Mention the name BRUCE LEE, and images of Kung-Fu on the silver screen come to mind. However, Bruce was much more than an action film star ahead of his time. He was a husband, father, philosopher, actor, film maker, excellent dancer, teacher, marshal arts innovator aka founder of Jeet Kune Do, a fitness freak, a writer of philosophy and martial arts books, and much more.
While Bruce lived most of his young life in Hong-Kong, where he was in and out of trouble, and involved in gang fights on roof tops (which was “the thing” for the young gang banger of the city, at that time), he was actually born on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, to a Cantonese opera star named Lee Hoi-Chuen. In fact Bruce’s real (or Chinese) name is Lee Jun-fan. He got his English name (Bruce) by the physician at the hospital where he was born. Story goes that she (the physician) thought he “looked like a Bruce”.
When Lee turned 18, his father gave him money and a one way ticket to America, so he can pursue higher education at the University of Washington, Seattle. While attending college, Young Bruce started teaching marshal arts to anyone who wanted to learn, which did not sit well within the Chinese community. The elders felt that their way of fighting was not meant to be taught to outsiders. The Chinese have always kept a closed community, and their disagreement eventually came down to a show of fists, where Bruce prevailed. Unfortunately Lee came away from the fight temporarily paralyzed, when his opponent hit him with a dirty blow, as Bruce was walking away from a fight he had won.
Bruce had to deal with many challenges in his short life, all because he was the wrong skin color. Even though he was born in America, he was never truly seen as an equal by many of the whites he had to deal with. While he was the reason people tuned in to watch “The Green Hornet”, he was forced to wear a mask to hide his Oriental appearance. Even though Lee created the TV Show “Kung-Fu”, the lead role was given to David Carradine by the studios, because Bruce looked “too Chinese”.
One little known fact about Lee is that he was one of the first people to create liquefied meals, what we today refer to as “protein shakes”. Though, the varieties Bruce made weren’t powder with a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry flavor. No, these early versions combined things like eggs, meat and other sources of protein thrown into a blender, and blended into a liquid form. I’m fairly certain they must have tasted awful, but who could argue with their success? They worked and these quick meals were way before their time.
Another interesting little known fact is that Lee wrote poetry.
He was able to do one handed two finger push-ups. Now THAT’S SICK!
Bruce was a very generous man, who helped anyone in need. One such story was told by the great Jackie Chan. At that time, young Jackie was an extra in a movie which starred Bruce. It wasn’t unusual for extras to take some real punches and kicks from the film’s stars. After all… this is live action, and misfires happen. However, the stars rarely ever cared if they injured a lowly extra. Bruce Lee wasn’t your average film star, and when in a scene he accidentally injured Jackie, he stopped, helped Chan to his feet and made sure he was alright, before continuing with the shoot. Chan never forgot the kindness Lee showed him on that day, and it’s very likely that he walked away with a lesson in humility, which surely played a part in Chan turning into one of the most beloved action stars of our time.
- Lee is best known as a martial artist, but he also studied drama and philosophy while a student 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. On the other hand, Lee’s philosophy was very much in opposition to the conservative worldview advocated by Confucianism. John Little states that Lee was an atheist. When asked in 1972 about his religious affiliation, he replied, “none whatsoever”. In 1972, he was asked if he believed in God, and responded, “To be perfectly frank, I really do not”.
Unfortunately Bruce Lee died on July 20th, 1973 at the young age of 32 of a cerebral edema. He truly was a remarkable human being, who inspired people of all races and color around the world. There’s even a statue of Bruce in Bulgaria!
His famous saying was “Walk On”… in other words… what ever happens in life, just walk on. Thousands of people showed up for his funeral, from actors, actresses, athletes, other martial artists and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the 7′ 2” center of the Los Angeles Lakers, who was a student of Bruce’s.
There’s way more to this mighty mouse giant, this “dragon” than I could ever put into words, so I suggest going to the official Bruce Lee site, which is run by his daughter Shannon, and/or search his name at YouTube for many incredible videos of Bruce doing incredible things.
Story by: Attila Domos