Bob Wall, Martial Arts Grasp Who Sparred With Bruce Lee, Dies at 82

Bob Wall, a martial arts grasp who with fast enterprise wits and even fleeter fists propelled disciplines like karate, aikido and Brazilian jiu-jitsu into the American mainstream, alongside the best way making buddies and sharing the display screen with the likes of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, died on Jan. 30 in Los Angeles. He was 82.

His spouse, Lillian Wall, confirmed the loss of life however didn’t present a trigger.

For the tens of millions of followers dedicated to Seventies martial arts films, Mr. Wall was finest identified for his function within the 1973 movie “Enter the Dragon,” through which, because the thug O’Hara, he torments a vengeful spy named Lee, performed by Mr. Lee.

At 6 ft 1 inch tall, with a full tuft of hair and a scraggly beard, Mr. Wall towered over the wiry, diminutive Mr. Lee, who, within the movie, nonetheless overpowers his adversary by kicking him to the bottom and crushing his chest. It’s an indelibly grisly second, and a pointy distinction to the shut bond the 2 males shared in actual life.

That they had met in 1963, at a kung fu demonstration in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood, the place Mr. Wall had withstood the teacher’s blows with out dropping his beer.

“At that time actuality hit that I’d blown this man’s demo, so I began strolling towards the door,” Mr. Wall recalled in a 2011 interview. “I noticed this tough-looking man strolling towards me, so I mentioned, ‘This man, I’m gonna clock,’ and he walks up near me and says, ‘Hey that was humorous. I’m Bruce Lee!’”

They ended up speaking within the parking zone for 3 hours.

Mr. Lee was nonetheless an unknown martial arts teacher in Oakland who, like Mr. Wall, was drawn to Los Angeles’s budding combat-sports scene. Mr. Wall was a scholar of one other teacher, Mr. Norris, an Air Pressure veteran and martial arts champion.

The three grew to become quick buddies, and in 1967 Mr. Wall and Mr. Norris went into enterprise collectively, working a sequence of studios within the San Fernando Valley, part of Los Angeles that twenty years later would supply the setting for “The Karate Child.”

Martial arts was an completely male area on the time, fought with out padding and producing various damaged noses and cracked tooth. However entrepreneurs like Mr. Wall noticed a possibility to make studios extra skilled and household pleasant. By way of manuals and seminars that he took across the nation, he taught 1000’s of aspiring senseis methods to run a dojo.

“There have been lots of people who would open a college and begin educating and it could all fall into place or not,” Roy Kurban, a taekwondo champion who was impressed by Mr. Wall to open his personal studio in Fort Price, Texas, mentioned in a cellphone interview. “He constructed a enterprise system.”

Mr. Lee, in the meantime, had begun his regular rise to international stardom. An look on the 1964 Worldwide Karate Championships in Lengthy Seashore, the place he demonstrated his signature strikes just like the two-finger push up and the one-inch punch, led him to a job as Kato, the sidekick on the Nineteen Sixties TV present “The Inexperienced Hornet,” and later to a sequence of film offers.

Martial arts films have been big in Asia however largely unknown in the US. Mr. Lee determined to vary that, partially by incorporating roles for Black and white actors, together with Mr. Wall, who gained a component alongside Mr. Norris in Mr. Lee’s first main movie launched in America, “The Approach of the Dragon” (1972).

Mr. Wall might take successful, which put him in good stead with Mr. Lee, who insisted on doing his personal stunts and refused to tug punches throughout combat scenes. Mr. Wall recalled that earlier than they began filming “Enter the Dragon,” Mr. Lee instructed him, “Bob, I wanna hit you, and I wanna hit you arduous.”

Even the damaged bottles that O’Hara wields towards Lee have been actual — which introduced an issue when Mr. Lee, a perfectionist, insisted on taking pictures that a part of the scene 9 occasions, with Mr. Wall repeatedly falling again on shards of glass. At one other level Mr. Lee kicked him so arduous that he flew again right into a row of extras, breaking a person’s arm.

“It’s one factor to get hit that arduous a couple of times, however attempt it eight occasions in a row,” Mr. Wall mentioned. “Let me let you know, concerning the fourth time, what’s coming, you’re going to get popped actual arduous, and also you simply need to say, ‘Hey, I’m right here to do a job. Make it actual.’”

That dedication to fight vérité paid off. “Enter the Dragon,” made for simply $850,000 (about $5.3 million in at the moment’s {dollars}) grossed $350 million worldwide (about $2.2 billion at the moment), making it some of the worthwhile films of all time. It helped set up martial arts as an indelible a part of American popular culture.

However Mr. Lee didn’t get to benefit from the success. He died, at 32, simply earlier than the movie debuted, of undiagnosed swelling in his mind. By then he had begun filming “Sport of Demise,” that includes an iconic combat scene with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the movie, through which Mr. Wall additionally had a job, was launched in 1978). And he was planning much more films, together with at the very least one with a distinguished function for Mr. Wall, who would play a sidekick to Mr. Lee’s hero, a C.I.A. agent.

“Hey Bob,” Mr. Wall recalled him saying a number of weeks earlier than his loss of life, “you get to be a great man within the subsequent one!”

Robert Alan Wall was born on Aug. 22, 1939, in San Jose, Calif. His father, Ray Wall, labored in development and his mom, Reva (Wingo) Wall, was a nurse.

He was drawn to martial arts as a younger teenager who had suffered beatings by the hands of his abusive, alcoholic father. He wrestled in highschool and at San Jose State College, the place he left with out graduating to affix the Military. After he was discharged, he moved to Los Angeles to start his martial arts training beneath Mr. Norris.

Mr. Wall held a sophisticated black belt in a number of disciplines, and he frequently positioned first or second at competitions across the nation within the late Nineteen Sixties and early ’70s.

After Mr. Lee’s loss of life, he labored as a combat coordinator on a number of martial arts films, together with “Black Belt Jones” (1974), starring certainly one of his protégés, Jim Kelly, one of many first Black karate champions. He additionally gave non-public classes to celebrities fascinated by martial arts, together with Steve McQueen and Elvis Presley.

By the mid-Seventies Mr. Norris had determined to enter appearing full time, and he and Mr. Wall offered their enterprise in 1975. Mr. Wall turned his consideration to actual property, launching a second profession as a residential and industrial developer.

He didn’t depart the world of martial arts, although. Along with writing books and educating seminars, he had a long-running and really public beef with Steven Seagal, one other martial arts skilled turned motion star.

In a sequence of interviews within the mid-Nineteen Eighties, Mr. Seagal, who had taught aikido in Japan, insulted American martial arts, and Mr. Norris specifically. In response, Mr. Wall challenged him to a combat; they by no means got here to blows, and finally they labored it out, however Mr. Wall refused to observe any of Mr. Seagal’s films.

Mr. Wall additionally remained shut buddies with Mr. Norris. He took small roles in a number of of his films and on the sequence “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which starred Mr. Norris and ran from 1993 to 2001.

It was simply the correct amount of fame for Mr. Wall.

“I’m well-known sufficient that individuals who know martial arts or know Bruce Lee movies know me,” he mentioned. “However I’m not so well-known that I can’t stroll down a road. I can go out and in of a restaurant. I don’t lose my privateness.”

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