Principal photography begins today on ‘Birth of the Dragon’ in Vancouver, British Columbia. A Groundswell Productions film, Birth of the Dragon will be helmed by The Adjustment Bureau‘s George Nolfi and will tell the story behind the legendary 1960s fight between Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man and the young Bruce Lee.
The fight between the two was controversial, so the movie should be too.
According to Lee’s camp, the fight was held in private after Man and people from his circle critisized Lee for schooling Caucasians in the martial arts. When the fight began, within one minute Man began running away from Lee, who punched him the back of the head repeatedly until his own fists began swelling. Lee then took Man to the ground and pummelled him into submission.
However, the other side of the story – not published through book deals and the like (maybe that is most telling) is that Lee was showing arrogance, challenging every martial arts instructor in the Bay area. A showdown with Wong Jack Man occurred, with Man dismissing Lee because he knew Lee’s father. Lee was allegedly so aggressive that Man slapped him and told him to leave.
The Man camp (not Man himself though, who does not speak publicly about it apart from one rebuttal after the fight in a Chinese newspaper) claims that the fight eventually went ahead in private after Lee publicly stated at a martial arts event that he was the best martial arts teacher in the Bay area. A fight was then arranged between both men with the agreement that the loser shut down his dojo.
During the fight, team Man alleges that Lee immediately and repeatedly went for Man’s eyes, but this didn’t stop Man from being technically superior and eventually defeating a gassed Lee. Two months later, Lee shut down his school and altered his style of fighting.
Personally I lean towards the idea that Wong Jack Man humbled a young Bruce Lee. Lee’s account doesn’t ring true to me, from a throw down POV. Although the cult of personality makes this difficult to sit with fans of Lee. I wonder how the fight will be presented in the movie. Lee’s account sure doesn’t make for a good finale, a three minute run around a floor. The Man account of a 20 minute battle sounds better, even if it wasn’t true.