvious slap in the face to the Chinese martial arts community and further fueled their contention with him.


Lee would give demonstrations and put out an open challenge saying that no one could defeat him.  In a place with some of the best martial artists in the world this really angered the entire marital arts community, both Chinese and non-Chinese.  Wong Jack Man challenged Lee not because he was teaching non-Chinese but because he was becoming an embarrassment for the Chinese martial arts community and making them look bad in front of the rest of the martial arts world. 

It is said that during demonstrations Bruce wouldn’t just criticize classical martial arts but he would engage it what was described as “heavy handed lectures” describing traditional martial arts as “dry land swimming” and a “classical mess.”  His famous presentation at the Ed Parker Long Beach Tournament is said to have been especially harsh when he got up in front of on an international audience full of well-known masters and their students and started to ridicule their arts, even down to the usefulness of the horse stance, and one witness named Barney Scollan said of Lee’s demonstration, “He just got up there and started trashing people.”

Merely weeks after that demonstration, with the martial arts community still upset over the disrespectful comments made by a man still in his youth who had not even mastered one entire system himself, Lee gave another public comment at the popular Sun Sing Theater in San Fransicso about Lau Bun and T.Y. Wong saying, right in their own backyard, that “these old tigers have no teeth.”  Such a comment about two very well respected masters who, do to their long standing role as Tong enforcers, probably had more fighting experience than he did  was not taken lightly and it became obvious to the entire community that something had to be done about Lee.  It was this public insult that was most likely the final straw that caused Wong Jack Man to take up Lee’s open challenge.

Their fight was scheduled and then rescheduled a few times because Wong Jack Man wanted a civilized fight with rules but Lee wanted it no-holds-barred.  When Lee wouldn’t budge Wong agreed but had no idea what he was getting himself into.  In the accounts from Lee’s camp they state that in the first few moments of the fight Wong jumped back, was put on the defensive, and basically ran away.  Wong himself said that did happen.

Wong Jack Man

The purpose of the fight was for Wong to teach this young upstart a lesson, not to actually kill each other, but he said that when Lee squared off he looked like Lee wanted to seriously injure him.  Master Wong was a very high profile master and defeating him would have been a definite statement to the martial arts world and Lee wanted to beat him so bad that he wanted to treat the contest like a death match.  Even though it was no-holds-barred Wong naturally assumed the contest would be something where afterwards they’d shake hands and go their separate ways, he had no idea what Lee had in mind.

Just as they were squaring off Lee said to Wong, “You’ve been killed by your friend.”  This referred to a close friend of Wong’s that had helped to set up the fight.  This statement greatly troubled Wong who expected a heated but friendly contest.  This statement was the first clue he got that let him know that Lee was out for blood.

The two met surrounded by their witnesses and bowed and just as they were coming in for their customary handshake Lee launched at Wong’s eyes.  Lee’s first move was to suddenly launch a spear hand attack at his eyes, a permanently disfiguring and potentially lethal strike, and Wong was taken by surprise and barely avoided the blow.  During the actual death matches in China the eyes, throat, groin, and knees were primary targets and Wong naturally assumed these targets would be off limits but as Lee charged forwards with a series of attacks directed at his eyes and throat he had no doubt that Lee was actually trying to kill him
.
Wong said that he did jump back because Lee’s use of lethal strikes and tenacity took him by surprise and he did go on the defensive and then try to get out of there once he realized that Lee wanted to turn it into a death match.  He states that Lee chased him punching him in the back of the head and then he realized that Lee wasn’t going to quit so he started fighting back.  However, since Wong had no intention of killing Lee, Wong had decided before the match that he wouldn’t use his kicks; Wong was very well known for having very powerful kicks and he felt that using them would be irresponsible so he told his witness beforehand that he wouldn’t use them and he didn’t.

Wong stated that he held back when fighting Lee and didn’t use any lethal techniques while Lee did the opposite continually trying to attack his eyes, throat, and groin. Perhaps if Wong had not held back then maybe he would have beaten Lee.  He did say that a couple of times during the fight he wondered if he was going to be forced to kill Lee in order to survive.

Wong also said his students did try to stop the fight when they saw Lee unleash a flurry of potentially lethal strikes during a non-death match but they were waved off.

Wong states the match lasted for 20 minutes or so (most likely happening in bursts and then backing off to catch their breath) and basically ended in a tie when Lee was too winded to continue.  Lee does state that he was upset with his physical condition and how quickly he got tired during this fight and that was when he decided to kick his physical fitness training into high gear.  After the fight Lee asked that the results of the fight be kept private and Wong agreed.  Shortly after Lee started talking about the fight, just not using Wong’s name, and since everyone in the Chinese martial arts community knew the fight took place they just assumed he was talking about Wong.  With the privacy agreement violated by Lee himself, Wong and his witnesses then came forth with their version but by then Lee’s version was the one people already knew.

Wong’s version of the fight was published in Chinese paper and he included the challenge that if Lee had an issue with his account they could fight again but Lee never commented on the article, Wong’s version, or the second challenge.  With Lee’s ego it would seem to me that if Wong was lying Lee would have made a big public deal about it and not kept silent about it and then left the area.

There are many reasons why I believe Wong’s version of the fight.  First, Lee’s camp said that Lee beat the snot out of Wong and Linda said he struck him in the face several times.  However, eyewitness saw Wong the very next day and the only sign of a fight he had on him was a cut above his eye he sustained from Lee’s first eye jab.  Wong even worked a full shift (he had a day job as a waiter) and was seen by many people.  If Wong had been beaten up he wouldn’t have been able to work a full shift the very next day let alone only have a small mark on him
.
David Chin, a witness and respected martial artist, said the fight “went both ways.”  Chin had nothing to gain by slanting his version in either direction so if it was such an easy victory why would Chin state that it was basically a draw?

Also, why would this be that catalyst for Lee to revamp his entire system if he won so easily?  I can see changing a couple of things here and there but to totally revamp your system and go as far as to say that your system “doesn’t work” sounds like he didn’t win at all.

Another issue is who is more credible; would you take the word of an established master who has spent his life perfecting his art and living by the Wu De (martial code) or would you believe a 20 something punk and former gang member who is fighting for publicity and notoriety so he can build his legend and profit from his schools?  Personally I would believe Wong Jack Man long before I’d believe Bruce Lee or those profiting from his image.

If Lee had won would he have closed down his school in the area and then totally changed his style because he thought it was ineffective?  To me those aren’t the actions of a guy who had easily won a match.

All this goes to show Lee’s overall behavior and character and why I just never liked him.  It should be remembered that Lee died at age 32.  If Lee had lived a ripe old life then maybe he would have lived long enough to mature and treat others with respect (including his wife) and he might have become a great master but to me he comes off as a cocky little shit that had OCD like tendencies when it comes to martial arts.  

A lot of people like Bruce Lee because they saw his movies growing up and they were the first of their kind that they saw.  Lee's fans will always have a love born out of nostalgia for his movies but I never had that.  I grew up having seen several Jackie Chan movies and by the time I saw a Bruce Lee movie to me it just wasn’t as good.  Bruce Lee was not a very good actor (something even a lot of his fans admit) and I saw nothing special about any of his fight scenes.  From what I saw his fight scenes consisted of screaming (which I couldn’t stand), basic hand techniques, and high kicks.  As far as I’m concerned you could have taken Lee out of any one of his movies and put in Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen, or Jet Li and achieved results just as good, if not better, then you got with Lee’s fight scenes (plus none of that annoying yelling).  

I even went and re-watched some of his big fight scenes on YouTube before writing this just to make sure I still felt that way and I do.  Jet Lee’s “Fist of Legend,” a remake of Lee’s “Chinese Connection,” is vastly superior in both acting as well as the fight scenes.  This leads me to firmly believe nostalgia is one of the big reasons people love him, and that is fine, people can love Lee all day long and I have no problem with that; it is just a love that I don’t share.

While I have no issues with anyone that is a fan of Lee, I find most people that are fans can be put into one of three categories.  The first category is people who actually knew Lee and respected his charisma and talent.  By all account Lee was a brilliant fighter and I won’t even try to take that away from him (he's just not a martial arts master) and people that knew him really did love and respect him.  Since I did not actually know him or anyone that did I would humbly defer to them.  Granted, from what I’ve read, for every person that knew and liked him there were probably an equal number that didn’t due to his arrogant behavior or maybe even jealousy.

The second category is people who have a nostalgic love for his movies because they either saw those in their childhood or at another important time in their life.  The love for his movies runs deep but I also find that most people in this category don’t know that much about him.

The third category is people, often martial artists or, if not practitioners themselves, martial arts enthusiasts, who were told by their instructors or the media that he was “the best” and so they believe but don’t really know a lot about Lee themselves.  I find that this main category, and the one above, gets most of their information about his life from “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” and are unaware that very little of what occurred in that movie actually happened.

While there are people out there who have an encyclopedic knowledge of his life I find most of his fans know very little about him.  This of course doesn’t take anything away from him it is just that I find it disconcerting that most people that I see walking around wearing Bruce Lee tshirts know nearly nothing about the man on their shirt.  I even got in a conversation years back with a guy that told me Lee was “very humble” and he would not have done anything like the disrespectful act of getting into a fight in the street.  It is funny because this couldn’t be more wrong as he fought all the time on the street in Hong Kong as a kid, challenged everyone left and right in America, and even accepted challenges from people on the set of “Enter The Dragon.”
 
I also almost hate to include this but there are several stories of Lee being a recreational drug user.  In fact, when Lee was autopsied he had traces of marijuana in his system.  The reason why I almost didn’t include this is because today the stigma of marijuana is largely gone but back in the 1970’s there was a huge stigma about it in the US, and while the stigma was nowhere near a prevalent in Hong Kong it still existed.  To be fair to Lee, the doctor who performed his autopsy concluded that Lee was most likely chewing the marijuana leaves and not smoking it.  He was suffering from headaches a lot during his later years (probably from all the blows to the heads from fights much like NFL players get) and this was probably how  he treated himself for the pain, and it could even have been prescribed by a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine for all we know.

Lee’s family doctor, Dr. “Don” Langford and neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Wu both saw him when he was hospitalized just two months before his death when he passed out on the set of  “Enter The Dragon.”  Both believed that his use of marijuana lead directly to his death as he may have had an allergic reaction to it or it may have reacted to the painkiller he took just before his death and that reaction may have killed him.  Lee’s preferred method on consuming marijuana was to either chew it or ingest it in cookies or brownies and it would seem that his method of consuming it is more potent (As someone who has not smoked marijuana since their teenage years I honestly don’t know, rather I’m simply inferring based on the doctor's conclusions).

Lee may have also been abusing steroids.  There is only one person making the claim that Lee used steroids and his is a man named Tom Bleeker.  Bleeker was both a private student of Lee, married his wife Linda after his death, and coauthored “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” with Linda.  Bleeker is considered one of the foremost experts on Lee’s life and claims that he did years of research going through court records and interviewing everyone he could find with ties to Lee for his book “Unsettled Matters: The Life and Death of Bruce Lee.”  In his book he writes: "The issue of Lee's steroid use is complex, but the main thing that I wanted to get across was that steroids damaged Bruce physically and emotionally. Like so many other athletes who have used them Bruce paid a heavy price. I know that there will be those who will scream and yell that never in a million years would Bruce use steroids."   He concludes that Lee’s supposed use of steroids led directly to his death.

It should be noted that with all the people that knew Lee this guy is the only one making steroid accusations and by the time he published his book he was divorced from Linda so he could have been a bitter ex-husband.  Plus, having some good “dirt” is one of the best ways to sell a book.  He claimed the reason Lee wore a yellow tracksuit in “Game of Death” is because he stopped using steroids for a time and lost a lot of his muscle.  This doesn’t see to hold water though because here is a picture of Lee on set of that movie doing what appears to be pushups on his thumbs and one of him onset shirtless and he appears as muscular as ever.

A last interesting fact about Lee that I'll give was that in 1963 Lee was almost drafted by the Army but he was deemed unfit for service because he had one undescended testicle and one of his legs was an inch longer than the other.

The last thing I’ll say is that I, of course, don’t know the real truth about Bruce Lee.  He was dead before I was even born so all I have are the accounts of people that did know him.  Every account is biased and has to be taken with a grain of salt; however, enough stories about Lee are similar enough for me to come to this conclusion about him.  Maybe I’m wrong; perhaps he never tried to sucker punch Master T.Y. Wong in his own school, I honestly don’t know.  I just find Wong Jack Man’s and David Chin’s accounts of Bruce Lee more believable than anyone else’s.  



Note:  After publishing this article one thing I would like to amend is my statement about Lee only being able to talk about martial arts and having a singular interest being not healthy.  Looking back at that comment I have remember that Lee was a school owner; as any professional martial artist who runs their own school can tell you it is a lot of work and if you want to make it a success you often end up nearly living at your school, getting their early in the morning and staying until 10 or 11pm.  After a while many instructors find that their dojo has become their life; their job is at their dojo, their friends are all at their dojo, their social life revolves around their dojo and the arts, and their free time is almost nonexistent, at least for the first couple of years while they’re building their student base
.
Since a martial arts school is in fact a small business and the owner is often the only employee it requires your full attention and most instructors wind up fairly one dimensional at least for a while.  It happened to me and it happens to most instructors.  I’m not saying it is “right” and I’m not saying it is healthy (it is not) but it is just the way it goes so I honestly can’t claim that is a fault in Lee.