In those days news circulated very quickly in
certain circles of Hong Kong and Dave's reputation as a defiant and
reputable kung fu fighter was well known. But it was not until after
he started learning the Choy Lay Fut fighting arts that Dave began to
feel an immense sense of self-confidence and pride in his martial arts.
This and the great inspiration Lai Hung and Kong Hing gave him motivated
him to the point where kung fu training became an addiction and a part
of his daily life, driven by the thought that he must always be prepared
for the ever present and on going hostilities that always seem to confront
him. His defiance towards his aggressors, whether they be arrogant street
punks or rival martial arts practitioners, incited challenges being
issued. Most of these grudge matches took place on the rooftop of buildings.
It was one of these grudge fight matches that took place on a Saturday
afternoon in September of 1959 on the rooftop (the very same one Bruce,
Dave and the others used to go after school to practice martial arts)
that Richard Leung first witnessed Dave's ferocity and skills as a reputable
Choy Lay Fut fighter (at that time Dave had only undergone 6 months
training in CLF).
Dave had challenged two guys from the "Kowloon
Tong" gang because of an incident in which one of them had cowardly
kneed Dave's brother in the groin during a verbal confrontation outside
the cinema. Of the two, only one dared show up for the fight - the one
who attacked Dave's brother. He came with four others and had begged
Richard to come along as a mediator for him. Dave insisted the grudge
be settled with fists. When Richard attempted to lay down some rules
for the fight, Kong Hing shouted "What bloody rules!?! No
rules, fight!" With that, Kong Hing's fierce voice asserted his
authority as he commanded the fight to begin with no further interruption.
On seeing Dave's unique fighting stance, Chan Woo Leung who was present,
commented that the fight would end quickly. Dave's shrewd fighting techniques
enabled him to hit his opponent at will and left him defenseless and
impossible for him to get close without being hit. In pain, and knowing
he could no longer go on, he raised his arms and uttered, "I surrender!".
The fight lasted 45 seconds in which time Dave's opponent never once
touched him. This humiliating defeat stunned Richard who had helped
coach Dave's opponent for the fight by teaching him some Choy Lay Fut
techniques. What Richard saw that day was later related to his friend
Bruce Lee in America. (Richard left Hong Kong for the U.S. at the end
The most frequent hostile confrontations Dave encountered were with
the two Portuguese (Macau or Hong Kong born) gangs of the Tsimshatsui
district of Kowloon where he lived. One of the leaders of the two gangs
was known by the name of Koonya and the other by the nickname "Bark
Gong" (reportedly cos he was infatuated by Chinese female singer by
that name). As most of the Portuguese lived in and around the Tsimshatsui
area, it was inevitable that wherever he ventured from his home in Kimberly
Road, Dave would come across arrogant members of these two local gangs.
These hostile confrontations weren't limited to the streets of Kowloon
it happened at the cinema and even in the grounds of Rosary Church
after Sunday mass.
Dave Challenges Portuguese Gang Leader
The ongoing feud with the Portuguese
gangs eventually led Dave to challenge Koonya, the leader of one gang
and a long time arch enemy. It happened one Sunday afternoon when Dave
and Koonya had a bitter confrontation after bumping into each other
on Nathan Road. Dave was prepared to fight him right there on the main
road or around the corner in Austin Avenue but Koonya declined saying
he didn't want to get into trouble with the law 'cos he had a police
record for fighting. Koonya suggested they go to Kingıs Park to fight
but Dave said, "Whatıs wrong with fighting right here and now!" He wasnıt
going to go to Kingıs Park where there was a Portuguese Club and where
many of Koonyaıs friends would be there on Sunday! Dave then told Koonya
to fight him the following Saturday and meet at 1pm at the entrance
of Po Hing cinema and that they would both bring along two accomplices.
In the meantime Dave found out some information on Koonya.
Someone who knew Koonya told Dave that he had heard of Koonya's fierce
reputation as a tough and mean fighter. Thatıs why he became the leader
in the gang. There was a rumor that when Koonya was young he got bitten
on the head by a dog infected with rabies and that causes his to have
a violent temper, especially when he gets into a fight. Dave knew his
opponent would be strong for he was aware that Koonya and his entourage
worked out at a nearby body building gym and that although he was a
little shorter, Koonya was stocky compared to Daveıs 140lb. Frame.
Dave and Kong Hing Rendezvous
at Po Hing Cinema
Come Saturday and it was time
to go. Dave left his home alone in the rain to walk the 3/4 mile to
the rendezvous at Po Hing cinema on Nathan Road. He was starting to
wonder if the Portuguese guys would show up in such wet weather but
to his surprise they were already waiting for him at the cinema entrance.
When he arrived there Koonya asked, "Whereıs your friends?" and Dave
told him that his friend would be there at any moment. When a few minutes
passed and he saw no sight of Kong Hing, Dave became anxious and wondered
if Kong Hing was going to show up. He knew Kong Hing wouldnıt let him
down but could it possibly be that his father had ordered him to stay
home!? [This had happened once before when Kong Hingıs father (Kong
On) overheard his son and Dave whispereing that it was time to leave
for the arranged fight on the rooftop some 2 miles away. Kong On got
mad and told his son, "Youıre not going out! Why your getting involved
in other peopleıs fights!" and looking at Dave he said, "Kong Hings
busy you better up and go!" Seeing that Kong On was in an angry mood,
Dave headed for the door as Kong Hing followed and whispered, "You go
first. Donıt worry. Iıll meet you there later." As he headed out the
door Dave could hear Kong On calling out to his son, "Donıt you go out!
Iıll be going out shortly and youıre to stay here and mind things (referring
to the Chinese Herbal and bone-setting clinic) whilst Iım away." Kong
Hing was true to his word and showed up at the rooftop just before Daveıs
fight was abouit to start. Panting after running up 6 7 flights of
stairs, Kong Hing told Dave, "After my father left, I sneaked out and
raced all the way here!"
A couple more minutes went by and still there was no sign
of Kong Hing. Then suddenly, out of nowhere Kong Hing appeared. Dave
nearly didnıt recognize him in his raincoat and hat and expressed concern
that he might not show up. "I said Iıd be here whereıs your brother?"
asked Kong Hing. Dave replied, "Heıs not coming." Kong Hing then told
Dave that he had been in the cinema lobby even before he arrived. "How
come I didnıt see you then and why didnıt you approach me?" Kong Hing
told him that he was there early and that he was in the upstairs lobby
keeping out of sight as he wanted to make a surveillance. Although he
had spotted the 3 Portuguese guys Kong Hing wanted to make sure there
werenıt more of them scattered around!
As they exited the cinema Koonya wanted to know where
they were heading. Dave told him that they were going to a nearby rooftop
for the fight but Koonya reluctantly objected, saying it was too dangerous
cos someone could fall off the roof! Despite being assured that it
is safe and that there wouldnıt be any risk of anybody falling off the
rooftop, the Portuguese guys kept suggesting that they go to Kingıs
Park which was about a mile away! Seeing that Koonya and his two burly
friends could not be persuaded to go to the rooftop, Kong Hing said,
"Come on, letıs go" and the group headed in the direction of Kingıs
Duel at Kingıs Park
When they arrived at Kingıs Park
the group stopped at a soccer field. Koonya opened a sports bag and
asked Dave what weapon he wanted to use. "No weapons" was Daveıs reply,
"Letıs see who is better with their hands and feet!" Kong Hing then
made it clear that it was to be a "stand-up" fight and no fighting on
the ground and to agree that if one falls to the ground the other fighter
must not attack him when heıs down but wait till he gets back on his
When Dave saw his opponent shaping up in a crouching stance
with both hands half stretched out, he knew Koonya was a grappler. Using
a maneuver known as "the panther stalking itıs prey", Dave began to
slowly circle his opponent whilst moving both hands in small circular
movements. Then like a flash of lightning he executed the "ying sau
mo ying gerk" ("Shadow hand and Shadowless Kick"). The kick caught Koonya
in the groin and he cringed in shock. His eyes became bloodshot and
fiery, and much to Daveıs surprise, he yelled out "Iım going to kill
you!" and charged into attack! Dave lashed out with another kick but
because of the sand and wet grass, he lost his footing and slipped.
As Dave fell, Koonya went down to grapple him on the ground. Suddenly
you could hear Kong Hingıs fierce voice as he yelled out, "Stop! We
agreed to no fighting on the ground! Come on, get up!" Koonya got up
first and as Dave was getting to his feet, Koonya started to lay his
boots into him but Dave managed to block the kicks with his forearms
and elbows in front to protect himself. Not wanting to risk slipping
again, Dave decided to only use his fists. Koonya was in a rage and
kept charging in like a mad bull. Dave knew he had to deliver some heavy
blows to stop him as he was a touch and strong opponent. As Koonya charged
into attack, Dave decided to use the retreating "Gıwai Wong Poot Sien"
technique retreating whilst throwing a flurry of left and right sow
chui (swinging) punches to Koonyaıs head. He managed to knock down Koonya
and when he got back up, Dave noticed blood coming from out of one of
his ears. As the fight continued, Kong Hing noticed that Koonyaıs two
burly buddies were standing close to him on each side and decided to
move around and not stand in one spot. A crucial moment came when the
two fighters were up close. Dave saw Koonya aiming a blow to his groin.
He reacted quickly by side stepping and countered with the "Biu Ma Tui
Jeung" (low sliding horse and pushing palm strike) to Koonyaıs mid section
and pushed him back several feet. It was one of Kong Hingıs favorite
The duel dragged on in the rain and both fighters were
getting very exhausted. Suddenly, Koonya signaled to Dave to stop. He
was panting heavily and said, "Letıs stop and have a break." Kong Hing
approached Dave and asked, "Whatıs happening?" and Dave told him that
his opponent requested to have a break and then continue the fight.
As Koonya was talking to his two accomplices, Kong Hing said to Dave,
"I really thought he was finished in the first two seconds of the fight
when you got him with that kick. I thought it was over when I saw his
eyes bulging out and his face almost turned blue! He must be wearing
a groin guard!" "I donıt know." Dave said to Hong King, "But, when I
saw his fiery eyes wide open and he yelled that he was going to kill
me, I thought I was seeing a ghost over the devil himself!" Just then
Koonyaıs friends walked over and said, "Koonyaıs willing to call it
quits if you are." Dave translated the message to Kong Hing who in turn
asked him, "What do you want to do?" Seeing that Koonya looked very
exhausted and realizing that he himself was feeling pretty much the
same, Dave told Kong Hing he wouldnıt mind calling it quits and fight
again another day. To Daveıs surprise, Koonya came over and gave him
a hug and said, "Friends."
As both parties left Kingıs Park and went their separate
ways, Kong Hing kept saying to Dave, "He must be wearing a groin guard
thereıs no way he could have endured the pain!" When Dave expressed
that he was worried when he slipped and fell and Koonya pounced on him,
Kong Hing said, "We made it clear from the start that thereıs to be
no ground fighting and I shouted and ordered him to get up. He wouldnıt
dare disobey my orders for he had agreed to the rules and must honor
it!" Kong Hing then went on to tell Dave that he had dropped Koonya
2-3 times and asked why he (Dave) didnıt grasp that chance to attack
him when he was getting back on his feet?! And added, "He didnıt hesitate
to kick you as you were getting up!" "It never crossed my mind to kick
someone when heıs down" Dave told Kong Hing, "The guy was like a crazed
wounded animal. All I wanted to do was to keep him at bay and not have
to grapple with him as heıs stronger than me".
As they were heading back to his home, Kong Hing was telling
Dave what was going on while he was watching the fight. "I had these
two Portuguese guys standing close on either side of me. I wasnıt sure
if they would make a move to jump me" said Kong Hing, " so I got smart
and decided to move around and not stand in one spot. The two baboons
started following me around but after awhile they stopped stalking me!"
One thing is certain, it was a day that neither of them
would forget for it had further strengthened the close bond of brotherhood
and friendship that already existed between the two young men. Both
shared the same faith that they would always be there for each other
in times of crisis.
Even up to today, Kong Hing still remembers very vividly
the events of the events of that Saturday as if happened yesterday.
Over the years he has repeatedly told the story to his fellow Choy lay
Fut colleagues around the dining table many a time and NO ONE can
tell a story like Kong Hing can! With his loud piercing voice, fierce
facial expressions, menacing hand gestures and choice of expletive words,
you could feel the excitement and tension in the room as his captivated
audience watches and listens in silence.
1961 Kong Hing
Leung Jung Gwun
The duel scheduled for 4pm was held on a weekday. Dave had already
finished his job assignment at the courthouse covering court cases as
a newspaper reporter for the English newspaper, "The Hong Kong Tiger
Standard" and rushed off to Tsishatsui district to the designated rooftop
where Kong Hing would be fighting a pugilist from the Wing Chun school.
When Dave arrived on the rooftop a small group including Kong Hing and
his opponent had already gathered there.
As Kong Hing and Leung Jung Gwun didn't know each other, the duel wasn't a personal grudge match for there was no real animosity between them. The duel was more a contest to test the fighting skills of the respective kung fu styles of the two pugilists. It was to be a three round bout refereed by master Liu Chi Keung of the Sil Lum (Shaolin) Yow Kung Moon school of martial arts. (Pictures of the fight are shown below with Kong Hing in the black shirt and Leung Jung Gwun shirtless and wearing shorts.)
first round ended with both fighters showing no visible injuries. In
the second round the pace picked up and Leung began to attack furiously
but Kong Hing side-stepped and evaded the blows and countered with kicks.
Leung managed to use his legs to block one of Kong HIng's kicks but
was caught off-guard by kong-Hing's cunning attack and was hit by a
kick and charp chui (pantherfist) combination. The fight ended abruptly
when Leung signaled that he didn't wish to continue as he was hurt.
Both fighters respectfully shook hands. Leung's upper cheek was visibly
swollen and he covered his hand with a towel as he was leaving the rooftop.
The following day a summary account of the match was published in the
sports section of one of the local Chinese newspapers.
In 1961 the media coverage of Kong Hing and Dave's secret martial arts dueling matches with rival kung fu fighters made them well known figures in the Hong Kong Chinese martial arts circles. Their recognition and reputation as reputable Choy Lay Fut fighters led to the formation of Choy Lay Fut's renowned "Black Panthers" only days after Dave's much publicized match with a master of the Wing Chun style in October of that year.
1961 - Dave Gains Fame as
Choy Lay Fut's "Black Panther"
As public martial arts tournaments were still
illegal in the British Colony, secret challenge or grudge matches remained
the only outlets for the proud young kung fu fighters eager to test
their pugilistic skills against other kung fu stylists. These secret
fight matches in Hong Kong weren't anything like what you see in the
movies such as "Bloodsport" or "Enter the Dragon".
They were very private and took place on neutral ground, mostly on rooftops
and usually with only a few people present. The bitter feud between
the Choy Lay Fut and Wing Chun schools incited most of these secret
challenge fight matches.
In October of 1961, the controversy over the sensational 3
day newspaper coverage on a secretly held fight match between
a 20 year old Choy Lay Fut fighter and a 28 year old Wing Chun
Master (in a car park behind the North Kowloon Supreme Court)
generated great excitement in the local Chinese Martial Arts
community. For the first time a non-full blood Chinese had gained
recognition and respect in the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts
circles. In the following week, Dave's name was to appear again
in the local Chinese journal and he became known as the "Black
Panther" of Choy Lay Fut in an article announcing a "Five
vs. Five" challenge match between Choy Lay Fut and it's
rival school's top selected fighters.
The fighters of the Choy Lay Fut school were given the prestigious
name "Fighting Black Panthers". This match was to be
held at a secret location in the New Territories (away from the
city) at a date to be determined by the organizers. An appointed
neutral referee was chosen to officiate and all fighters were
required to sign a "Life & Death" waiver. When
rumors circulated that Choy Lay Fut's rival had contacted Bruce
Lee in the U.S. to try to persuade him to come back to take part
in the grudge match, Dave knew from Lai Hung's remarks who would
be fighting Bruce Lee if he returned! With the publicity surrounding
this illegal match and the legal risks taken by those involved,
the chosen referee pulled out. Others were approached to act
as referee but no one wanted to be implicated in such a sensational
grudge match that could very well end in fatality for someone.
Facing a dilemma, the match was postponed.
1963 - Dave & Bruce Meet Again
in Hong Kong
It was not till 1963, four years since they last saw
or spoke to each other, that Dave and Bruce met again on the streets
of Hong Kong. In those 4 years saw many new changes and challenges that
shaped their lives and destiny. After settling in America in 1959 Bruce
set about to make a name for himself with his martial arts skills and
began to teach Wing Chun kung fu to a small group of students. [In early
1959 Dave decided to learn the dynamic kung fu style of Choy Lay Fut
under two famous young masters of the Buck Sing branch of Choy Lay Fut.
When some of Dave's friends who were friends and fellow Wing Chun colleagues
of Bruce (for several years) found out that Dave was learning Choy Lay
Fut, they got offended and began to ridicule and taunt him. One of them
was a guy by the name of Hawkins Cheung. They kept rubbishing Choy Lay
Fut and trying to convince him that their Wing Chun was superior etc.
but Dave remained undaunted. The fact that Dave had done a few months
training in Wing Chun with them (and Bruce) they expected loyalty from
him and they strongly resented him learning Choy Lay Fut - a style that
Bruce himself had often spoken highly of and had a lot of respect for.
Dave couldn't see what all the fuss was about as he didn't owe his allegiance
to Wing Chun since he never joined a Wing Chun school or officially
learnt from a Wing Chun master! But they didn't look at it that way
and the conflict between them escalated into a feud. The taunting finally
came to the point where Dave realized that the only way to resolve their
martial arts differences was to issue them a challenge to a duel so
they could prove that their kung fu style was better. Though only 2-3
months into his Choy Lay Fut training, Dave was determined to defend
the name of Choy Lay Fut despite knowing that these Wing Chun colleagues
of Bruce had several years of kung fu training. The duel was set for
the following weekend at an appointed time on the rooftop of a building
in Kowloon City. Dave kept his appointment but the Wing Chun guys never
showed up for the challenge match!
In Hong Kong in the 1950's, conflict
between practitioners of different kung fu styles often resulted in
challenge/grudge matches and it seemed a shame that sometimes even friends
could become bitter rivals in a martial arts feud. In 1959 when Dave
was barely 18 years old he already found himself a candidate in the
frequent private challenge matches between Hong Kong's two leading feuding
kung fu schools of Choy Lay Fut and Wing Chun. News of these private
or secret challenge matches traveled abroad and it was through his Wing
Chun colleagues in Hong Kong and his friend Richard Leung (a practitioner
of Buck Sing Choy Lay Fut) that Bruce Lee in America was kept informed
of current occurrences on the Hong Kong martial arts scene and of news
of the friends that he left behind when he moved to the US in 1959.]
When Dave and Bruce met again that day in Hong Kong in 1963 it was a moment of anxiety for the two old friends but they were excited and happy to see each other and greeted one another with the mutual respect of fellow martial arts friends and not rivals. Both had come to accept their own destiny and in the course of their conversation they were cautious not to talk of matters that might put a strain on their friendship. Bruce told Dave of his life in America - his fights and encounters with other martial artists and of the recognition and respect he gained from his kung fu skills. He also spoke of Richard Leung who had joined him in Seattle where they got together to train in martial arts - something that Bruce had wanted to do for quite some time as he always had a strong desire to learn Choy Lay Fut from Richard.
Neither Dave nor Bruce realized when they parted company that day in Hong Kong in 1963, that it was to be the last time they would see each other. In June of 1973, almost 10 years to that day, Dave heard of the sad news of his friend's sudden and tragic death. Bruce died in Hong Kong at the young age of 33. In life he had lived to see the pinnacle of his success and fame and saw his dreams all come true, and in death he left a name that was to be immortalized in martial arts around the world.
Though Dave never saw Bruce again, he was fortunate enough to meet two of his former students (of the 1960's era) many years later at a martial arts competition in America when they came up to him and introduced themselves. They told him that they knew of him well 'cos Bruce had on occasions mentioned his name and had spoken commendably of him to his students. Knowing Bruce had shared his sentiments about his old friend with his students left little doubt on Dave's mind that Bruce had always valued their friendship and had not forgotten him the years they lived worlds apart.
In his book titled "BRUCE LEE - Between Wing Chun &
Jeet Kune Do" published in 1976, Jesse Glover, one of Bruce's first
students in 1960 quoted Bruce's personal thoughts and comments that
he made whenever he talked about Choy Lay Fut and Richard Leung. "This
rare collector's book on the biography of Bruce Lee's early life in
America in the 1960's" says Master Lacey, "not only gives an honest
insight on the many personal thoughts and beliefs of this young man
but is truly reverent of the character of the BRUCE LEE that I knew".