Bruce Lee - Biography, Videos, Quotes, and
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Bruce Lee was an American-born martial
artist, philosopher, instructor, martial arts actor and the
founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts system, widely regarded
as the most influential martial artist of the 20th century and a
Bruce Lee 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.
Bruce Lee birthplace was San Francisco, California although he
was raised in Hong Kong. Lee's 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 Lee's 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.
Many see Lee as a model blueprint for acquiring a strong and
efficient body and the highest possible level of physical
fitness, as well as developing a mastery of martial arts and
hand to hand combat skills.
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 as a drama major and
took some philosophy classes.
Bruce 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
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.
Bruce 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.
Bruce 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.
Rare footage of Bruce Lee in Long Beach
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.
At 22 Bruce also met Professor Wally Jay.
From Jay, Bruce would receive informal instruction in Jujitsu.
The two would have long conversations about theories surrounding
the martial arts and grew to be longtime friends.
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.
Bruce Lee also appeared at the 1967 Long
Beach International Karate Championships and performed various
demonstrations, including the famous "unstoppable punch" with
USKA world karate champion Vic Moore. Bruce would announce to
Vic Moore that he was going to throw a straight punch to his
face, and all he had to do was block it. He would take several
steps back and ask if Moore was ready, when Moore nodded in
affirmation, Lee would glide towards him until he was within
striking range. He would then throw a straight punch directly at
Moore's face and stop before impact. In eight attempts, Moore
blocked zero punches.
Lee's phenomenal fitness meant he was capable
of performing many exceptional physical feats. The
following list are 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
Lee could spring a 235 lb (107 kg)
opponent 15 feet (4.6 meters) away with a 1 inch punch.
Lee's combat movements were at times too
fast to be captured on film at 24fps, so many scenes were
shot in 32fps to put Lee in slow motion. Normally martial arts
films are sped up.
Lee could perform push ups using only his
Lee would hold an elevated v-sit position
for 30 minutes or longer.
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 performed one-hand push-ups using
only the thumb and index finger
Lee performed 50 reps of one-arm
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 performed a side kick while training
with James Coburn and broke a 150-lb (68 kg) punching bag
Lee could cause a 300-lb (136 kg) bag to
fly towards and thump the ceiling with a side kick.
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 aluminum metal.
Lee could use one finger to leave
dramatic indentations on pine wood.
Even though Bruce Lee is best known as a martial
artist and actor, Lee majored in philosophy at the University of
Washington. Lee himself 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. His
influences include Taoism, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Buddhism.
The following quotes and quotations reflect his fighting philosophy:
"To tell the truth....I could beat anyone
in the world."
"If I tell you I'm good, you would
probably think I'm boasting. If I tell you I'm no good, you
know I'm lying."
"Fighting is not something sought after,
yet it is something that seeks you."
"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 like water, my friend..."
"Use only that which works, and take it
from any place you can find it."
"The more relaxed the muscles are, the
more energy can flow through the body. Using muscular
tensions to try to 'do' the punch or attempting to use brute
force to knock someone over will only work to opposite
"Mere technical knowledge is only the
beginning of Gung Fu. To master it, one must enter into the
spirit of it."
"There are lots of guys around the world
that are lazy. They have big fat guts. They talk about chi
power and things they can do, but don't believe it."
"I'm not a master. I'm a student-master,
meaning that I have the knowledge of a master and the
expertise of a master, but I'm still learning. So I'm a
student-master. I don't believe in the word 'master.' I
consider the master as such when they close the casket."
"Do not deny the classical approach,
simply as a reaction, or you will have created another
pattern and trapped yourself there."
"Jeet Kune Do: it's just a name; don't
fuss over it. There's no such thing as a style if you
understand the roots of combat."
"Unfortunately, now in boxing people are
only allowed to punch. In Judo, people are only allowed to
throw. I do not despise these kinds of martial arts. What I
mean is, we now find rigid forms which create differences
among clans, and the world of martial art is shattered as a
"I think the high state of martial art,
in application, must have no absolute form. And, to tackle
pattern A with pattern B may not be absolutely correct."
"True observation begins when one is
devoid of set patterns."
"The other weakness is, when clans are
formed, the people of a clan will hold their kind of martial
art as the only truth and do not dare to reform or improve
it. Thus they are confined in their own tiny little world.
Their students become machines which imitate martial art
"Some people are tall; some are short.
Some are stout; some are slim. There are various different
kinds of people. If all of them learn the same martial art
form, then who does it fit?"
"Ultimately, martial art means honestly
expressing yourself. It is easy for me to put on a show and
be cocky so I can show you some really fancy movement. But
to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself, and to
express myself honestly enough; that, my friend, is very
hard to do."
Bruce Lee's head stone in Lake View Cemetery,
Seattle U.S. A foreshadowing of events of Bruce Lee's
death 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 Pei, a
Taiwanese actress. The three went over the script at Pei's home,
and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting.
A short time later, Bruce Lee complained of a headache, and Ting
Pei 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 Bruce did not turn up for
dinner, Chow came to the apartment but could not wake him 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). Bruce
Lee was 32 years old when he died. 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 Bruce Lee's death officially, it was ruled
a "death by misadventure."