Bruce Lee, aka”The Little Dragon,” who in the developed world is not familiar with him? The stories about him are mythical, he has influenced countless and still does to this very day. But what’s the allure of this Chinese/American aside from his extraordinary physique, flawless moves and cult classic films? Well one has to go way back to the early 1960’s when Bruce first gained notoriety. I could sit here all day going into detail about how he came to be, but both you and I don’t need that, however let’s discuss some essential points shall we? Bruce Lee begins teaching some students independently his take on battle and practical martial arts, often training individuals in parking garages and in parks before getting enough students to open up his own college. At the moment the growing martial arts scene (as this was the pioneer days of martial arts shooting off in this country with Asian immigrants and armed forces service members coming back from overseas with those never before seen techniques) starts hearing all this chatter about a Chinese guy who is so unbelievably fast and gifted that he must be experienced to be believed.
Well Bruce, starts getting invited to martial arts championships to do demonstrations and the public can not believe what they are seeing. Two-finger push-ups, 1 inch punches (in which Bruce would set a small pad against a man’s chest with his fist one inch off and burst the individual 6 feet back into a seat ) and fighting concepts that were unheard of at the moment. Well low and behold there was a television producer from the audience one day that, after seeing this thrilling screen, gave Bruce the role of Kato in the Green Hornet TV series. The series is powerful but is canceled after a short run, so he goes to China and becomes very successful in foreign kung-fu films. Not long after he becomes popular in the U.S. where he gets a films deal for a U.S. production everybody knows about,”Enter the Dragon.” Six days before it’s released he dies.
OK so why is he so popular? Well for one thing it was unheard of at the time for a Chinese man to find a top movie role at the U.S. do to powerful anti-Asian prejudices which were prevalent at the moment. He was among the first to use weight training (prior to him people believed you would become muscle bound and slow if you lift weights, regrettably some still think this, that only happens in the event that you don’t stretch after lifting heavy weights), he also utilized boxing equipment for full-contact sparring and soccer strike pads that we now call the atmosphere shield for training kicks on. He was experimenting with mad kinds of vitamins and diets and was using electro-shock to make himself quicker, not unlike we now see used in physical therapy for muscle stimulation for rehabilitative reasons, not quicker muscle contractions. Lastly he shunned traditional martial arts producing his own combat art called Jeet Kune Do (Way of the intercepting fist) after nearly losing a challenge fight in China Town when the elders were upset he was teaching Caucasians Chinese martial arts, which wasn’t permitted in their culture back then. It would take too long to discuss what his art consisted of but in short these are the reasons why he was so popular.
OK, so here is a rhetorical question: what level black belt was Bruce Lee? He was a master right? Nope, actually he was not even a black belt. That is crazy who would say such a thing? No really, he achieved intermediate rank in Wing Chun (a Chinese classic style of Kung-Fu) and had some early experiences in some other traditional styles of Kung-Fu but that’s it. At one stage he got in a fight and hurt someone and the police were looking for him, so his uncle gave him some money he had saved, put him on a boat and shipped him back to the U.S. as he was born here and had U.S. citizenship. So together with his training being cut short, he studied and practiced on his own and eventually came up with Jeet Kune Do.