Joe Hyams Q&A

The following was taken place in the Temple Discussion on 04/4/01 between regular vistitors of this site
(Jt, Greg Rhodes, Jen, Normz, Lydia Wah, Simon Kenny, Nick Clarke, Ranch hand, Toayb Hamidi and Kevin)
with Joe Hyams author of "Zen in the Martial Arts".

Temple of the Unknown: Hello and welcome, Mr. Hyams 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.

Joe Hyams: Nice to be with you. I spent the afternoon with Pat Strong, one of Bruce's orginal Seattle students. He amazed me with his demonstration of how far he has progressed with his study of JKD and how much he has to offer in his tapes and books. Had Bruce lived, I believe he would be impressed and delighted with Pat's progress.

Temple of the Unknown: Hi Joe, I doubt if many fans are aware that you worked on the "Silent Flute" script. Could you please give some insight into how your involvement with the project came about. How was the script version you were involved in different to Stirling's and the movie release? Do you still have a copy of your version?

Joe Hyams: I had nothing to do with the script of "The Silent Flute" other than read it at Stirling's request. He and Bruce collaborated on the script. From my POV it is a pity that the project fell apart because the sscript embodied so much of Bruce's philosophy.

Temple of the Unknown: You and Stirling both shared lessons with Bruce, was it through Stirling that you got to meet Bruce, or was it through Bruce that you got to meet Stirling? What did you get out of your lessons on JKD? Were they primarily concerned with combat efficiency or were they more philosophical and universally applicable to life?

Joe Hyams: Stirling and I were good friends and I told him about Bruce. We aranged to take lessons together. The only time we had philosophical discussions with Bruce was over dim-sum in Chinatown after the lessons which were primarily involved with action

Temple of the Unknown: After having trained with a brilliant, progressive teacher like Bruce Lee, what could other instructors, comparatively speaking, offer him?

Joe Hyams: John, you know better than I the answer to that question. Coincidentally, I just did some research in the fine book you wrote with Emil about the history of martial arts. The best book on the subject. It's been a long time, old friend, so let's get together. Best

Temple of the Unknown: Hello Joe!
Thank you for visiting the forum!!!
My question is:

Do you think it would be possible to make an honorable Bruce Lee movie? Are you interested in writing for such a project? Do you think something like this will ever happen in Hollywood?? What do you think of all the other BL projects such as "Dragon" and "Curse..."?

Joe Hyams: I didn't like the so-called biographical films about Bruce because from what I know of him they distorted the facts to make for more drama. I have no interest in writing a film about Bruce. I prefer to run my memories of him in my mind rather than see him on screen. Movies distort reality.

Temple of the Unknown: Mr. Hyams, with your knowledge on both Bruce Lee and Elvis. Do you feel that they would have ever met? And did Elvis ever mention anything to anyone about Bruce that you may know about?

Joe Hyams: I don't know whether Elvis and Bruce ever met. Tom Bleecker might be able to answer that question. If I think they had met, however, I believe they would have become friends.

Temple of the Unknown: Dear Mr. Hyams, I recently heard that you are involved with a new book called "The Journey" that's about aspects of the martial arts journey that we all share in common. What a fantastic book! Can you share with us your thoughts on the key elements of Bruce Lee's journey that made him so unique, and also your thoughts on what aspect of his journey might have resulted in his untimely demise?"

Joe Hyams: I mentioned "The Journey" before. If I was to hazard a guess, I think Bruce may have been experimenting with drugs to help the back pain which plagued him for much of his life. And, he was very curious, so it's possible he tried some drugs just for effect. But, that's just speculation on my part. Again, I must refer to Bleecker who would have more info.

Temple of the Unknown: Bruce became established on American TV through the Green Hornet TV series and he also featured in other series like Batman, Ironside, Brides and Blondie. He broke into Hollywood moviesin July 1968 as a "karate" advisor for The Wrecking Crew, and August 1968 with Marlowe. In the September 1968 issue of Black Belt magazine it mentioned (page 43) that Bruce was teaching Stirling Silliphant, Joe Hyams and Sy Weintraub. Bruce is known to have trained/coached several of the Wrecking Crew cast. Joe's wife, Elke Sommer starred in the Wrecking Crew and I was wondering if Elke met Bruce through Joe (before the Wrecking Crew) or if Joe met Bruce through Elke (after the Wrecking Crew) or if it was just coincidence that Bruce was working with both Joe and Elke at about the same time.Stirling Silliphant mentioned a great "rumour" about Bruce "despatching" two of Vic Damone's bodyguards when Bruce was in Las Vegas. Do Joe or Elke have any on or off set stories about Bruce that they'd care to share? Thanks again for your time.

Joe Hyams: Elke never studied with Bruce. She sometimes watched from the kitchen window as he taught Stirling and me. It was Stirling who gave Bruce some of his best roles in TV. He also went to the Orient with Bruce to work on "The Silent Flute." As you know, that picture was never made.

Temple of the Unknown: Hi Joe, many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

Firstly could you tell me, if you know, how much and which areas of the Filipino martial arts Dan Inosanto taught Bruce.

Do you think he would have added more of the Filipino arts to JKD.

And what do you think of the current state of JKD Concepts as opposed to Original JFJKD. DO you think Dan Inosanto has kept true to what Bruce taught him by adding and blending JKD with other arts, specifically Kali/Silat and Groundwork.

Many thanks for your time Joe

Joe Hyams: Dan has done and is doing what Bruce always did. He has added to his knowledge and tried to incorporate anything and everything that will improve his art. As I recall, Dan taught Bruce the nunchuckas. A lot of JKD incorporates kali, especially in the area of weaponry: defense as well as offense. I've heard that Dan has also studied grappling with the Gracies.

Temple of the Unknown: Dear Joe,

A real pleasure to have this opportunity to ask you a few questions about your experiences with Bruce Lee as follows:-

1/ What did your martial arts training sessions with Bruce Lee mainly consist of and how often did you train with Bruce?

2/ In what areas did Bruce improve your fighting skill & ability? e.g.footwork, power, fighting distance etc?

Joe Hyams: I studied with Bruce on the driveway of my home two or three times a week for around three years. He was able to reduce movement to its simplest form He was a student of all the martial arts as well as philosophy and was remrkably willing to adapt anything into his MA repertoire.

Temple of the Unknown: I'm often inclined to favour the cerebral over the physical (I wouldn't say I'm mentally or physically bound though). I enjoyed the "Quest" aspect of the "Kung Fu" TV series when it aired and I enjoyed your "Zen in the martial arts" book when it came out (all those years ago). One of my favourite passages was one that's been getting quite an airing on here recently, the one with Ed Parker drawing the line and asking how to make it shorter (incidentally, I saw the same story, a while back, in another book, I believe this parable has biblical origins, which doesn't surprise me 'cos I understand Ed Parker was quite religious). It harks to self cultivation and self actualisation which is a process Bruce favoured and which also seems to be in vogue now.People seem to be looking inward rather than outward.Joseph Campbell's material focuses on the Hero's journey.Everything goes in cycles and it looks like Zen is back in vogue. "The Journey" book that Lydia mentions sounds very interesting, please tell us more.

Joe Hyams: "The Journey" is a book I am working on with Tom Bleecker who wrote the best book yet about Bruce entitled "Unsettled Matters." But, The Journey is the personal stories of more than 25 of the most prominent American kenopoists of today. Nothing to do with Bruce.

Temple of the Unknown: Hi again Joe,

1/ How would you compare the ability of other martial artists such as Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis etc to Bruce Lee? (i've got the great book that you wrote with Chuck on his life - 'Secret of Inner Strength')

2/ Did you keep in contact with Bruce while he was making his very successful films in Hong Kong (1971-73)? If so, did he reveal any information about his future film projects or anything about future plans that he had in mind?

3/ Finally, did you ever have the unfortunate pleasure to experience the explosive power of one of Bruce's side kicks or his 1-inch punch?

Joe Hyams: A friend of mine who had studied judo in Japan came by my house one day to see Stirling and I working with Bruce. My friend who was much larger than Bruce needeled (picked on) him a bit about his ability. As luck would have it, we were standing by the pool. Bruce, who was annoyed, said he could demonstrate the power of just a touch. He gently placed his hand, fingers extended, on my friend's chest. He closed his fist. The needler flew back into the pool. That was for me a superb demo of the 1" punch.

Temple of the Unknown: Hi Joe,
As an author and student of Bruce's, do you remember any books that Bruce owned in which he relied on as part of his martial/philosophical/etc learning? I am curious as to some of his favorite reading in philosophy, boxing, martial arts, etc.

Joe Hyams: Bruce had a library of hundreds of books from Alan Watts on Zen to Krishna Murti and Funakoshi.He was remarkably well versed in Oriental philosophy. He also had many books about all the arts that we consider martial: wrestling, boxing, fencing, etc. I don't reall him ever reading a novel. Heliked biographies and would underline passages in almost any book that had something of interest to him. He was one of the most curious people I have ever met, always open to new knowledge.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello Mr. Hyams...
Thanks for joining us here at the Temple of Discussion.
I'd like to ask if Bruce ever mentioned his thoughts about women practicing martial arts?

Joe Hyams: Bruce had some female students. As I recall, he was imressed with their sense of toouch in practicing techniques like chi sao. I think he was open to anyone and everyone who really wanted to learn his art.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello Mr. Hyams,let me start off by saying that it is indeed an honour to have the opportunity to ask some one like you some questions on yourself,B.Lee,as well as martial arts. My Questions are as follows:

Q#1) how did you got involved in the martial arts that is,what motivated you to do martial arts?

Q#2) What did you thought of Bruce Lee when first saw him/and what do you think of him now?

Q#3) Was Bruce Lee GOOD/VERY GOOD/OR EXCELLENT in Philipino Martial arts and especially in GRAPPLING?

Q#4) Did Bruce Lee knew about the king(Elvis Presley) and if yes,did he ever plan on meeting him for movie contracts,friendship etc??

Q#5) How did you found out about his dead and where?

Q#6) Have you ever seen BL in a real life fight anywhere or know about it and would like to share it with us?? Q#8) Did he ever asked to be in any of his movies and what was your part if any?

Q#9) have seen or heared of any unseen film or footage of him on or off the set, and did he ever played any practical jokes on you are got mad for any reason???

Q#10)And finally last but not least,Do you believe of any foul play about his dead?

I hope that You did not fall asleep while answering my questions.

Thank you very, very much Mr.Hyams for taking the the time to answer our Q's here at the T.O.T.U.

Joe Hyams: Too many questions at once. I don't recall them all. but, I got into the martial arts when I was about 40 years old. I was sedentary and full of hostility. I met someone in a fencing academy who showed me a few moves. They intrigued me and I started to take lessons from Ed Parker. Then, I saw Bruce at the Internnationals in '64 and was intrigued with him. I started taking private lessons f rom himand stayed with him until he left for HK. I learned about his death when I got a phone call from Stirling Silliphant, an Oscar winning writer, who phoned me from HK. As I recall, Pat Strong, one of Bruce's original students in Seattle was with me.

Temple of the Unknown: Hello, Thanks for taking the time to stop by the forum we appreciate it. Could you tell us what is your fondest memory of Bruce Lee. Any funny stories?

Joe Hyams: This will sound phoney, but one of my fondest memories of Bruce is the time he DID snatch a fly from a plate of food with his chopsticks, something I think he did once in a film. He was that fast!!

All of the questions and answers were compiled by JT

For more info on Mr Hyams new book, CLICK HERE