"My Instructor Wu Bin"


Jet Li

3/19/98 - Raffi Here: First let me state that I have no way of verifying the authenticity of this article. Wu Bin is a pretty famous guy, and I've had opportunity to talk to him a number of times (he checked the oil in my car and stained his jacket two weeks ago). But I don't know enough to really feel qualified to write up anything about him, but I came across this article (thanks to Geoff Pay), and I thought it was worth putting up, especially since its supposedly from the mouth of Jet Li himself. Check it out.

[Wu Bin, born in Wuxing County of Zhejiang Province in 1937, is member of the Chinese Wushu Society, vice president of the Beijing Wushu Association and director of Technical Training & Research Section of the China Wushu Research Institute. After his graduation from the Beijing Institute of Physical Education in 1963, he took the post as a coach of the Beijing wushu team. During his career as a wushu coach, he brought up a large number of national champions. He was awarded prizes on not a few occasions in recognition of his excellent work. The following article written by his pupil Li Lianjie tells what Wu Bin is like as a wushu coach. -Ed].

I have distinguished as a wushu athlete at home and abroad. But whenever I look back over the road I have traversed, I feel that I should owe all this to my instructors. The one I'd like to mention in particular is Wu Bin who has taught me wushu since I was eight and guided me all the way to the pinnacle of success.

Never Stop Halfway

I am not a prodigy and newspaper reports about my having consciously trained and practiced wushu since I was a child often annoyed me beyond measure. It was simply not true. Like everyone else, I came across numerous problems in the course of training and many a time I wavered and thought of dropping out. It was my coach Wu Bin who helped me steer clear of all obstacles and encouraged me never to give up. His admonitions and his patience in guiding me along will always remain in my heart of hearts.

I remember it was 1972 when I badly hurt my kneecap and was confined to bed. With tears in her eyes, my mother persuaded me to stop training.

"Look here, little Jie," she pleaded, "to practice wushu you need extra nutrition. But we simply can't afford the expenses and it costs your coach Wu Bin so much sending you food regularly. I think you'd better stop training."

It pained me to hear my mother's sobs and as I did nor want to make her unhappy, I consented.

So when my instructor came to see me, I plucked up my courage and said to him "You've been so kind to me and I'll never forget it. But I... I don't want to practice wushu any more"

There was no response. Evidently my words were like a bombshell that stuck him dumb.

I stole a glance at him. His face was pale with disappointment.

"I know you are an ambitious boy, little Jie," he blurted out at last. "It's all right if you don't want to go on training. But I hope you'll stick to whatever you do in the future. Be a brave boy and not a coward."

Then, after exchanging a few words with my mother, he turned round and left without looking at me.

His words stabbed me to the heart and I was terribly sorry for what I had said. When I was up and about I went to the gym as before.

My instructor was, of course, glad to see me back. But his face didn't betray his true feelings. With a "Are you OK?" he sent me off to my teammates who gave me a warm welcome "home."

After this incident, I came to understand that one should not leave anything half done.

A "Heavy Hammer"

I thereafter I practiced extra hard. What my teammates did once in a training session I did thrice. To make the most of my time, I worked in the gym even on Sundays, when everybody else was resting.

My coach, however, didn't seem to appreciate my efforts. He was always kind and patient when he explained the essentials of all the movements to my chums and pointed out to them where they went wrong. When he saw they were too tired, he advised them to take a break. But he seemed to bc quite another person when he talked to me. Often he would snap at me "Do you think that's the correct movement?" "How come the more you practice the worse you become?" and so forth.

To be frank, I didn't quite like the way he treated me. But now I understand he did it all for my good. Whenever he took on a new trainee, the first thing he did was to get to know his character so he could deal with him accordingly. Seeing that I was a bit "ambitious" and proved a willing trainee, he applied the rigorous method of training towards me. This was described by him as "A resounding drum must be struck with a heavy hammer"

Pocket Money "Keeper"

Once when I was still a boy, my mother gave me five yuan as pocket money before I left home for a national. wushu tournament. I had never had so much money with me before. "Now I don't have to beg my friends to buy me a popsicle," I said to myself happily.

Shortly after we arrived at our destination, I found that the money was gone. As competition had started, I didn't have the time trying to find it. At the tournament I scored a hat trick, winning both the optional and compulsory barehanded exercises and the optional swordplay in the boys' section. Without a word of congratulations, Wu Bin took me aside and thrust the five-yuan note into my hand, saying "here's your money. I know your family is not well off, so I kept it for you. Now you've won three medals, don't be puffed up and waste your money''

I was deeply touched by his considerateness and spent only 49 fen buying a few pencils bearing the emblem of the tournament.

When I was back home, I returned the rest of the money to my mother and told her the story.

"With such a nice teacher, I need not worry no matter where you go with him," she said.

Aloof from Honors

When the film Shaolin Temple in which I played the leading character created a sensation in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, many people said "Now that Li Lianjie has hit the headlines in the press, his instructor Wu Bin will become a celebrity too" With the successful run of the film, numerous people called at my home to offer their congratulations and I was kept busy for a month or two. But Wu Bin, who used to come frequently to our house bringing nutrients he had specially bought for me, was now nowhere to be seen. My grannie and mother wondered why he didn't show up.

Then one day he suddenly appeared. "Your family is better off now," he said. "I don't have to worry any more. Besides, you've so many visitors and I don't want to add to your burden. But if there is anything I can do just let me know" He shook my hand and left.

I stood at the doorway, unable to utter a word. I knew he was happy that I had acquitted myself well and that he as my instructor, had his share of the honors. Yet he shunned them all. Thus he taught me another lesson to ponder the question What should be one' s attitude in the face of honors?

(Translated by Yang Wanhua)
From Martial Arts of China Vol. 2, No. 2 , Page 6:

Here is a few shots I took of Wu Bin in '95:
[Wu Bin] This shot was taken the day after the Beijing Team performed in Berkeley, CA on March 20th, 1995. Click here to see pictures of that performance.

[Wu Bin plays
B-ball?] This is a candid shot of Wu Bin demonstrating his no look Basketball shot.
And one from 2000:
[Wu Bin and Jet]Jet and Wu Bin posing together after a Beijing Wushu Team demo in March of 2000.

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Last modified: March 19, 1998