The man who revolutionized martial arts: Bruce Lee
The man, the myth, the legend. Bruce Lee was far from a myth, but he was a legendary man who completely changed martial arts. He redesigned his foundation so significantly and precisely that no man or woman can perfect it further. Today, martial artists can only build on that foundation and help hone their ideas. Bruce was a motivator, an innovator, and an amazing philosopher. The most important thing was that he was a true martial artist.
A Martial Artist is someone who adapts to any situation. This philosophy is not limited to wrestling or martial arts. It can be used in daily life. We can use work as an example.
Let’s say you’re not doing as well as you thought and you know you can do much better. How can you be better at your job? You adapt to it! You listen and learn all you can. You go to work each day with a new goal in mind and each day you discover how to achieve that goal.
As a martial artist, I have learned to use what I learn in martial arts in everyday life. Bruce Lee made this evident in his books and movies. He made his philosophy heard in such a way that it was impossible to ignore.
A personal challenge from me to you: Watch a Bruce Lee movie (Game Dragon has great fight scenes and great Bruce Lee quotes)! Let me know if you felt his passion and heard some of his philosophy. Did it motivate you? His philosophy has motivated me in such a way that it has changed my vision of many things and my way of approaching day to day. No article on Bruce Lee is complete without a bit of history about him.
A Brief History of Bruce Lee:
Bruce Lee’s story began on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, California. He was born Lee Jun Fan and was the fourth child of his father, Lee Hoi-Chuen, and his mother, Grace.
Lee’s father was a Hong Kong opera singer who was on tour in San Francisco when he was born, making Lee a US citizen. Three months later, the family returned to Hong Kong, which was occupied by the Japanese at the time. When Lee was 12 years old, he enrolled at La Salle College and then at St. Francis Xavier’s College, both high schools, although it says college. Lee’s father was Lee’s first martial arts instructor, teaching him the Wu style of Tai Chi Chuan early on. After joining a Hong Kong street gang in 1954, Lee began to feel the need to improve his fighting skills. This caused him to start studying Wing Chun Gung Fu with Yip Man. While there, Lee often trained with one of Yip’s best students, Wong Shun-Leung. Therefore, Wong had a great impact on the formation of him. Lee studied with Yip Man until he was 18 years old. Most don’t realize how extensive Lee’s martial arts experience was. Lee also trained in Western boxing and won the 1958 boxing championship against Gary Elms by a third-round knockout. Lee also learned fencing techniques from his brother, Peter Lee (a champion in the sport). This varied background led to personal modifications to Wing Chun Gung Fu, and he named his new version of the style Jun Fan Gung Fu. In fact, Lee opened his first martial arts school in Seattle and called it the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.
Lee began to formulate a style of martial arts that was practical for street fighting and existed outside the parameters and limitations of other martial arts styles. He kept what worked and what didn’t, he didn’t use it. Jeet Kune Do was born in 1965. Lee opened two more schools after moving to California, certifying only three instructors in the art. They were Taky Kimura, James Yimm Lee, and Dan Inosanto.
Bruce Lee appeared in his first film at three months old, acting as an understudy to an American baby in Golden Gate Girl. He made some 20 movie appearances as a child actor. In 1959, Lee got into trouble with the police for fighting. His mother, deciding that the area they lived in was too dangerous for him, sent him back to the United States to live with some friends. He there he graduated from high school in Edison, Washington before enrolling in the University of Washington to study philosophy. He also began teaching martial arts there, and that is how he met his future wife, Linda Emery. Bruce Lee married Linda Emery in 1964. They had two children together: Brandon Lee and Shannon.
Bruce Lee made some American headlines as an actor in the television series The Green Hornet, which aired from 1966 to 1967. He served as Hornet’s sidekick, Kato, where he showcased his movie-friendly fighting style. Even with more appearances, acting stereotypes were huge barriers and prompted him to return to Hong Kong in 1971. In Hong Kong, he became a major movie star in films like Fists of Fury, The Chinese Connection, and Way of the Dragon.
On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong at the age of 32. The official cause of death for him was cerebral edema, caused by a reaction to a prescription pain reliever he was taking for a back injury. Controversy increased regarding his passing, as Lee had been obsessed with the idea that he might die early, leaving many wondering if he had been murdered. One month after Lee’s death in the United States, Enter the Dragon was released in the United States, eventually grossing over $200 million. Bruce made a lot happen in a short time. His studies and beliefs led to a universal change in the world of Martial Arts. Today, we have Mixed Martial Arts (AKA MMA) which is taking the world by storm and thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and has become the fastest growing show in the world. The man to thank is Bruce Lee. His insights and his ability to reach a wide diversity of people has shown that combining martial arts to find what works and what doesn’t is the only way to become a true martial artist.
Thanks Bruce Lee!