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Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973) was an American-born martial artist, philosopher, instructor, martial arts actor and the founder of the Jeet Kune Do combat form. He was widely regarded as the most influential martial artist of the twentieth century and a cultural icon. He was also the father of actor Brandon Lee and of actress Shannon Lee.

Lee was born in San Francisco, California, and raised in Hong Kong. His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, and sparked the first major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong and the rest of the world as well. Lee became an iconic figure particularly to the Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese national pride and Chinese nationalism in his movies. He primarily practiced Chinese martial arts (Kung Fu).

Early life

Lee Jun Fan was born in the hour of the dragon, between 6–8 a.m., in the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese zodiac calendar, November 27, 1940, at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the United States. His father, Lee Hoi-Chuen (李海泉), was Chinese, and his Catholic mother, Grace (何愛瑜), was of Chinese and German ancestry. Lee and his parents returned to Hong Kong when he was three months old. He was a citizen of the United States by birth and did not hold any other citizenships.

Education and family

At age 12, Lee entered La Salle College and later he attended St. Francis Xavier's College. In 1959, at the age of 18, Lee got into a fight and badly beat his opponent, getting into trouble with the police. His father became concerned about young Bruce's safety, and as a result, he and his wife decided to send Bruce to the United States to live with an old friend of his father's. Lee left with $100 in his pocket and the titles of 1958 Boxing Champion and the Crown Colony Cha Cha Champion of Hong Kong. After living in San Francisco, he moved to Seattle to work for Ruby Chow, another friend of his father's. In 1959, Lee completed his high school education in Seattle and received his diploma from Edison Technical School. He enrolled at the University of Washington and studied philosophy, drama, and psychology, among other subjects. It was at the University of Washington that he met his future wife Linda Emery, whom he would marry in 1964.

He had two children with Linda, Brandon Lee (1965–1993) and Shannon Lee (1969-). Brandon, who also became an actor like his father, died in an accident during the filming of The Crow in 1993. Shannon Lee also became an actress and appeared in some low-budget films starting in the mid 1990s, but has since quit acting.

Names

Lee's Cantonese given name was Jun Fan (振藩; Mandarin Pinyin: Zhènfán). At his birth, he additionally was given the English name of "Bruce" by a Dr. Mary Glover. Though Mrs. Lee had not initially planned on an English name for the child, she deemed it appropriate and would concur with Dr. Glover's addition. However, his American name was never used within his family until he enrolled in La Salle College (a Hong Kong high school) at the age of 12, and again at another high school (St. Francis Xavier's College in Kowloon), where Lee would come to represent the boxing team in inter-school events.

Lee initially had the birth name Li Yuen Kam (李炫金); Mandarin Pinyin: Lǐ Xuànjīn) given to him by his mother, as at the time, Lee's father was away on a Chinese opera tour. This name would later be abandoned because of a conflict with the name of Bruce's grandfather, causing him to be renamed Jun Fan upon his father's return. Also of note is that Lee was given a feminine name, Sai Fung (細鳳, literally "small phoenix"), which was used throughout his early childhood in keeping with a Chinese custom, traditionally thought to hide a child from evil spirits.

Lee's screen names were respectively Lee Siu Lung (in Cantonese), and Li Xiao Long (in Mandarin) (李小龍; Cantonese pengyam: Ley5 Siu² Long4; Mandarin Pinyin: Lǐ Xiǎolóng) which literally translates to "Lee the Little Dragon" in English. These names were first used by director 袁步雲 of the 1950 Cantonese movie 細路祥, in which Lee would perform. It is possible that the name "Lee Little Dragon" was based on his childhood name of "small dragon", as, in Chinese tradition, the dragon and phoenix come in pairs to represent the male and female genders respectively. The more likely explanation is that he came to be called "Little Dragon" because, according to the Chinese zodiac, he was born in the Year of the Dragon.

Acting career

Lee's father Hoi-Chuen was a famous Cantonese Opera star. Thus, through his father, Bruce was introduced into films at a very young age and appeared in several short black-and-white films as a child. Lee had his first role as a baby who was carried onto the stage. By the time he was 18, he had appeared in twenty films.

While in the United States from 1958–1964, Lee abandoned thoughts of a film career in favor of pursuing martial arts. However, after Lee's high-profile martial arts demonstration at the 1964 Long Beach Karate Tournament, he was seen by some of the nation's most proficient martial artists—as well as the hairdresser of Batman producer William Dozier. Dozier soon invited Lee for an audition, where Lee so impressed the producers with his lightning-fast moves that he earned the role of Kato alongside Van Williams in the TV series The Green Hornet. The show lasted just one season, from 1966 to 1967. Lee also played Kato in three crossover episodes of Batman. This was followed by guest appearances in a host of television series, including Ironside (1967) and Here Come the Brides (1969).

In 1969, Lee made a brief appearance in his first American film Marlowe where he played a henchman hired to intimidate private detective Philip Marlowe (played by James Garner) by smashing up his office with leaping kicks and flashing punches, only to later accidentally jump off a tall building while trying to kick Marlowe off. In 1971, Lee appeared in four episodes of the television series Longstreet as the martial arts instructor of the title character Mike Longstreet (played by James Franciscus). Bruce would later pitch a television series of his own tentatively titled The Warrior. Allegedly, Lee's concept was retooled and renamed Kung Fu, but if so, Warner Bros. gave Lee no credit. The role of the Shaolin monk in the Wild West, known to have been coveted by Bruce, was awarded to non-martial artist David Carradine, purportedly because of the studio's belief that a Chinese leading man would not be embraced by the American public.

Not happy with his supporting roles in the U.S., Lee returned to Hong Kong and was offered a film contract by legendary director Raymond Chow to star in films produced by his production company Golden Harvest. Lee played his first leading role in The Big Boss (1971) which proved an enormous box office success across Asia and catapulted him to stardom. He soon followed up his success with two more huge box office successes: Fist of Fury (1972) and Way of the Dragon (1972). For Way of the Dragon, he took complete control of the film's production as the writer, director, star, and choreographer of the fight scenes. In 1964, at a demonstration in Long Beach, California, Lee had met karate champion Chuck Norris. In Way of the Dragon Lee introduced Norris to moviegoers as his opponent in the final death fight at the Colosseum in Rome, today considered one of Lee's most legendary fight scenes.

In 1973, Lee played the lead role in Enter the Dragon, the first film to be produced jointly by Golden Harvest and Warner Bros. This film would skyrocket Lee to fame in the U.S. and Europe. However, only a few months after the film's completion and three weeks before its release, the supremely fit Lee mysteriously died. Enter the Dragon would go on to become one of the year's highest grossing films and cemented Lee as a martial arts legend. It was made for US$850,000 in 1973 (equivalent to $4 million adjusted for inflation as of 2007). To date, Enter the Dragon has grossed over $200 million worldwide. The movie sparked a brief fad in the martial-arts epitomized in songs like "Kung Fu Fighting" and TV shows like Kung Fu.

Robert Clouse, the director of Enter the Dragon, attempted to finish Lee's incomplete film Game of Death which Lee was also set to write and direct. Lee had shot over forty minutes of footage for Game of Death before shooting was stopped to allow him to work on Enter the Dragon. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a student of Lee, also appeared in the film, which culminates in Lee's character, Billy Lo (clad in the now-famous yellow track suit) taking on the 7'2" basketball player in a climactic fight scene. In a controversial move, Robert Clouse finished the film using a look-alike and archive footage of Lee from his other films and released it in 1978 with a new storyline and cast. However, the cobbled-together film contained only 15 minutes of actual footage of Lee while the rest had a Lee lookalike, Tai Chung Kim, and Yuen Biao as stunt doubles. The unused footage Lee had filmed was recovered 22 years later and included in the documentary Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey.

Challengers on the set

Lee's celebrity and martial arts prowess often put him on a collision course with a number of street thugs, stunt men and martial arts extras, all hoping to make a name for themselves. Lee typically defused such challenges without fighting, but felt forced to respond to several persistent individuals.

Bob Wall, USPK karate champion and co-star in Enter the Dragon, recalled a particularly serious encounter that transpired after a film extra kept taunting Lee. The extra yelled that Lee was "a movie star, not a martial artist," that he "wasn't much of a fighter." Lee answered his taunts by asking him to jump down from the wall he was sitting on. Bob Wall described Lee's opponent as "a gang-banger type of guy from Hong Kong," a "damned good martial artist," and observed that he was fast, strong, and bigger than Bruce.

Wall recalled the confrontation in detail:

After his victory, Lee gave his opponent lessons on how to improve his fighting skills. His opponent, now impressed, would later say to Lee, "You really are a master of the martial arts."

Hong Kong legacy

There are a number of legacies surrounding Lee that still exist in Hong Kong culture today. One is that his early 70s interview on the TVB show Enjoy Yourself Tonight cleared the busy streets of Hong Kong as everyone was watching the interview at home.

Another topic is that his moment of birth is often used as a modern cultural proof of the existence of the Four Pillars of Destiny concept, having been born in the year of the dragon and hour of the dragon along with other astrological alignment.

Martial arts training and development

Lee's first introduction to martial arts was through his father, Lee Hoi Cheun. He learned the fundamentals of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan from his father. Lee's sifu, Wing Chun master Yip Man, was also a colleague and friend of Hong Kong's Wu style Tai Chi Chuan teacher Wu Ta-ch'i.

Lee trained in Wing Chun Gung Fu from age 13–18 under Hong Kong Wing Chun Sifu Yip Man. Lee was introduced to Yip Man in early 1954 by William Cheung, then a live-in student of Yip Man. Like most Chinese martial arts schools at that time, Sifu Yip Man's classes were often taught by the highest ranking students. One of the highest ranking students under Yip Man at the time was Wong Shun-Leung. Wong is thought to have had the largest influence on Bruce's training. Yip Man trained Lee privately after some students refused to train with Lee due to his ancestry.

Bruce was also trained in Western boxing and won the 1958 Boxing Championship match against 3-time champion Gary Elms by knockout in the 3rd round. Before arriving to the finals against Elms, Lee had knocked out 3 straight boxers in the first round. In addition, Bruce learned western fencing techniques from his brother Peter Lee, who was a champion fencer at the time. This multi-faceted exposure to different fighting arts would later play an influence in the creation of the eclectic martial art Jeet Kune Do.

Jun Fan Gung Fu

Lee began teaching martial arts after his arrival in the United States in 1959. Originally trained in Wing Chun Gung Fu, Lee called what he taught Jun Fan Gung Fu. Jun Fan Gung Fu (literally Bruce's Gung Fu), is basically a slightly modified approach to Wing Chun Gung Fu. Lee taught friends he met in Seattle, starting with Judo practitioner Jesse Glover as his first student and who later became his first assistant instructor. Before moving to California, Lee opened his first martial arts school, named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, in Seattle.

Lee also improvised his own kicking method, involving the directness of Wing Chun and the power of Northern Shaolin kung fu. Lee's kicks were delivered very quickly to the target, without "chambering" the leg.

Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do originated in 1965. A match with Wong Jack Man influenced Lee's philosophy on fighting. Lee believed that the fight had lasted too long and that he had failed to live up to his potential using Wing Chun techniques. He took the view that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalistic to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting. Lee decided to develop a system with an emphasis on "practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency". He started to use different methods of training such as weight training for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, and many others which he constantly adapted.

Lee emphasized what he called "the style of no style". This consisted of getting rid of a formalized approach which Lee claimed was indicative of traditional styles. Because Lee felt the system he now called Jun Fan Gung Fu was too restrictive, it was developed into a philosophy and martial art he would come to call (after the name was suggested by Dan Inosanto) Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist. It is a term he would later regret because Jeet Kune Do implied specific parameters that styles connote whereas the idea of his martial art was to exist outside of parameters and limitations.

Lee directly certified only 3 instructors. Taky Kimura, James Yimm Lee (no relation to Bruce Lee), and Dan Inosanto, are the only instructors certified personally by Lee. Inosanto holds the 3rd rank (Instructor) directly from Bruce Lee in Jeet Kune Do, Jun Fan Gung Fu, and Bruce Lee's Tao of Chinese Gung Fu. Taky Kimura holds a 5th rank in Jun Fan Gung Fu. James Yimm Lee (now deceased) held a 3rd rank in Jun Fan Gung Fu. Ted Wong holds 2nd rank in Jeet Kune Do certified directly by Dan Inosanto. James Yimm Lee and Taky Kimura hold ranks in Jun Fan Gung Fu, not Jeet Kune Do; Taky received his 5th rank in Jun Fan Gung Fu after the term Jeet Kune Do existed. Also Bruce gave Dan all three diplomas on the same day, suggesting perhaps that Bruce wanted Dan to be his protege. All other Jeet Kune Do instructors since Lee's death have been certified directly by Dan Inosanto.

James Yimm Lee, a close friend of Lee, died without certifying additional students. Taky Kimura, to date, has certified only one person in Jun Fan Gung Fu: his son and heir Andy Kimura. Dan Inosanto continued to teach and certify select students in Jeet Kune Do for over 30 years, making it possible for thousands of martial arts practitioners to trace their training lineage back to Bruce Lee. Prior to his death, Lee told his then only two living instructors Inosanto and Kimura (James Yimm Lee had died in 1972) to dismantle his schools. Both Taky Kimura and Dan Inosanto were allowed to teach small classes thereafter, under the guideline "keep the numbers low, but the quality high". Bruce also instructed several World Karate Champions including Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, and Mike Stone. Between all 3 of them, during their training with Bruce they won every Karate Championship in the United States.

Controversy over Jeet Kune Do

The name "Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do" was legally trademarked, and the rights to Bruce Lee's name, likeness, and personal martial arts legacy (including personal photos and countless personal effects and memorabilia) were given solely to the Lee estate for copyrighted commercial use. The name is made up of two parts: 'Jun Fan' (Lee's Chinese given name) and 'Jeet Kune Do' (the Way of the Intercepting Fist).

Jujitsu

At 22 Lee also met Professor Wally Jay, and began to receive informal instruction in Jujitsu from him. The two would have long conversations about theories surrounding the martial arts and grew to be longtime friends.

1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships

At the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee appeared in the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships and performed repetitions of two-finger pushups (using the thumb and the index finger) with feet at approximately a shoulder-width apart. In the same Long Beach event he also performed the "One inch punch". The description of which is as follows: Lee stood upright, his right foot forward with knees bent slightly, in front of a standing, stationary partner. Lee's right arm was partly extended and his right fist approximately an inch away from the partner's chest. Without retracting his right arm, Lee then forcibly delivered the punch to his partner while largely maintaining his posture, sending the partner backwards and falling into a chair said to be placed behind the partner to prevent injury, though the force of gravity caused his partner to soon after fall onto the floor.

His volunteer was Bob Baker of Stockton, California. "I told Bruce not to do this type of demonstration again", he recalled. "When he punched me that last time, I had to stay home from work because the pain in my chest was unbearable.

1967 Long Beach International Karate Championships

Lee also appeared at the 1967 Long Beach International Karate Championships and performed various demonstrations, including the famous "unstoppable punch" against USKA world karate champion Vic Moore. Lee told Moore that he was going to throw a straight punch to the face, and all he had to do was to try and block it. Lee took several steps back and asked if Moore was ready, when Moore nodded in affirmation, Lee glided towards him until he was within striking range. He then threw a straight punch directly at Moore's face, and stopped before impact. In eight attempts, Moore failed to block any of the punches.

Fights

Year Opponent Location Result Other info
1955 William Cheung Hong Kong Exhibition
1957 Wong Shun-Leung Hong Kong Exhibition
1958 Pu Chang Hong Kong KO 2 Referee: Wong Shun-Leung
1958 Yang Huang Hong Kong KO 1 Amateur Boxing Tournament
1958 Lieh Lo Hong Kong KO 1 Amateur Boxing Tournament
1958 Shen Yuen Hong Kong KO 1 Amateur Boxing Tournament-Semi Finals
1958 Gary Elms Hong Kong KO 3 Amateur Boxing Tournament-Finals
1960 (unknown) Seattle, Washington KO 1 Lee scored a knockout with a backfist/Street Fight
1960 (unknown) Seattle, Washington KO 1 Street Fight
1962 (?) Uechi Seattle, Washington KO 1 Referee: Jesse Glover
1963 (unknown) Hong Kong KO
1964 Wong Jack Man Oakland, California Controversial Result of this fight is disputed. Some sources claim the fight ended in a draw or a win for Lee.
1973 (Kung fu fighter) Hong Kong KO The KO came 30 seconds into the fight.

Lee was not a professional competitor, but he did set his sights upon the goal of being one of the fittest and strongest fighters of the world, and he went through life earnestly attempting to achieve this. Lee researched many arts in his life and used what he found was useful and rejected what he did not. He also made subtle changes where he could if what he found did not fit his specific requirements. He tended to favor techniques where he could best take advantage of his own attributes, be it his phenomenal speed, strength, elusiveness or power. As seen in his films, Lee shrieked and made high-pitched noises while moving to throw opponents psychically off-center. Lee did say he could have beaten anybody in the world in a real fight.

Dan Inosanto said, "there's no doubt in my mind that if Bruce Lee had gone into pro boxing, he could easily have ranked in the top three in the lightweight division or junior-welterweight division."

Lee had boxed in the 1958 Boxing Championships held between twelve Hong Kong schools, a tournament in which he beat the three-time champion from another school (an English boy).

Physical fitness and nutrition

Physical fitness

Lee felt that many martial artists of his day did not spend enough time on physical conditioning. Bruce included all elements of total fitness—muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. He tried traditional bodybuilding techniques to build bulky muscles or mass. However, Lee was careful to admonish that mental and spiritual preparation was fundamental to the success of physical training in martial arts skills. In his book The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, he wrote

The weight training program that Lee used during a stay in Hong Kong in 1965 at only 24 years old placed heavy emphasis on his arms. At that time he could perform bicep curls at a weight of 70 to 80lbs for three sets of eight repetitions, along with other forms of exercises, such as squats, push-ups, reverse curls, concentration curls, French presses, and both wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. The repetitions he performed were 6 to 12 reps (at the time). While this method of training targeted his fast and slow twitch muscles, it later resulted in weight gain or muscle mass, placing Bruce a little over 160 lbs. Lee was documented as having well over 2,500 books in his own personal library, and eventually concluded that "A stronger muscle, is a bigger muscle", a conclusion he later disputed. Bruce forever experimented with his training routines to maximize his physical abilities, and push the human body to its limits. He employed many different routines and exercises including skipping rope, which served his training and bodybuilding purposes effectively.

Lee believed that the abdominal muscles were one of the most important muscle groups for a martial artist, since virtually every movement requires some degree of abdominal work. Perhaps more importantly, the "abs" are like a shell, protecting the ribs and vital organs.

He trained from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., including stomach, flexibility, and running, and from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. he would weight train and cycle. A typical exercise for Lee would be to run a distance of two to six miles in 15 to 45 minutes, in which he would vary speed in 3–5 minute intervals. Lee would ride the equivalent of 10 miles in 45 minutes on a stationary bike.

Lee would sometimes exercise with the jump rope and put in 800 jumps after cycling. Lee would also do exercises to toughen the skin on his fists, including thrusting his hands into buckets of harsh rocks and gravel. He would do over 500 repetitions of this on a given day.

Nutrition

According to Linda Lee, soon after he moved to the United States, Lee started to take nutrition seriously and developed an interest in health foods, high-protein drinks and vitamin and mineral supplements. He later concluded that in order to achieve a high-performance body, one could not fuel it with a diet of junk food, and with "the wrong fuel" one's body would perform sluggishly or sloppily. Lee also avoided baked goods, describing them as providing calories which did nothing for his body. Lee's diet included protein drinks; he always tried to consume one or two daily, but discontinued drinking them later on in his life.

Linda recalls Bruce's waist fluctuated between 26 and 28 inches. "He also drank his own juice concoctions made from vegetables and fruits, apples, celery, carrots and so on, prepared in an electric blender". He consumed green vegetables, fruits, and fresh milk everyday. Bruce always preferred to eat Chinese or other Asian food because he loved the variety that it had. Bruce also became a heavy advocate of dietary supplements, including:

Physique

Lee's devotion to fitness gave him a body that was admired even by many of the top names in bodybuilding community. Joe Weider, the founder of Mr. Olympia, described Lee's physique as "the most defined body I've ever seen!" Many top bodybuilding competitors have acknowledged Lee as a major influence in their careers, including Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, Rachel McLish, Lou Ferrigno, Lenda Murray, Dorian Yates and eight time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also influenced by Lee, and said of his body,

A doctor who knew Lee once claimed that he was "Muscled as a squirrel, and spirited as a horse" and fitter than anyone he had ever seen. Lee was known to have collected over 140 books in his lifetime on bodybuilding, weight training, physiology and kinesiology. In order to better train specific muscle groups, he also created several original designs of his own training equipment and had his friend George Lee build them to his specifications.

Physical feats

Lee's phenomenal fitness meant he was capable of performing many exceptional physical feats. The following list includes some of the physical feats that are documented and supported by reliable sources.

  • Lee's striking speed from three feet with his hands down by his side reached five hundredths of a second.
  • Lee's combat movements were at times too fast to be captured on film at 24 frames per second, so many scenes were shot in 32fps to put Lee in slow motion. Normally martial arts films are sped up.
  • In a speed demonstration, Lee could snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind.
  • Lee could perform push ups using only his thumbs
  • Lee would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer.
  • Lee could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
  • Lee performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger
  • Lee performed 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups.
  • From a standing position, Lee could hold a 125 lb (57 kg) barbell straight out.
  • Lee could break wooden boards 6 inches (15 cm) thick.
  • Lee could cause a 300-lb (136 kg) bag to fly towards and thump the ceiling with a side kick.
  • Lee performed a side kick while training with James Coburn and broke a 150-lb (68 kg) punching bag
  • In a move that has been dubbed "Dragon Flag", Lee could perform leg lifts with only his shoulder blades resting on the edge of a bench and suspend his legs and torso perfectly horizontal midair.
  • Lee could thrust his fingers through unopened steel cans of Coca-Cola, at a time before cans were made of the softer aluminium metal.
  • Lee could use one finger to leave dramatic indentations on pine wood.

Philosophy

Although Lee is best known as a martial artist and actor, he majored in philosophy at the University of Washington. He was well-read and had an extensive library. His own books on martial arts and fighting philosophy are known for their philosophical assertions both inside and outside of martial arts circles. His eclectic philosophy often mirrored his fighting beliefs, though he was quick to claim that his martial arts were solely a metaphor for such teachings. He believed that any knowledge ultimately led to self-knowledge, and said that his chosen method of self-expression was martial arts. His influences include Taoism, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Buddhism. Lee was an atheist. When asked in 1972 what his religious affiliation was, he replied "none whatsoever," and expressed disbelief in God.

The following quotations reflect his fighting philosophy.

  • "Be formless... shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, and it can crash. Be water, my friend..."
  • "Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.
  • "Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there.

Awards and honors

  • With his ancestral roots coming from Gwan'on in Seundak, Guangdong province of China (廣東順德均安, Guangdong Shunde Jun'An), a street in the village is named after him where his ancestral home is situated. The home is open for public access.
  • Lee was named among TIME Magazine's 100 Most Important People of the Century as one of the greatest heroes & icons, as an example of personal improvement through, in part, physical fitness, and among the most influential martial artists of the twentieth century.
  • On March 31, 2007 Lee was named as one of History's 100 Most Influential people, according to a Japanese national survey that was televised on NTV.
  • In 2001, LMF, a Cantonese hip-hop group in Hong Kong, released a popular song called "1127" as a tribute to Lee.
  • In 2003, "Things Asian" wrote an article on the thirtieth anniversary of his death.
  • In 2004, UFC president Dana White credited Lee as the "father of mixed martial arts".
  • In September 2004, a BBC story stated that the Herzegovinian city of Mostar was to honor Lee with a statue on the Spanish Square, as a symbol of solidarity. After many years of war and religious splits, Lee's figure is to commend his work: to successfully bridge culture gaps in the world. The statue, placed in the city park, was unveiled on November 26, 2005 (One day before the unveiling of the statue in Hong Kong, below).
  • In 2005, Lee was remembered in Hong Kong with a bronze statue to mark his sixty-fifth birthday. The bronze statue, unveiled on November 27, 2005, honored Lee as Chinese film's bright star of the century.
  • A Bruce Lee theme park with memorial statue and hall has been scheduled to be built in Shunde, China. It is expected to be complete in 2009.
  • As of 2007, he is still considered by many martial artists and fans as the greatest martial artist of all time.
  • On April 10, 2007 China's national broadcaster announced it has started filming a 40-part series on Lee. Xinhua News Agency said China Central Television started shooting "The Legend of Bruce Lee" over the weekend in Shunde in Guangdong province in southern China. Shunde is the ancestral home of Lee, who was born in San Francisco. It said the 50 million yuan (US$6.4 million; €4.8 million) production will also be filmed in Hong Kong and the United States, where Lee studied and launched his acting career. Chen Guokun, who plays Lee, said he has mixed feelings about playing the role of the icon, Xinhua reported. "I'm nervous and also excited, but I will do my best," Chen, who's also known as Chan Kwok-kwan, was quoted as saying. Chen, best known for appearing in the action comedy "Kung Fu Hustle," says Lee has been his role model since he was a child and that he has practiced kung fu for many years. The TV series, which is due to be aired in 2008, the year Beijing hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics Games, appears to aimed at highlighting Chinese culture in the run up to the event.
  • In 2008, Plans for a Hong Kong museum dedicated to Lee are also in discussion. Lee’s two-story Hong Kong home was to be sold in July for as much as $13 million to benefit victims of the Sichuan earthquake, but its philanthropist owner, responding to pleas from Lee’s fans, decided instead to donate the property to the city so hopefully it can be turned into a museum some day.

Plagiarism accusations

Writings attributed to Lee published posthumously by his estate in several volumes (including The Tao of Jeet Kune Do and the Bruce Lee Library Series of books), have been found to contain scores of incorrectly attributed material, including passages belonging to Alan Watts, Helen Keller, Dear Abby, Fritz Perls, Benjamin Franklin, Hugh Prather, Eric Hoffer, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and dozens of other writers. These writings were published from hand-written notes which Bruce Lee compiled throughout his life. While it is fair to point out that Bruce Lee did not authorize the publication of his notes after his death, one of the books, The Tao of Gung Fu, contains at least one essay Lee submitted to his Freshman English class at the University of Washington at Seattle as well as a draft of a chapter for a proposed book by the same name. Both contain plagiarized passages from the books The Way of Zen and This is It by Alan Watts, creatively arranged and presented as the first-person experiences of Lee. In the book, Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, written by Lee's widow, Linda, Bruce Lee's former English teacher recounts accusing Lee of plagiarizing. "I accused him once of doing that and he sort of laughed," stated Margaret Walters. "He didn't admit it, but he didn't deny it, either.

Martial arts lineage

Lineage in Wing Chun / Jeet Kune Do
Sifu in Wing Chun Yip Man (葉問)
Other instructors Sihing Wong Shun-leung (黃惇樑) William Cheung
Notable Sparring partner Toe Dai Hawkins Cheung Note: He was Lee's friend at the time.
 
Bruce Lee (李小龍)
Creator of Jeet Kune Do
 
Instructors certified by Lee to teach Jeet Kune Do
Dan Inosanto
Taky Kimura
James Yimm Lee (Died 1972)
Known students in Jun Fan
Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do
Brandon Bruce Lee
Jesse Glover
Steve Golden
Larry Hartsell
Dan Inosanto
Tommy Carruthers
Taky Kimura
Jerry Poteet
Ted Wong
James Yimm Lee
Rusty Stevens
Numerous others...
Famous students taught
Jun Fan/Jeet Kune Do
Chuck Norris
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
James Coburn
Joe Lewis
Roman Polanski
Lee Marvin
Stirling Silliphant
Steve McQueen
Mike Stone Numerous others...

Death by misadventure

A foreshadowing of events to come occurred on May 10, 1973, when Lee collapsed in Golden Harvest studios while doing dubbing work for Enter the Dragon. Suffering from full-body seizures and cerebral edema, he was immediately rushed to Hong Kong Baptist Hospital where doctors were able to reduce the swelling through the administration of Mannitol and revive him. These same symptoms that occurred in his first collapse were later repeated on the day of his death.

On July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong, due to have dinner with former James Bond star George Lazenby, with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee's wife Linda, Lee met producer Raymond Chow at 2 p.m. at home to discuss the making of the movie Game of Death. They worked until 4 p.m. and then drove together to the home of Lee's colleague Betty Ting, a Taiwanese actress. The three went over the script at Ting's home, and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting.

A short time later, Lee complained of a headache, and Ting gave him an analgesic (painkiller), Equagesic, which contained both aspirin and a muscle relaxant. Around 7:30 p.m., he went to lie down for a nap. After Lee did not turn up for dinner, Chow came to the apartment but could not wake Lee up. A doctor was summoned, who spent ten minutes attempting to revive him before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, Lee was dead by the time he reached the hospital. There was no visible external injury; however, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams (a 13% increase). Lee was 32 years old. The only two substances found during the autopsy were Equagesic and trace amounts of cannabis. On October 15, 2005, Chow stated in an interview that Lee died from a hypersensitivity to the muscle relaxant in Equagesic, which he described as a common ingredient in painkillers. When the doctors announced Lee's death officially, it was ruled a "death by misadventure."

Dr. Langford, who treated Lee for his first collapse, stated after his death that, "There's not a question in my mind that cannabis should have been named as the presumptive cause of death. He also believed that, "Equagesic was not at all involved in Bruce's first collapse. Professor R.D. Teare, who had overseen over 100,000 autopsies, was the top expert assigned to the Lee case. Dr. Teare declared that the presence of cannabis was mere coincidence, and added that it would be "irresponsible and irrational" to say that it might have triggered Lee's death. His conclusion was that the death was caused by an acute cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the prescription pain killing drug Equagesic. Dr. Peter Wu's preliminary opinion was that the cause of death could have been a reaction to cannabis and Equagesic. Dr. Wu would later back off from this position however:

"Professor Teare was a forensic scientist recommended by Scotland Yard; he was brought in as an expert on cannabis and we can't contradict his testimony. The dosage of cannabis is neither precise nor predictable, but I've never known of anyone dying simply from taking it."

The exact details of Lee's death are a subject of controversy.

His wife Linda returned to her home town of Seattle, and had him buried at lot 276 of Lakeview Cemetery. Pallbearers at his funeral on July 31, 1973, included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, George Lazenby, Dan Inosanto, Taky Kimura, Peter Chin, and his brother, Robert Lee.

His iconic status and young and unusual death fed many theories about his death, including murder involving the Triad society and a supposed curse on him and his family.

The curse theory was extended to his son Brandon Lee, also an actor, who died, 20 years after his father, in a bizarre accident while filming The Crow at the age of 28. It was released after his death and gained cult status, as his father's last film had been, and did. (The Crow was completed with the use of computer-generated imagery and a stunt double in the few, but critical, scenes that remained to be filmed.) Brandon Lee was buried beside his father.

Media

Biographical films

In 1993 a biopic of Lee's life titled Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was released in which Lee was portrayed by Jason Scott Lee (no relation).

In April, 2007, Chinese state media announced that its national broadcaster had started filming a 40-part TV series on Lee titled The Legend of Bruce Lee to promote Chinese culture for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Lee will be portrayed by Chan Kwok Kuen in the series.

On August 22, 2007, Fruit Chan announced that he will make a film on Bruce Lee's early years, in Chinese, entitled Kowloon City, produced by John Woo's producer Terence Chang, and set in 1950s Hong Kong.

Stanley Kwan stated that he was talking with Lee's family to make a biographical film on Lee. Kwan says that his film will look at how Bruce Lee was affected by the absence of his father and how he brought up his own son, Brandon Lee.

On October 7, 2008, China state TV announced that it will air a 50-part biography of Bruce Lee titled 'The Legend of Bruce Lee'.

Books authored

Books about Bruce Lee or JKD or both

  • Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew - written by his widow Linda Lee Cadwell. This book served as the basis for the movie about his life, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
  • Bruce Lee: Words of the Dragon : Interviews 1958-1973 - written by John Little
  • Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body - written by John Little
  • The Dragon and the Tiger: The Birth of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, the Oakland Years. by Sid Campbell
  • Bruce Lee Between Wing Chun and JKD - written by Jesse Glover
  • Bruce Lee: Dynamic Becoming - a book about Bruce Lee's philosophy
  • Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit - a biography by Bruce Thomas
  • Striking Thoughts - thoughts and quotes of Bruce Lee
  • The Tao of Jeet Kune Do - a book assembled posthumously that expresses Bruce Lee's notes on martial arts and philosophy.
  • "On the Warrior's Path" by Daniele Bolelli (2003). The longest chapter of this book about martial arts philosophy is on Bruce Lee's philosophical legacy.
  • Unsettled Matters: The Life & Death of Bruce Lee - written by Tom Bleecker.

Bruce Lee documentaries

  • The Intercepting Fist (2001)
  • Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (2000)
  • Bruce Lee: The Path of the Dragon (1998)
  • The Immortal Dragon (A&E) (1996)
  • Curse of the Dragon (1993)
  • Death by Misadventure (1993)
  • Martial Arts Master (1993)
  • The Unbeatable Bruce Lee
  • The Man And The Legend

Selected filmography

For a complete list of Bruce Lee's filmography see

Television appearances

  • The Green Hornet (26 episodes, 1966–1967) .... Kato
  • Batman (Episodes: "Spell of Tut" September 26, 1966, "A Piece of the Action" March 1, 1966, "Batman's Satisfaction" March 2, 1966) .... Kato
  • Ironside (Episode: "Tagged for Murder" October 26, 1967) .... Leon Soo
  • Blondie (Episode: "Pick on Someone Your Own Size", 1968)
  • Here Come the Brides (Episode: "Marriage Chinese Style" April 9, 1969) .... Lin
  • Longstreet (4 episodes, 1971) .... Li Tsung
  • The Pierre Berton Show (1971) .... Himself

Other media

See also

Notes

References

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External links

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