James DeMile began his martial arts career in Seattle, Washington, under the direction of the legendary Bruce Lee. As one of Bruce's first generation students, Mr.DeMile had the opportunity of assisting Bruce in developing his unique fighting skills. It was also DeMile's privilege to appear in Bruce's only book, "The Philosophical Art of Self Defense". DeMile was an undefeated heavyweight boxer in the Air Force as well as "Masters Level" hand to hand combat instructor for the (Special Forces Combative's) program at Fort Lewis in 1985 and 1986.
One of the foremost authorities on modern Wing Chun, DeMile has adapted Bruce's modification of the ancient art of Wing Chun and created WING CHUN DO, a practical self defense system for the 1990's student. DeMile is listed in Bob Wall's Who's Who in the Martial Arts, The Genealogy of the Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) Family by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, The Original Martial Arts Encyclopedia by John Corcoran and Emil Farkas, Bruce Lee's Fighting Spirit by Bruce Thomas. He has also written many articles for national and international magazines. He has appeared in the movies, Weapons of Death and The Curse of the Dragon and twice on the national TV program Entertainment Tonight. He has written four best selling martial arts books as well as produced a number of training videos, including "Bruce Lee's one and Three Inch Floating Punch", one of the most devastating strikes in the martial arts. He has designed and built a number of specialized electronic training devices as well as some versatile spring loaded wooden dummies. DeMile travels extensively throughout the world teaching his dynamic self defense concepts and techniques to students, police and the military. He specializes in accelerated self defense programs for individuals 40 years old or older. His most famous student for learning the incredible One and Three Inch Floating Punch is 80 year old Professor Wally Jay, creator of Small Circle Jujitsu. DeMile is still an active Deputy Sheriff with the Ottawa County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department until 2005. His students from Seattle and Ohio won 18 medals (8 gold) in 1996 World sports jujitsu championships held in West Virginia. The 1998 Sport Jujitsu International Championships, held in vancouver, was attended by a few students from the Seattle WCD club and they won two gold, two silvers and two bronze medals.
DeMile presently teaches out of his International Headquarters in Kailua-Kona in Rogue River, Oregon. He may be reached at his website.
James DeMile has arguably become one of the most talked about students from the Seattle era. He has released three books on his art of Wing Chun Do and several videos. Click here to read some of the articles and or interviews which will continue to accumulate as time permits.
The James DeMile Interview
Conducted By Paul Bax
Paul Bax: Wing Chun Do has grown quite a bit over the last twenty years. How many instructors do you currently have under you?
James DeMile: Under me, very few, maybe 10. Most of the people who train to teach want to incorporate Wing Chun Do as only part of the programs they offer. They open training centers and offer a variety of services.
PB: You recently moved from Seattle to Hawaii. How was the move and how has this affected your organization?
JD: The move was great. The cold weather in the Pacific Northwest affected the injuries to my neck and back, so the move to a warmer climate has been very beneficial. It has not really affected the organization since I had already shifted a lot of the responsibilities of the system to my senior instructor in Wing Chun Do, Sibock Rocco Ambrose, in Livonia, Michigan.
PB: Ambrose is the heir to your art?
JD: Yes. He has taught for over ten years and has the most detailed understanding of the system as well as has given some very creative input to help the system grow.
PB: At one time you were trying to put together a film called, "Bruce Lee: The Little Dragon." What happened with this project?
JD: Sad to say, I am still trying to have it produced. A lot of interest over the years, but when it comes to handing over the check? It looks like I will have to shoot it on video as a personal biography and sell it over the Internet.
PB: Did you ever find anyone to play Bruce Lee?
JD: No... Found a lot of look-a-likes, but none that could act and talk like Bruce.
PB: Amy Sanbo was Bruce Lee's first love in America. Can you describe the relationship they had? What is she doing now? Does she still live in Seattle? Has she had any comments on Lee's success after she knew him?
JD: Bruce went out with a number of girls, but it was Amy he wanted to Marry. He offered her his grandmotherï¿½s ring and wanted to take her to Hong Kong to meet his parents. Amy loved him, but could not compete against his love of himself and his total focus to his own goals. He was not interested in her goals, only how she could help him reach his. She wanted to be a dancer and produce plays. She married someone else and moved to California and went on to do plays and dance professionally. She believed Bruce would be successful, but felt he would never find happiness.
PB: Do you feel Bruce Lee ever found happiness?
JD: My personal opinion, No. The more famous he became the more he closed the world around himself. He became very paranoid. The people I spoke too who were around Bruce just before he died said he was becoming kind of weird. Distrustful, forgetful and was losing weight. There was not any end to his inner search for the answers to who, what and why he existed. Becoming the best fighter was only a stop over on a longer journey that could not be reached. He wanted to be the best Asian actor, director, producer and....and....and....
PB: You once mentioned Joe Lewis in regard to a conversation you had with Dan Inosanto in which Danny claimed that during a workout session with Bruce Lee that Lewis "could not do anything." Can you expound on this?
JD: It is hard to recall the exact conversations that took place many years ago. But this was the gist of the talk. Danny had seen Bruce Spar with Joe and Chuck Norris and said he would neutralize everything they tried. His ability to close, trap and shut down any attack was amazing. I did not doubt this since I had had personal experience with his skills. Bruce was a street fighter, and they were tournament players. There is a definite difference between the two. I have always been more than happy to explain the differences to those who think that winning trophies and smashing heads is the same thing.
PB: In another interview, you once said Lee "could have beaten anyone regardless of size and strength." With martial artists reaching new levels in training, do you think Lee would have the same superiority over today's fighters as he did back when you knew him?
JD: Yes. The reason is what he did and how he did it. Today’s fighter is bigger and stronger, yet really does much of the same thing when fighting. It is difficult to explain in writing, but easy when doing it in person. A large part of the problem in communicating Bruce’s skills is that most people do not understand what a street fight is. It is not a tournament, not UFC or K1 or the Sabaki challenge. It is Neanderthal. It is no quarter and the only goal is to really hurt or kill the opponent. It is stupid and mindless, yet happens everyday. Bruce had two levels of action: two seconds or less or play. Meaning the fight was over in a blink or he played cat and mouse because he had no respect for the person’s skills. I do not care how strong you are, what rank you are, what style you are, if you cannot see it coming you cannot stop it. If, at the other end of that invisible movement was the floating punch, then it was over before it began.
PB: Robert Yeung, a Wing Chun instructor, once provided you with insight into the art. Tell us about Mr. Yeung. Did he provide insight into Lee's art of Wing Chun that Lee possibly neglected to share?
JD: Robert Yeung was a Wing Chun purist. He lived and breathed Wing Chun. He was the first one in line to defend the honor of Wing Chun. He came to visit me, where I was teaching in Honolulu, to find out who this guy was that said he was teaching wing Chun. He really came to challenge me. He watched my class and approached me afterward and asked me what I was teaching. I said "Wing Chun". Without a smile he said "No your not". Surprised, I asked why not. He said, "You are using the terms of Wing Chun, but not doing the techniques correctly. I found this an interesting statement since I had never known anyone but Bruce to practice Wing Chun. He told me he had trained in Yip Man's school in Hong Kong. At this point I think Robert became aware that I meant no disrespect, but was just ignorant as to what Wing Chun was. We sat down and I explained my training with Bruce and his use of the terms in our training. Robert explained that Bruce's Wing Chun training was limited since he only trained for three years. Although very skilled in general applications he felt Bruce lacked insight into the true art of Wing Chun. Bruce was not really interested in Wing Chun; he was only interested in fighting. Robert felt this is why Bruce did things so different. He was very focused and only gleaned out the techniques and concepts that he felt had value for him. Bruce's later teaching in America reflected this thought, since Bruce always related to fighting when evaluating a technique or concept. He would teach a technique for a month a suddenly drop it in favor of something else. Robert felt Bruce deserved a lot of credit for his creative insight to the art of fighting, however, Robert was only interested in the art of Wing Chun and assumed that Bruce used Wing Chun as a springboard or starting point for his own discoveries.
PB: Bruce returned from his first trip from HK and it is said he was devastated because his progress was "zip." After that you stated he started on a path to revolutionize the martial arts.
JD: A tricky thought here. His progress was zip because he was still doing what they were doing, only they had more years of training than he had and therefore he was less skilled. He finally realized he would never catch up with them, since they were also continuing to train. The answer was to change and discover ways to beat what they were doing. This is when he entered his conceptual phase.
PB: Did you ever meet Lee's Hong Kong classmates/instructors such as William Cheung, Hawkins Cheung and Wong Shueng Leung and if so, how did their skills compare to Bruce Lee?
JD: I never met any of the three, however I know people who knew them well. William Chung cannot be compared to the Bruce Lee we all knew. William’s memory of Bruce was the young punk kid who looked up to him. Yet from everything I have seen and heard, William stayed the same, whereas Bruce evolved dramatically. I have seen videos of William and was not impressed with his skill and application.
PB: It seems every era of Lee's students seem to think he was at a point of evolution over the last. But for someone like myself, who has read countless interviews over the years, it seems Bruce already had a lot his advanced methods while in Seattle. Your thoughts?
Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do, james demile, jeet kune do, jkd, doug palmer, jim demile, bruce lee
skip ellsworth, bob bremer, howard williams, taky kimura, jesse glover, leo fong, james lee jun fan gung fu, richard bustillo, jerry poteet, joe cowles, dan inosanto