Thanks to the international hit Ip Man movies, millions know of the handsome street-fighter Leung, whose brawling brought fame to wing-chun and, in the second movie’s finale, introduced Ip to a snotty young street-fighting buddy named Bruce Lee. Now, at the turn of the century, I spent a weekend with Duncan Leung at Virginia Beach. I was hired by Jow Ga grandmaster Hoy Lee to do an article for IKF, since I was an Inside Kung-Fu Hall of Fame writer. They brought me down and put me up in a motel.
Duncan is not handsome, has a dangerous moustache on a saturnine face with what looks like a knife wound on one cheek (botched dental surgery, actually), and it was the other way around — Bruce intro-ed Duncan to Ip. The story of why his buddy was even interested is great fun. Anyway, Bruce stayed close to Duncan until the end, and Duncan went on, past knife-and-fist fighting and top-tier law enforcement and military training, to become highly successful in many kinds of enterprises. He was a top-ten firearms importer, at one time, and also produced a string of successful Hong Kong movies. His personal stories, in this deep, flat, take-it-or-leave-it cigarette-smoker’s voice, were endlessly amusing and amazing. So, I published “The Dark Genius of Wing-Chun.” He must have liked it because, before he left to return home to Hong Kong, he sent me a keepsake – a framed and carefully matted Ching Dynasty coin, including a typed label on which he stamped his chop, so folks would know who gave it to me. Over the years, I’ve talked to very important instructors who studied with Duncan; none of them received any such memento.
Duncan Leung is remarkable to read about. The Army once asked him how much he personally would charge to redo their hand-to-hand and self-defense programs. And, between you and me, ungentle reader, there’s a backstory, too, because, at first sight, he challenged me, pointing, bored, to his face, and froze when my foot held steady two inches from his nose. I started kicking at 17; I was smooth and very fast for a tall middle-aged guy. Caught him off-guard.
So, Duncan began to “clinic” me. In other words, rough me up a bit to get his own back. This happened late, late Friday night, by the way, around midnight, and he was just tired when I showed up. And, seriously, I didn’t think I’d “beaten his challenge” or anything. It was just another deal where you are the uki and throw a technique so the master can demonstrate something or other; even his freezing didn’t strike me because, as you know, lots of times the masters let the technique hang out there for a second while they decide which counter to use.
Anyway, that night I got a private lesson to die for. In fact, I came close to death and, as I’ll explain, it did me a world of good. But, for example, I questioned whether the one-inch punch could work in a real fight, and he made me hold the Yellow Pages against my chest, first, before knocking me across the office, crashing into a folding chair, and ending up on the floor. Much more was shown, but the last, most dangerous moment was the best. Over the years of cat rolls and what-have-you, I had developed a slightly protruding top neck vertebrae. Duncan wanted to finish up by showing me how to break a neck. By now I had the most absolute trust in this master’s control. Duncan seized my head and went much farther than anybody else had ever dared to go in cranking it around. I heard a crack!
And, the next day, I realized he’d given me a chiropractic adjustment and cured the condition!
Now meet the Dark Genius… Grab your copy of Herb Borkland’s detailed article “Debriefing Duncan Leung”, wherein Leung talks abotu Ip Man, Brice Lee and what wrong with his art. Grab your copy here.
Read much more from Herb Borkland, including sharply insightful essays, and reviews of his latest novel, DOG$, at www.Herbork.com
If you like Wing Chun, check out these two great books and article!