Jhoon Rhee Q&A
The following Q&A interview was conducted by Jt (templekeeper) by phone on 3/26/01. With questions asked by regular forum visitors (Jt, Drunken Master, Goldenfist, Medicine Man, Derek Chin, Steve Kerridge, Leon, Marcus Emery, Joe, Steve, Jen, Taoyb Hamidi, John Overall, Paul Mcdevitt, DaveR and Babu) with special guest GrandMaster Jhoon Rhee.
Temple of the Unknown: Greetings Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. Its indeed an honor to be able to ask you questions. I've always admired your outlook on life and your contributions to the martial arts. Here are my questions:
1) Much has been said about the evolution of Bruce's kicking technique. Did you think Bruce's kicking abilities changed in any ways from the first time you trained with him to the last time you saw him?
2) When was the last time you saw Bruce?
Thank you very much for you time.
Jhoon Rhee: I think so, I really wouldn't say that I trained him but, I shared ideas and uh you know with in a half an hour he was doing it the way it was supposed to be done. He have the mechanics of good kicking as the Tae Kwon Do that I learned. As soon as I showed him the mechanics of each kick sidekick and round kick and so on. Within half an hour he was as good as anybody I've seen. and he had all the muscles and coordination already there. It was just a matter of putting proper way of exicuting each technique.
And I saw him last two weeks before he died in Hong Kong. I had just finished my movie "When Tae Kwon Do Strikes". And then he saw me off at the air port on the 6th of July.
Temple of the Unknown: Hi Jhoon, have you much footage of Bruce and what does this consist of and do you have any plans to release it soon and also do you know if the Dominican T.V. footage of Bruce and Yourself still exists ?
This is very much appreciated, and I thank you for your reply in advance
Jhoon Rhee: No, I've tried to locate that because there is a very spectacular scene where he gave a demonstration you know 4 dangaling one inch boards and he did a side jump kick and a piece of flew and broke the TV lamp. It was really spectacular. In Fact he learned that kick right before we left my home for Dominican republic. And so, you know it was the first time he broke a board. And he got very excited and he told me that he never tried to break boards. And he asked me if I could show him. So I did show him and within half hour or one hour practice he could break more than I can. And you know he is the strongest man I have ever seen pound for pound. He has so much momentum you know that is what power is, momentum.
Temple of the Unknown: Dear Grandmaster Rhee, to me, Tae Kwon Do kicks have always been the most beautiful kicks to watch, for both the form and power...that is, until I discovered Bruce Lee! His kicks were not quite Gung fu, not quite Karate, not quite Tae Kwon Do...they were unique and truly his own, and had amazing fluidity, speed, accuracy and power. As a man who always "absorbed what is useful", where did Bruce pick up his kicking style? With the hundreds of martial arts movies that have been made since he passed, there is still no one who can "imitate" a Bruce Lee kick. Even his flying kicks looked like no other's
Jhoon Rhee: I really do not know but, everyone is unique not anybody can be like Bruce Lee.
Temple of the Unknown: Did you recieve the painting I promised? http://members.spree.com/sports/templekeeper/jhoonart.jpg
Thank you so much,
Jhoon Rhee: No I have not.
Temple of the Unknown: How did you and Bruce Lee meet?
Jhoon Rhee: Ah when we attended Ed Parkers International Championship I think in August 1964. He gave his demonstration and I gave my demonstration. And we really respected each others ability and we became friends there.
Temple of the Unknown: You and Bruce Lee were very close durring your training days, after his death, all of those Bruce Li's, Le's, etc... came along. Now this is a silly question, but do you think that those imtataors kept his memory alive or insulted him?
Jhoon Rhee: Some of them imitate pretty close you know. But, there must be somebody who must be as good as him but, I haven't seen him.
Temple of the Unknown: 1) What was your first reaction when you saw Bruce's one inch punch and two finger push ups???
2) Do you think if he was alive today, he would still be the greatest martial artist on the planet by far, or would have some equals now, if so, who do you reckon would be his equals of today???
Jhoon Rhee: It was very impressive, again he is a very strong man. And I am sure he was one of the greatest but, I don't know if anyone could claim or lable the greatest because you never know. But, I could say that he was the greatest martial artist I've ever seen or met.
Temple of the Unknown: Did Bruce lee ask you to appear in The Game of Death? If so, what was your part in the movie?
Jhoon Rhee: No he didn't.
Temple of the Unknown: Hello Jhoon,
Please allow me to explain a little about myself. I have never had any form of martial arts training from an instructor. However, I cycle many and miles and skip for endurance. I lift weights 3-4 times per week and constantly push myself to new goals. I eat and rest plenty.
Through observing many martial arts and disciplines and extensive reading, I take out various moves I believe to be the most practical/best/devastating/controlling and practice them. Mostly using a heavy-bag hung from beams. An example might be a side-kick copied from the way Bruce executed them, or a left hook taken from the Joe Frasier dip n hit school of thought. I have been tested on two seperate occasions in real combat that I could not run from. However, my opponents were not classically trained in any form but street brawlers/thugs.
I would like to ask your opinions on my training and any suggestions you could give me? I am worried that if I attend a 'school' with 'set' rules that have been taught for many years that they will erradicate my 'way'.
Jhoon Rhee: Yeah I really strongly recommend that you join some studio because of course anybody can become good. But, it takes a longer time because you have too find a shortcut that somebody already discovered. So why not learn from someone that already learned. And you would save a lot of time if you joined a school.
Temple of the Unknown: What happened to the young boy and girl in your old commercials, the ones who said "nobody bothers me!" There are many rumors about them.
Jhoon Rhee: Yeah, they are my children. They started doing these "nobody bothers me" commercials when they where 3 and 4 years old. My daughter at 3 and my son at 4. But they are now 33 and 34. But, they are ok. In fact my son runs two studios right now in Virgina. And my daughter is working in a Lab company in Los Angeles and she is also a writer and she writes novels, fiction and she is at the University of Southern California (USC)
Temple of the Unknown: I wonder if you could tell us a little of your time with bruce in hong kong when you made -when tae kwon do strikes-did you have time to play martial arts with bruce lee,or visit any kung fu schools, thank you very much for your time.
Jhoon Rhee: No, ah when I was doing my movie, He wasn't shooting he was just resting in Hong Kong. So at my work each day he always came to the site and he waited for me to finish. And we went to have dinner to Korean restaurant to have his favorite food.
Temple of the Unknown: It is really an honor for me that you will be doing a Q&A with us, once again thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
Q#1) What was your reaction when you saw Bruce Lee, did he impressed you as soon as you saw him and is it true that you introduced him to board breaking??
Q#2) What do you think of Bruce Lee (in terms of relationship between the 2 of you,(martial artist, actor, father, husband, philosopher, friend etc, and his JKD). How did you found out about his death and do you believe that he was murdered or there was FOUL Play involved????
Thank You very much for taking the time to answer my Q's.
Peace, Love, Harmony!!
Jhoon Rhee: Yeah right before we went to Dominican Republic. He told me he never broke board because in Kung Fu they don't do that. When he saw a stack of my boards and he said can I try. So he first tried breaking boards in my garage. And then a few days later that is what he did. He did all the breaking demonstations.
Well, we where best friends and as I said in my book he was very inteligent very strong, very dedicated martial artist, he's a good husband and a good father and great friend. He didn't have very many friends but, once he had his friend he would go out of his way to help a friend.
And I really don't have the slightest Idea about his death because you know he called me the 19th of July the day before he died. He was very happy and the only reason he called me was to let me know that the movie "When Tae Kwon Do Strikes" was going to come out. I was going to be the co-star and the director was going to make the girl the Star and he just called me to let me know that he fought for me by telling the director to make me the number one leading role in the movie. And then the next day I heard on the radio. That he died and I was so shocked and I couldn't believe. Because he was a happy man yesterday and today he is dead. What a shame. I was the last guy that he spoke to before he died. and I was in the US when I found out.
Temple of the Unknown: Do you feel that Bruce did use steroids?
Jhoon Rhee: Well, I didn't know that he used steroids because I didn't touch drugs and I am very against the drugs. And he knew that so if he did that he would never talk about it to me.
Temple of the Unknown: (1) Do you think Jeet Kune Do has evolved how Bruce Lee intended it to? By this I mean, in his absence, what he saw as the style-less style of combat has become the ultimate style instead of the unique experience tailored for each individual participant.
(2) Do you know of any plans to remaster When Tae kwon do Strikes for UK DVD and would you consider doing a commentary?
Jhoon Rhee: I really do not know because I didn't see the way they practiced or the way the practiced today after he died. I am sure untill the day he died he did it the way it should have been. And he showed his Ideas. But, just like anything else as time goes each individual will show their own personalities. And it just can't be the same. I am pretty sure that it has changed now because he had several diciples. And each individuals have different ways of teaching.
And as for "When Tae Kwon Do Strike" well that is not my movie because Golden Harvest owns. So you would have to ask them.
Temple of the Unknown: What was your first impression of Bruce when you saw him???
Jhoon Rhee: I was very impressed by his speed of punching and he was impressed by my jumpkick. And we became interested in each other. Then somehow we didn't communicate for a year and a half. And when he came to Washington D.C to promote the Green Hornet. I saw him on TV in my living room and I called the station and talked to him and we had lunch that is when we became really close.
Temple of the Unknown: What filmed footage do you have of Bruce in action, and any plans to release it?
Jhoon Rhee: I have a piece that has already been released that has been used in different places and different times. But, it is not the same one of me presenting him.
Temple of the Unknown: Has your approach to TKD changed as a result of experiencing B.Lee's martial arts philosophy? Example: Lee's attitude toward the mechanical nature of a "hyong"(form) caused me to question the usefulness of the hyong forms (Chon-ji, Do-San, etc.) I learned as a boy in TKD. Lee's approach & discoveries changed my perpective as a 2-dan in TKD.
Jhoon Rhee: I think my punching technique has changed because I taught him kicking but, he taught me punching. He used the swing punch and it is very very effective and that is one basic that I changed.
Temple of the Unknown: What impact did Bruce Lee have on your life?
Jhoon Rhee: Well, a lot.. I really took it for granted and after reading all the letters that he wrote me. And he did so much for me you know he was a teacher for Mito who was the owner of Blackbelt magazine. and he (Bruce) always talked to him (Mito) about me and interviewed me and he(Bruce) got him (Mito) to publish my books on Tae Kwon Do basics. And when ever he would come to my tournament he would give a big coverage story to Blackbelt magazine. And I never even trained in highscool drama it was the smallest part in but, first time I was in the leading role "When Tae Kwon Do Strikes" and without Bruce Lee I couldn't have done that.
Closing statement by Jhoon Rhee:
I am really sorry that when we lost Bruce Lee the whole martial arts industry lost a great deal. And my sympathy goes to his wife Linda Lee and her name is now Linda Caldwell and Shannon his daughter and what a difficult time Linda had to go through with her husband dying and then her son Brandon. But, so many people got into martial arts because of Bruce Lee. He did so much for martial arts and he has contributed so much to martial arts. And he uplifted so much the Asian Image But, I am sure he is happy upstairs and we will all meet him again when we all go there.
Thank you, Jhoon Rhee.
All of the questions and answers were compiled by JT