The System Founder

Professor Joseph Cowles (January 20th 1928 – February 23rd 2014) the founder of Wu-Wei Gung Fu, was a friend and a student of Lee-Jun-Fan (Bruce Lee), and is a friend and a teacher of Si-Jo Eyal Koren (His successor - head of Wu Wei Gung Fu).

Prof. Cowles was born in USA on January 20th 1928. Following a two years service in the US Marines, Prof. Cowles started training in Judo in a YMCA branch in Seattle. In the very same year he met Lee Jun Fan (Bruce Lee), who was yet to open his first school, The Jun-Fan Gung Fu Institute, and became his personal student.

After Bruce Lee had taught Gung Fu in Seattle for several years, Prof. Cowles, who was by then one of his most dedicated students, asked his permission to teach Jun Fan Gung Fu While Bruce would not allow the use of his name, he did tell Cowles he could teach self-defense. Cowles moved to the Dallas area of Texas in 1970, and in 1971 began teaching a few students. In 1973, upon hearing of Bruce’s death, he wrote a few letters to Linda Lee. In one of his letters he mentioned that Bruce had told him he could teach self-defense. In her reply, Linda stated: "I know that Bruce taught you more than self-defense".

This was an encouragement to Prof. Cowles. In order to not encroach upon Bruce’s name or the name of his art, however, he termed his teaching Wu-Wei – the Chinese philosophical concept of spontaneous action. As Bruce had told Cowles when asked if one technique was better than another, Bruce answered: "Nothing is Best; it is WHAT FITS THE MOMENT that that is Best!"

Prof. Cowles always treasured that reply, especially when recalling Bruce’s words in his first book: My action is that of Wu-Wei


Cowles retired from his position as head of Wu Wei Gung Fu on January 1st 2006, naming as his successor his Israeli student Eyal Koren as the worldwide head of the system and Joe Purcell as head of the system in the US.

Prof. Cowles passed away on February 23rd 2014, aged 86.


Degrees and Achievements:

  • In 1974, Prof. Cowles received a mark of recognition from Prof. Larry Brooks for his exceptional contribution to the Bushido Jiu-jitsu Ryu Society.

  • In 1978 he received the rank of Shodai for the system he founded.

  • In 1983 Prof. Cowles was appointed Western States Executive Director for the Society of Black Belts of America by the society’s founder, Robert L. Murphy.

  • Prof. Cowles is a lifetime member of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute and of Kimishin-Kai, and holds the rank of Godan in Kimishin-Ryu.