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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 15:59 GMT
S Africans embrace Bruce Lee moves
By Alice Lander
BBC Network Africa, Durban

Grandmaster Richard Bustillo (right) with pupils
This style of martial arts is seen as a good way of combating crime
Bruce Lee's senior pupil, Grandmaster Richard Bustillo, has promised to return to South Africa after the popularity of self-defence classes.

His recent sessions in the port city of Durban were packed with people anxious to learn crime-fighting moves.

He taught them Jeet Kune Do which means "way of the intercepting fist".

"The style has special relevance for South Africa. It is more combative in countering the high levels of crime that we have here," an organiser said.

I am in my 50s. This is something I can use should the need arise
Jenny, student

There were more than 2,000 murders in Durban in the last year and more than 17,000 counts of aggravated robbery, according to official figures.

City of Durban manager Michael Sutcliffe says crime is becoming more violent and more organised.

"These statistics show that we have much to do before we can call ourselves a safe city and nation," he said.

The late Bruce Lee is famous worldwide for his combat skills. He starred in many movies, often seen besting an out-sized opponent.

Individual combat

Mr Bustillo, 65, said he looked forward to returning in 2008 to teach people "to gain self confidence and attain more self respect and peace with one's self".

A student a Grandmaster Richard Bustillo's sessions in Durban
I feel like Bruce lives in his pupil and some of his magic might rub off on me
Thai boxer Henry Madini

"Africa is an eclectic place... it has bad karma because all we hear about is genocide and war. [But] it's my first time in Africa and I love it," he said.

The two-day 10-hour sessions were booked out with some 50 students who said they were keen to learn the self defence moves in what is a relatively little known martial art system in South Africa.

The intense $80 syllabus included knee, elbow, punching and kicking techniques. The weaponry phase included stick fighting, knife fighting and defence against knives.

Organiser Sifu Salim Badat says he chose Grandmaster Bustillo to teach these skills because he is one of the world authorities on Jeet Kune Do - the system of martial arts that Bruce Lee himself developed.

"In the old days an attacker would attack rigidly and you could defend rigidly, now we are facing boxers and street fighters who have better co-ordination," Mr Badat said.

"Bruce Lee's style concentrates on the individual. He was 40 years ahead of his time."

Dream

Mr Bustillo, an inductee to the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, is from Hawaii and the trip took five years to plan.

It also marked the first time that any of Bruce Lee's original students had visited Africa.

Karate and kung-fu moves are popular across the continent and unlike some sports in South Africa they attract a mixed crowd from all races and background, women and children as well as men.

"I am in my 50s. This is something I can use should the need arise. I do mainline karate but this is vastly different," student Jenny said about the self-defence moves.

Even the experts at the sessions felt they had something to learn, including South Africa's lightweight Thai boxing champion, Henry Madini.

"It is a dream come true for me. I feel like I met Bruce Lee himself. I feel like Bruce lives in his pupil and some of his magic might rub off on me."

Mr Madini says he was inspired to emulate Bruce Lee's success: "I was born in 1975 and Bruce died in 1973. He was a Chinese guy but maybe he came back as an African? I could be a little Bruce."

SEE ALSO
Country profile: South Africa
25 Sep 07 |  Country profiles
Remake for iconic Bruce Lee film
17 Aug 07 |  Entertainment
Lee family to tell star's story
21 Jul 06 |  Entertainment

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