Sijo James Demile Q&A

The following was taken place in the Temple Discussion on 04/10/01 between regular vistitors of this site:
(Jt, Drunken Master, Mike, Jen, Simon K, Guy, Kevin, DaveR, RBG, Nick, Derek, Hector Martinez, Toayb Hamidi,
Medicine Man, Guy, Damian)

With Sijo James DeMile, friend of Bruce Lee and founder of Wing Chun Do.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello and welcome, Mr. Demile to the Temple of the Unknown forum. We hope your visit here is a pleasurable one. We thank you for this great opportunity in sharing your vast info and knowledge with us.

Temple of the Unknown: Mr. Demile, Thanks for helping clarify the distinctly different periods of Bruce Lee's teaching. During the early Seattle period did Bruce prefer to obtain "superior position" in phon-sao training? Also, do you have an estimated time frame for the publishing of the new WCD books/videos? Thanks for coming to this forum.

James DeMile: Aloha Mike, Bruce always maintained a superior position in trapping. This required the opponent to come through his energy. It was also a much stronger position for controling the opponents offensive/defensive actions and reactions. From the superior position you could control angles for attacking and all movements only required a minimum of enegy.

Temple of the Unknown: Is there any question that you wish people would ask you about Bruce but never do, and is there a question that you wish people just wouldn't ask?

James DeMile: Aloha, I cannot think of any question that I would say is pointless since I assume the question is given with sincerity. So far as what people do not ask, I find people do not seem to understand the difference between a fight and a tournament. People always seem to make their questions relate to the the martial arts side of Bruce rather than the fighting side. I wish they would explore the realistic side of Bruce's skill in the street, rather than compare him to tournament fighters. I read some of the comments by Joe Lewis and he always compared Bruce to the martial arts image that everyone saw and yet the Bruce that I knew would have blown Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris and anyone else for that matter that acquired their reputation by playing the game of tournaments.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello and thanks again for joining us here in the Temple.

How and when did you first meet Bruce Lee?

James DeMile: Aloha, I met Bruce in late 1959 at a school named Edison Technical school. It was on Capital Hill and is now known as Seattle Community Clollege. I attended a demo he did and immediately signed on as a student. He had only recently arrived in the Seattle area and had already started teaching his first student, Jesse Gloveer.

Temple of the Unknown: How would you say training with Bruce changed you for the better? Was there certain techniques that you either abandoned or picked up? Also is there ever a time when you get tired of talking about Bruce and want to move on? Thanks for taking the time to come to the forum.

James DeMile: Aloha Kevin, I never get tired of reflecting on my time with Bruce because there were only a few of us who have the memories that are part of his Legacy. I was a heavyweight boxer in the Air Force. Over a four year period I had over a hundred fights and never lost one. I had a very big ego and perceived myself as the toughtest man alive. I was 5ft 10inches and weighted 225. I could knock a man out with either hand. Then I met a small 135 lb 5 ft 7 kid who believed his martial arts could beat anyone. I decided to explain the reality of fighting to him and proceded to show him what street fighting was all about. Needless to say I learned humility in about 5 seconds. He not only stopped me cold, but tied me up in such a way that he could hit me at will and the only thing I could do about it was... nothing. Later I reviewed all my previous skills, including boxing and threw all of it out as it was impractical against Bruce's skills.

Temple of the Unknown: Welcome Mr. Demile.

First, what is your position on the various questions regarding Bruce Lee's actual ability as a fighter?

Second, What ultimately happened with the Bruce Lee film project that you were involved in, and how did you feel about "Dragon" the film that was finally made?

Thank you in advance.

James DeMile: Aloha Guy, The movie "Dragon was a sad waste of time. It was 98% untrue. My project "Bruce Lee's Seattle years" is still being put together. I will probably just do a version for video release. Most of the questions about Bruces fighting skills are asked by people who did not know him. Most of the answers are from people who either did not know him or related their answer how Bruce would have done in a tournament. Joe Lewis is very out front with his comments and yet he always compares Bruce to either his tournament days or some world champion. I really enjoy meeting these people and always look forward to giving my opinion on why Bruce was the best street fighter I ever knew. Not pound for pound, but against anyone in a street fight. I was never in a tournament and had many street fights and I have never seen anyone that I would have been scared to fight, regardless of their Belts and trophies. This goes for UFC and K1. I'm not saying I could beat all of them, I am just saying they are tough, but so what. People do not understand what Bruce did in a real fight. They relate his skills to the movies or JKD. No, that was martial arts. Fighting is survival. It is mean, ugly and stupid and someone can reall be hurt or killed. Bruce knew he could be hurt if he got hit, that is why he believed a street fight should not last over two seconds and his personal skills were designed for that attitde. I am very opinionated and willing to discuss with anyone my belief in why Bruce was the best fighter I ever knew. And I still feel that way, 42 years later.

Temple of the Unknown: many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions on the forum. It is through people such as yourself that we get to know and understand the real Bruce Lee.

1) In your book 'One and Three Inch Power Punch' you detail Isometric exercises, these don't seem to be used to often these days, how effective do you think they are for strength development?

2) Did you ever have the pleasure/misfortune of being on the receiving end of Bruce's one inch punch? How did it feel?

3) What do you consider to be Bruce's greatest attribute? From an outsiders point of view I believe it to be his ability to 'Bridge the Gap'

Many many thanks Mr DeMile, all the very best to you and your family.

James DeMile: Aloha Simon, Isometrics can help in your twitch response as well as develop certain power potentials. Yet, in reality, it only takes 10 pounds of pressure to knock someone out, so power is not really a factor. I was knocked out on my feet by a 15 year old who weighted as much as one of my legs. Power is more for the psychological side of training as well as general health. I helped Bruce devlop the Power Punch. It originally was a technique from Wing Chun, but Bruce felt it required too much distance. So we experimented with different stances, power sources as well as trying different angles of strike. Yes, Bruce hit me, many times, but always to explore the various effects of new technique. Once the punch was developed, Bruce asked me not to tell anyone about it, since it was his ace in the hole. It was not til the early seventies that I saw Bob Wall do it and invited him to my club so I could show him my punch. I knocked him across the room and he was so impressed he said I should write a book on the punch. And I did. That was about 1973. Bruce's greatest attribute. I do not think it was Closing the gap because it is not that hard to close the gap, once you know how. I would have to say it was Bruce's ability to shut you down offensively and defensively. All during the time trained with Bruce I really tried to hit him. I would have been very happy if I could have knocked him out. I still remembeer the many times he used me as a dummy to demonstrate his skills, and the frustration of trying to really nail him. He always had this slight smile as he made you feel like you were trying to swim up a waterfall. Bruce had many great attributes, but I have seen people who could punch, kick and close as fast as Bruce did. Of course, they were different people.

Temple of the Unknown: Mr. Demile,

I'd like to ask one more you have a favorite memory of Bruce?


James DeMile: Sorry for the delay. I lost my connection and had a hard time getting back on. I am in a little town that has a server that wears a Mickey Mouse hat. Anyway, My fondest memory of Bruce would have to be the times we sat in my apartment and just hung out. The stories he told of the old masters and the fights he had in Hong Kong are still etched in my mind. Also, he was just 18 and had a lot of dreams. It was fun listening to his fantasies. Little did I know.

Temple of the Unknown: Taki Kimura has told us how Bruce helped him to overcome the racial prejudice he'd been put through over the years, had you also experienced this and did Bruce help you to overcome it at all???

Thank you,

James DeMile: Aloha DM, Taky spent years in an internment camp. He lost all his confidence and self identity. Bruce helped him regain his self respect. I did not look at Bruce that way. I was from a fighting background and related from that standpoint. Bruce taught me humility. Not intentionally, but still he was responsible for me stepping back and taking a new look at myself. If I was not so tough, then who was I. I had always related to myself from a physical point. I had respect because I was tough. Now I had to explore and look for the answers to the questions Bruce had created. It was a definite turning point in my life and had profound long term effects as I matured into a person I came to really like.

Temple of the Unknown: Hi,

I've been trying to figure out WHY Bruce could have been poisoned... Chow seems more evil the more you find out about him, with the success of ETD Bruce would have left HK behind and made his own films in the US without Chow, With BL being the best martial artists in and out of the film business the HK film industry would have been left standing. In fact it would have wrecked it... That DOES make sense as to WHY he could be murdered. Bruce was worth more dead than alive, thats all I was told, and thats WHY isn't it!!!!!!! So if many people were involved, it would be Linda for Bruce's affair with Betty (Maybe), and Chow, Lo Wei and most of the HK film industry for possible estroying their industry and since you couldn't kill him in combat, he'd need to be poisoned, and that I believe was done using a two part poison. Maybe taint his food, months before which would explain his sudden weight loss, then on 20th July he took part two of the Poison, Steroids, Equagesic??? That triggered the cerebral Adema, Thats my theory, do you think I'm on the right track??? Do you think Linda was involved if it was murder??? You don't have to answer that if you don't want to, but it'd be great if you could,

Thanks in advance,

James DeMile: Aloha, I wish I had an answer to your many questions. I try not to speculate since I have no factual reference to pursue the questions that will never be answered.

Temple of the Unknown: Dear Mr DeMile,

It's a real pleasure to have this opportunity to ask you a few questions about Bruce Lee :-

1/ Bruce was well known for having a real violent temper. Was this present a lot in his early US years when you spent a lot of time training with him. Did he have a real bad temper and how often did you experience it when you were in his company?

2/ How was Bruce treated by his fellow students at the University of Washington. Did he have a reputation for being a Gung Fu expert or was he looked down upon for being Chinese?

3/ Did you ever see Bruce Lee in a real fight and how good was he as a real fighter in your opinion?

Thanks very much for your time.

James DeMile: Aloha Nick, Yes Bruce had a temper. He had a very short fuse and if you embarressed him in anyway, you quickly found that you made a mistake. Bruce had a very fragile ego. He was quick to respond to any potential threat, either real or imagined. Bruce was a fantastic martial artist, but as a person, I did not know him as well as Jesse Glover, Taky Kimura or his wife Linda, so I hesitate to delve into his emotional history. I think that Bruce was very frustrated at the UW. Most people looked at him as a clown who was always the center of attention. You must remember that the UW students were interested in school and social activities, not martial arts. We live in a "gun" society and most people think of a weapon when thinking of self defense. At the UW Bruce was just another one of 1000's of students. Since the UW is very muli ethnic I don't think his being Chinese was an issue. I never saw Bruce in a real fight. Jesse Glover did. He was at the fight Bruce had with a Karate expert who did not like Bruce. Jesse's description sounded much like my own experience with Bruce. It was a quick lesson in Humility.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello, Mr. Demile. Do you recall if Bruce ever played any practical jokes on you?

James DeMile: Aloha RBG, Bruce was always playing practical jokes on people. I never had him play one on me, but I participated in a number of them that were done on other people. He would wear white eye contacts and pretend he was blind. Then he would read the menu with his fingers. Or he would pretend he was the Chinese ambassador and we would surround him like we were his body guards. Bruce loved to joke around and be the center of attention. He was just a kid a heart who had a tremendous skill.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello James. Just a quick question regarding Bruce and the art of Wing Chun. When Joe Lewis was on this forum a while ago he stated that Bruce in his later days, considered Wing Chun and specifically "trapping" a waste of time. I find this hard to believe, what are your views? Also when was the last time you spoke to Bruce? Thanks in advance..........

James DeMile: Aloha Dave, I am sure Bruce could have said it, but not for the reason that Joe Lewis thinks. Trapping was the key element that gave Bruce a tremendous edge when in close to an opponent. Bruce, after his fighting period, never taught his applied form of trapping again. When he started to teach Jun Fan, he changed certain basic techniques, that I felt were critical to make trapping work. When I asked him why he did that, he said " Why should I teach someone to beat me". There in lies the most basic truth to a fighter. If you have a technique that allows you to be superior to your opponent, are you going to teach it to potential opponents?? No. Joe Lewis does not understand what trapping is. By reading his response on the forum I am sure he believes that he would have been overwhelming in a fight with Bruce. His kickboxing, Karate and whatever is very awesome. I've seen Joe Lewis fight and he is very good, but I would not put a dime on him in a real fight with Bruce. I hope I can one day sit down with Joe Lewis and show him why I believe as I do. I believe talk is cheap. I have always been ready to demonstrate, to those interested, what trapping is all about. Chi Sai is expendable, Phon Sao is not. Chi Sao is an exercise, Phon Sao is the art of trapping or shutting down your opponent. I have had many JKD, Jun Fan and others who dropped by my clyb to talk about Bruce and his fighting skills. These are highly skilled and renowned martial artist from around the world and they all acknowledge, once they see it, that trapping is the lost art. Bruce wanted it that way. I was just very fortuneate to have met Bruce in his early fighting period when he was exporing. That is the only reason I know what I do.

Temple of the Unknown: 1. Do you currently still teach and if so what is your format?

2. What is your opinion of Tom Bleecker's Unsettled Matters and what is the status of your film bio of Bruce Lee?

3. What can you can tell us about Bruce that would SHOCK or SURPRISE Bruce Lee fans?

Thanks so much for giving your time to answer questions.

James DeMile: I created a style called Wing Chun Do, or the way of Wing Chun. I teach in Seattle Washington and have clubs in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and here in the states. I had a car accident a few years ago so do not teach as much. I still do specialty programs for Law enforcement. I have no thoughts on Tom, since I do not know him or can I validate his sources of information. He was married to Linda Lee and there fore had access to to a lot of Bruce's personal information. My film on Bruce is still in the dream state, but I am persisting and it will be done, if not for theaters, then for video. I do not have any secrets info that would surprise or shock Bruce's fans. Only maybe that he was human like the rest of us and had a dream and the perserverance to achieve it.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello Mr. Demille, There have been comments made that Bruce Lee continued to quickly advance his martial arts ability and knowledge within a very short time, and that there was a marked difference in ability/knowledge between the time he was in Seattle and the time he passed. What was your last contact with him, and was there an opportunity for you to notice the changes? If so, what were they? Thank you!

James DeMile: Aloha Derek, Bruce was not a gifted martial artist. He worked to achieve his skills. He had the body potential, the energy and the desire to totally focus on his goal of being the best. I believe he accomplished his fighting skills in the first few years and once he felt comfortable in his abilities he changed direction and began to explore the martial arts as an art. I truely believe than in his later years he would have fought the same way he did in the early years. Why, because it always worked. People assume he changed because he went on to demonstrate many different concepts and techniques, yet I did not see anything that was better than what he did in the beginning. I had the pleasure of teaching at a JKD convention. Taky Kimura asked me to share what I thought was different between what we learned in the early years and what Bruce did later. I told and showed them that Bruce had changed his stance, his focus on trapping and his belief in a fight not lasting over two seconds. I showed them the differences and why I thought he left out some of the key pieces of the puzzle he was creating because of his wanting to always have the edge over an opponent. It was a graeat experience. I made some friends and enemies that day. Bruce is dead, long live the king. I believe it is time to share the reality of what Bruce did, rather than what he said.

Temple of the Unknown: Its really an honour for us to have you here.

My questions are as follows:

1) What do you think of his relationship between the two of you and were there times that he got mad at you or vice versa and did he ever played any jokes on you?

2) What are your opinions on his fighting ability, specially in philipino styles such as kali and escrima etc and of course in grappling?

I thank you very much for your time.

James DeMile: Aloha, Bruce had very few real friends. Taky Kimura, Jesse Glover and a few others in that period, but I was not one of them. I was a training partner, a dummy and hung out with him, but I never thought of him as a friend. We were not that close. My interest in him was martial arts. It is like with many people you know as you move through life, you seem to spend a lot of time with them, but in later reflection, they were only a moment in time. I have many fond memories of Bruce, yet when I was visiting with Jesse a few years back, I came to realize that it was the period of time and the energy and hanging out that I remember best. Bruce was caught up in his world and used us to reach his goal. That was OK since we used him too. My definition of friendship is to specific and I find that Bruce falls into the memorable acquaintance area. It took me a long time to realize this, but I feel I had to be honest with myself. I never got mad at Bruce, but he got mad at me once. Enough that I thought we were going to fight. It was my fault. Jesse and I used to go down to his classes on King street and chat with the students. People asked why Jesse and I were not training with them and I said it was because I thought what they were learning was not that practical. Bruce heard about this statement and when I went there again he was livid. He had some gloves in his hand and kept slapping them into his palm, while at the same time telling me I was wrong to say what I did. He was getting madder and madder. I finally admitted I was wrong to say what I did and then I turned and walked out, sweating I might add. I do not believe Bruce was very skilled in the filipino arts. He had segments of skill, but not overall. As far as grappling. I do not think he had much skill in that area. Judo Gene LaBell said he clowned around with Bruce and that Bruce did not have much skill in that area. He was fast and slippery, but not able to apply any technique.

Temple of the Unknown: What book, movie, documentary etc has most accurately portrayed the Bruce you knew?

Thanks so much,

James DeMile: Aloha again Jen, The only book that was insightful and honest and accurate is Jesse Glovers book on his time with Bruce Lee. Jesse gives some very personal viewpoints from someone who spent a lot of time with the private Bruce Lee.

Temple of the Unknown: Greetings Mr. Demile!

I actually have two questions:

What was it like seeing your "Sifu" on the Movie Screen for the first time?

Were you ever approached by Lee to play a role in a future film with him?

James DeMile: Aloha, It was neat to see him on the big screen.

I remembered his talking about being in the movies back in the early 60's. Ya, sure I said. If I had only known??? Bruce never asked me to be in any of his films. He asked Taky, but he declined.

Temple of the Unknown: I read that Bruce was going to fight Ali and that the fight was set this true and did Bruce ever say that if there was one fighter he wasnt sure he would beat was Ali?

Thank you,

James DeMile: Aloha, That was pure Hollywood. Ali would have killed him in the ring. Bruce would have killed him in the street.

Temple of the Unknown: What was the most touching thing BL every did for you???

And quickly did you ever take a full force kick /punch from him and what was it like???

Thanks James, you've been great tonight,

James DeMile: Aloha, Please check out my web page at I think you will enjoy the info. Also check out the convention in Hawaii. I was hit by Bruce but never full bore. I was never kicked by Bruce because he did not believe in kicking in a real fight. In the early years we did not tain with kicks. only against them.

Thanks for having me on the forum. Aloha.

If you'd like to visit Sijo James Demile's website CLICK HERE