This story originally appeared on VICE China.
Bruce Lee was a legend. He established his own branch of martial arts (Jeet Kun Do), convinced Hollywood that kung fu movies were cool, and became a worldwide symbol of strength. How strong? Just look at his famous one-inch punch.
Lee first unveiled his one-inch punch in 1967, stunning the audience of a kung fu television show. He stood there with his arm erect, and in the span of one inch he hit his opponent with such force that he went flying backwards at least five meters. The sheer strength of this blow was astounding. The show's announcer bragged that Lee's punch had more force behind it than a car moving at 48 kilometers-per-hour.
Today, kung fu practitioners worldwide try to perfect Lee's methods. Wubin, a Wushu practitioner from Wenzhou, China, told VICE that he's the only one to master the one-inch punch. Chinese media has been all over the story, publishing images and videos of Wubin faithfully recreating Lee's methods. He stands there, arm erect, strikes, and his opponent goes flying backwards.
VICE China traveled to Wenzhou to meet the man who plans to defeat every other kung fu master in the world.
VICE: So you say that you are the sole successor of Bruce Lee's one-inch punch?
Wubin: Yes, in 1967, Bruce Lee, as an esteemed guest at the US Long Beach Karate Tournament showed that his one-inch punch that is different from the Wing Chun one-inch punch. With Bruce Lee's punch, the whole body exerts energy, while other punches only depend on the wrist. How will a wrist defy a body?
The posture I assume while delivering the punch, and its impact, is similar to Bruce Lee's. Why do I get closer and closer to Bruce Lee? Because I do not practice any specialized techniques, or a traditional form of wushu. I only emphasize on attacking and defending.
How can one deliver the perfect one-inch punch?
Deliver a short punch close to the body, destroy the opponent's stance, keep training on the movement until you reach perfection. First, deliver power from your ankle. Transforming your body into stepping position is just making out the formation. The power requires years of practice and a solid basis. Second, when the joint is delivering power, try as much as possible not to lose your power, then coordinate the whole body to get an extra strength. When bones and muscles coordinate properly, you will have a greater strength.
Coordination, coordination! Coordinate continuously. A one-inch punch delivers a penetrating power that comes from the transformation from a relaxed position to a tight position in a short period of time.
Someone who has an absolute strength will create a "pia" sound when delivering a punch, hitting the target's arm dead. This is called the colliding force. However, when I punch, there is no sound, I am delivering the penetrating power. Colliding power is similar to throwing stones at someone's body, penetrating power is like a long spear piercing through your body. For example, a Muay Thai elbow attack will hurt your flesh, but when I hit you, I hurt your bones.
How did you learn how to do a one-inch punch?
It's not deliberate. I always try my own method in practicing Wushu. In 2011, I came across Bruce Lee's video. At that point of time, I thought, "I can do that too." Later, I started to understand Bruce Lee more. His movement in the movie must have undergone a lot of beautification. However, I agree with the philosophy: "The real fight should end in 6 seconds."
Have you modified the technique at all?
Yes, it keeps improving every time. At the very beginning, I lost it after only one movement from the standing position. Afterwards when the pace started to increase, the fighting movement did too. Eventually, wherever my fist is, I cannot pull it back. So, next, I have to learn how to pull back my fist quickly. Everything is improved following the real fight.
How did you get started in kung fu?
My father is a traditional wushu teacher. When I was younger, I often did a horse stance. In 20 years I managed to practice the basics of wushu. I discovered that by following my father I could become a 'fake' big teacher. The point of kung fu is to fight. If you do not fight, there is no use of your knowledge. So I went to so many wushu places, visited so many wushu sects. When I was 14, I went to Shanghai and watched Brazilian jiu jitsu. Nowadays I wake up at 4 AM, quickly eat a high-carb breakfast and then rest for two hours before start training so I won't vomit.
Everyday I observe my basic kung fu movements in front of the mirror at my own home. I am not training up in the mountain or anything. But I also don't need people to praise me.
Do you think people build up Bruce Lee's legend a bit too much?
Yeah, there are people who damage Bruce Lee's reputation. They are the ones who spread the rumor that Bruce Lee could kick people so hard that they flew 20 meters before they drilled through the Earth.
Nowadays, a lot of people think that Bruce Lee only won in terms of speed. However, this is not the case. His kung fu was also very good. He managed to train his body's inherent ability, like strength, speed, coordination, into perfection. At the kung fu demonstration in 1967, Bruce Lee only weighed 64 kilograms, but he was able to perform a feat that many wushu sects could never accomplish. I only know that I understand kung fu, and I think his kung fu is good.
Wushu is on decline in China. Do you have any plans for the future?
I will most likely not mingle with the 'fake' big teachers. I definitely will go out of that circle. What I practice today, if it's not buried away by time, then I'll be very happy. I have already learned several traditional martial arts. Today, I am the most famous kung fu master in Wenzhou. I wanted to enter the Wenzhou Wushu Association, but they said that they were full and I couldn't enter. Why? Because they were scared.
Honestly, I also don't know what my specific path will be. But one thing is for sure, I will keep working hard. Bruce Lee was struggling financially before he became famous in 1967. Maybe because I am very stubborn, I will not let go of this stuff my whole life. You can say that I am ugly, I don't not mind. But if you say that my kung fu is bad, then I will not be happy. And we can test it out.