Why Bruce Lee is The Legend, The Great fighter? His Biography

Posted By Ranjay On Jun 04, 2020

Bruce Lee is recognized not only as an actor, but as one of the world's greatest exponents of martial arts; with a marked influence over time, his personal philosophy and way of understanding combat are still studied and imitated by his followers around the globe today.

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Raised to the category of myth, Bruce Lee was established as a new sign of Chinese identity, as a true hero in real life, a true example of work, effort and self-improvement in a culture where those values are especially praised and praised.

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The story of Lee, his legend (Bruce Lee), like all (good) legends has a mysterious ending that still continues to raise suspicions today; the causes of Bruce Lee’s death are still unresolved (despite the official justification) and the curse his parents tried to hide from him (changing his name in a desperate attempt to "deceive the spirits"), it seems that, finally, not only has she not finished with him, and with her life, but has ended up reaching her children, resulting, consequently, the older of the two, dead, also in strange and tragic circumstances.

 A sad ending that has only contributed to the history of the myth.

Born on November 27, 1940 (the Chinese Year of the Dragon) in the city of San Francisco, Bruce Lee was the third child of Chinese actor Lee Hou-Cheun and Chinese-German Gracie Lee. 

Bruce Lee’s birth in the American city was a mere coincidence, since his father (and therefore the entire Lee family) was on tour with the Cantonese company "Opera Company" in that country at that time.

At first his parents called him Lee Jun Fan (which literally means "Come back again" in Spanish). 

It is known that they chose that name because they had the feeling that one day their son would return to the United States; however, given the strongly superstitious character of the head of the family, who feared that a curse would persecute the male members of his family (the characters of his name in Chinese coincided with those of his deceased grandfather, this being for the Asians an omen of evil omen) to try to “confuse the spirits” the decision was finally made to rename the boy with a girl's name "Sai Fon" whose literal translation into Spanish means "Little Phoenix".

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However, and despite having the family consensus, the name would undergo a new variation (which would begin to form the legend of "Dragon"); shortly before leaving the Jackson Street hospital, a nurse, Mary Glover, suggested that it might be a good idea to give the child a Christian name in English to avoid any kind of complication with his American birth certificate, suggesting the name Bruce. 

After all, the little one would be officially registered with the name of Bruce Lee.

After a few months the Lee family returned to Hong Kong; moving to a small house with just two rooms at 218 Nathan Road, Kowloon; However, despite the apparent shortcomings and complications, the biggest problem would come from the complicated historical context of the time, marked by the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) that would eclipse the childhood memories of little Bruce Lee, who commented for example “How he saw Japanese warplanes fly at a very low altitude, and how he went up to the roof of his house to try, in his own way, to shoot them down”.

After the Second World War, the inevitable reconstruction works began; fortunately for Bruce's father, one of the first industries to bounce back was entertainment, so he returned to his previous acting job. 

Often the boy accompanied his father to the filming, and through his contacts, at just six years old, Bruce Lee debuted on the big screen with a role in the movie "The Beginning of a Boy"

In that same year Bruce Lee would also appear in "The Birth of Madkind" and "Son Ah Cheun". 

In these films Bruce Lee played the role of "bad boy", or rascal, something to which he adapted easily since in real life he shared many of the characteristic qualities of his characters; above all, and unfortunately for his parents, his incredible facility to get into trouble. 

Despite the fact that these films are considered to be Bruce Lee’s first, the truth is that at two months old, as he himself commented, he appeared in "Golden Gate Girl" which, to the misery of his followers, is lost.

Later, at the age of eight, he would participate in a new production titled "Fu Gui Yun" (translated into English as "Wealth is like a Dream"); in which Bruce Lee began to be known by the nickname "Siu Lung", (in Castilian "Little Dragon"), which would accompany him the rest of his life and with which Bruce Lee would go down in history.

In 1953 Bruce Lee decides to practice Wing Chun (a Kung Fu style) with the master Yip Man, after having started in Tai Chi Chuan from the hand of his own father, (all this work, this path would be fundamental for, years later, end up founding his own style which he would call Jeet Kune Do, although Bruce Lee was reluctant to give it a name as it would be to limit it, which means "The path of the intercepting fist"). 

Despite this frenzied activity, Bruce Lee did not stop making films, premiering even up to 4 or 5 in the same year, also combining it with dance classes, from which he would obtain results by proclaiming himself champion of Cha Cha Cha of Hong Kong in 1958. 

This departure the implausible world of violence that surrounded Bruce Lee made him move more seriously and professionally to the field of artistic expression and entertainment.

As a teenager, Bruce Lee displayed a strong character that caused him not only numerous conflicts given his participation in different street gangs, but even the expulsion from his first school, La Salle, an English-speaking Catholic institution. 

Following this incident, Bruce Lee was enrolled in another college with similar characteristics in Hong Kong, St. Francis Xavier. By the time Bruce Lee was 18 he had already appeared in about 20 films, the most famous being "The Orphan", a 1958 Hong Kong classic in which he played the role of a juvenile delinquent (Bruce Lee himself would again admit the obvious parallelism between the trajectory of his characters with his own). 

About the year 1967 in the magazine "Black Belt" he commented that when he was little "he was a punk and he was going to look for fights".

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For this reason, his parents decided that, in April 1959, Bruce Lee travelled to the United States in order to get away from that environment, while claiming American nationality. 

After more than two weeks of traveling by boat, Bruce Lee would arrive in San Francisco with very little money (the one his father gave him and the one he earned by giving dance classes on the trip). 

He lived at the home of a family friend and would later meet one of his best friends: James Lee. A few months later Bruce Lee would move to Seattle where he found a waiter job at a Lee friend's restaurant. 

During this time he continued with his training, offering demonstrations and meeting some of those who would later become his students and friends such as Taky Kimura or Jesse Glover.

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 In 1960 Bruce Lee finished his secondary studies, thus being able to enter the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1961, enrolling in Philosophy. 

In his college days Bruce Lee continued to train as he began to teach some of his classmates, sometimes even traveling to California to teach Wing Chun to his friend James Lee. 

At this time, and, according to his moderate success, Bruce Lee decided to set up a small gym where he could teach Wing Chun and give small conferences with Taky Kimura as his assistant, during this period, when Bruce Lee wrote and published the only book he would edit while still alive. : Chinese Gung Fu. The Philosophical Art of Self Defense, 1963, thanks to the collaboration of their inseparable James Lee, Jesse Glover and Taky Kimura. During that time Bruce Lee also met a 17-year-old girl named Linda Emery in Seattle, who attended one of his classes, and who would eventually become his wife.

Despite living in the USA, Bruce Lee travelled to Hong Kong during this time to visit both his family and his teacher, Yip Man. 

Upon his return, in 1964 Bruce Lee decided, together with James Lee, to open the first Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Oakland, California. Bruce Lee dreamed of being able to open a whole series of gyms throughout the United States, and that is why that year Bruce Lee left the University and devoted himself solely to his personal training and teaching Gung Fu. 

In August of that same year Bruce Lee held some public exhibitions, the best known being the one he gave on August 2, 1964 at the Long Beach karate championships in California. 

In this championship he met Dan Innosanto, who would be one of his best students and friends.

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In August 1964, once decided, Bruce Lee married his girlfriend, Linda, in Seattle (despite the opposition of her mother), then moved to the home of James Lee and his wife in Oakland. Bruce Lee taught classes at his Oakland gym where he made no distinction of race or religion when it came to teaching, leading to a challenge from the Chinese community for teaching the secrets of Gung Fu to non-Chinese people (historically hermetic and suspicious when it comes to sharing ancient secrets with foreigners) Bruce Lee accepted the challenge of winning whoever challenged him and being able to continue teaching whoever he wanted, or lose, and stop teaching non-Asian people. 

This challenge consisted of fighting against Wong Jack Man, one of the best fighters in the Chinese community. Wong had a completely different style, in contrast to the simple but effective movements of Wing Chun. 

Bruce Lee only took 3 minutes to beat him but realized that it was too long and he was very tired after the fight, which is why Bruce rethought his fighting system to date (Wing Chun), and decided to start training his body to the limit of its capabilities. 

Arguably, from this combat Bruce Lee began to create an art / philosophy of life where he assimilated everything that was useful to him and where he trained both body and mind, and which he would later call Jeet Kune Do (the way of the intercepting fist).

Bruce Lee's vision of martial arts was very different from that of most teachers. He believed that everything was based on fixed positions; Bruce Lee said that we had to get rid of the routine that we had to evolve with combat and not limit ourselves to the only positions we know. 

The combat is always alive and constantly changing; this is why Bruce Lee decided to define Jeet Kune Do uniting the most effective techniques of a great multitude of combat and self-defense modalities: Thai boxing, Wing Chun, Jiu Jitsu, English boxing, karate, etc. 

Thus, we concluded that Jeet Kune Do is not a fixed style, but a guide that will help us evolve with combat.

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In 1964, Bruce Lee made an appearance in an exhibition by Ed Parker, founder of Kempo Karate in the United States, as a guest. And his demonstrations and skills surprised the audience, including a TV producer named William Dozier, who invited Bruce Lee to participate in some castings for his television projects.

We thus arrived at 1965. On February 1 of that year Linda had her first child; His name would be Brandon Lee, and he would also become an actor. His father, Bruce Lee, taught him the art of Jeet Kune Do from an early age. But the joy of having a child was cut short when, seven days after Brandon's birth, Lee's father died.

In 1966, Bruce Lee would accept a role offered in the television series "The Green Hornet", so he moved with his wife and son to Los Angeles with a contract, according to which, Bruce Lee would collect $ 400 per episode, taking advantage of this salary Lee built the third Jun Fan school. 

In "The Green Sting" Bruce Lee played the role of the Japanese chauffeur named Kato. 

The series was highly successful, being even known to people as the Kato series, "The Kato Show" (the character interpreted by Bruce) and not as The Green Hornet, which was the original name. The series would use the same format as another famous production of the time, “Batman.” 

The success obtained transcended the merely television show by demonstrating an innovative unknown fighting technique for the American public, used to boxing matches. 

Surprisingly, the series was equally successful in Hong Kong as well. 

Years later, Bruce Lee joked about why he landed that role: according to him. He was the only Chinese in the United States who correctly pronounced the name "Britt Reid" (the main character)

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There was a long delay before production was completed and started; for the inconvenience the studio offered Bruce Lee a compensation fee of $ 1,800. He used the money to pay for the trip to Hong Kong so that his family could meet his wife Linda and son Brandon. 

At the end of that year they returned to the United States and Bruce Lee moved with his family to Los Angeles where they bought a small apartment on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood. The Studio, Twentieth Century Fox, taught Bruce Lee drama and acting classes to better exploit his expression skills and adapt him to the American film market. 

As an anecdote, it can be said that Bruce Lee also characterized Kato in three episodes of the Batman series, which was also broadcast at that time.

In spite of everything, the series only lasted one season (between September 1966 and July 1967), but thanks to it Bruce Lee became really famous, which allowed him to give private classes and collect much more money for them from famous people from the likes of: Steve McQueen, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Coburn, Roman Polanski ...

The cancellation of "The Green Hornet" supposed a drastic cut in income for Bruce Lee, so that, once the television contract ended, Bruce Lee resumed his Kung Fu school projects while continuing to train numerous celluloid stars. 

Bruce Lee also made great friendships with Danny Inosanto, an American of Filipino descent, expert in the art of the short stick called Kali, whom as we mentioned he had met in the Baja Beach championship.

During the following years, between 1967-1970, in addition to teaching, Bruce Lee continued to train both physically and intellectually (he had a private library with more than 2,000 books), with his students like Dan Inosanto and even occasionally with the later famous Chuck Norris. Bruce Lee also did not stop attending championships, in many of which he made exhibitions, as well as playing small roles in some episodes of other series (Ironside, Blondie, Here Comes the Bride ...), and movies (Marlowe), or working as supervisor and choreographer of fight scenes in some movies (The Wrecking Crew and A Walk In The Spring Rain). 

It is also during this time when one of the happiest moments of Bruce Lee’s life occurs, since on April 19, 1969 his second offspring is born, a girl named Shanon Lee.

In 1970 Bruce Lee would suffer one of the worst moments of his life, damaging his sacral nerve by putting on too much weight to do an exercise called good morning during one of his usual workouts. 

Due to this serious injury (from which he never fully recovered, often having severe back pain that was only relieved by certain medications), Bruce Lee remained in bed and in total rest for 6 months; Unable to bear the inactivity to which he was forced, he took advantage of this time to collect notes and drawings about his fighting system and training that would later be reproduced in a book called The Tao of Jeet Kune Do that would appear published after his death. 

Bruce Lee also took the opportunity to work in 1971 on the script of a movie called The Silent Flute, which he had planned to star alongside James Coburn in India, even moving to locate foreign countries; unfortunately Bruce Lee would never see the project realized (after his death it was released as The Iron Circle, with David Carradine as the protagonist).

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Later Bruce Lee would suffer a new disappointment after being separated from a new project that he had thought with producer Fred Weintraub about a Shaolin monk who travelled the American west in search of his brother. 

This series, which would be called Kung Fu (originally intended as The Warrior), would also eventually star David Carradine, as it was alleged that Bruce Lee was "too Chinese" to star in a series in the United States.

Also during that year Bruce Lee was able to teach his Jeet Kune Do concepts in some episodes of a series called Longstreet, which starred James Franciscus and where Bruce Lee played the teacher of martial arts. 

As a result of these interventions, a Chinese producer named Raymond Chow became interested in Bruce Lee to star him in two films for the Golden Harvest studios in Hong Kong. 

Discouraged, and being perfectly aware after the latest events that his expected opportunity in Hollywood would not come, Bruce Lee accepted the proposal, so in July of that same year he moved to Thailand where Bruce Lee would start shooting what would be the first of the two movies, The Big Boss (in Spain Karate to Death in Bangkok), in really harsh conditions. 

The filming, which would last about six weeks, took place in Pak Chong, in unfortunate working conditions, with the case of having to cut the filming due to cockroach invasion and sometimes even remain without eating due to the bad state of the food being cooked. 

And kept under regrettable hygiene conditions and especially the frustrating future of directors until Raymond put Lo Wei at the helm of the film's direction.

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Filming of the second film agreed with the Golden Harvest would begin in October, although now with a higher budget and better shooting conditions. 

This film would be titled Eastern Fury (Fists of Fury in the USA), and would become perhaps Bruce Lee’s most famous film in China, since Bruce Lee played a student of an Asian teacher who comes to his death at the hands of the Japanese (greatly hated by the Chinese at that time due to the repression they were subjected to over many years). 

At the end of that same month The Big Boss opens in Hong Kong like no other film had ever been released in the now ex-British colony. 

Following this unprecedented release, the film broke box office records and Bruce Lee became a national hero. Shortly after, in March 1972, the second production was released, even surpassing the first one and confirming Bruce Lee as a consecrated star in martial arts films and even more, establishing himself as an identity sign of Chinese culture.

After these two films, Bruce Lee decided to never shoot again with Lo Wei, the director of the other films, since the relationship between the two was not especially good due to the pressures and impositions to which Lo subjected Bruce Lee during the filming, taking advantage of the fact that this was under a rigid contract. 

Once Bruce Lee was free, and without being tied to anyone, he decided to found the production company Concord Films together with Raymond Chow, uniting the talent of one with the economic capacity of the other. 

From this union came the third Bruce Lee film: The Furor of the Dragon (The Way of The Dragon in the US), in which Bruce Lee had total freedom as the director, protagonist, screenwriter and co-producer, which is why it was the most Bruce's "personal". 

The team travelled to Europe to shoot outdoors, a fact that, in the end, would lead to one of the most spectacular fights ever seen on the big screen; the confrontation between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris with the Roman Coliseum as a backdrop, being the most memorable fight in Bruce Lee's filmography. 

As a curious fact, it should be noted that Bruce Lee himself was in charge of percussion on the film's soundtrack.

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After a short break and during the promotion of Dragon's Furor, Bruce Lee began to shape what would be his most ambitious project to date; his The Game of Death

In this movie Bruce Lee would try to show his Jeet Kune Do in a more philosophical way, fighting on different levels against the best of the moment. 

Bruce Lee began filming the fight scenes in September 1972, taking advantage of the fact that his students and friends were in Hong Kong (Kareem Abdul Jabbar would be one of them), but shortly after filming began Bruce Lee would receive a proposal to film the first Great martial arts film worldwide and the first co-production between an American filmmaker (Warner Brothers) and an Asian filmmaker (Golden Harvest), which is why he sets aside the filming of Game With Death (which would be completed in 1978 using doubles and the few scenes that Bruce Lee shot), to dedicate himself completely to the new project. 

Bruce Lee sees this proposal as a way to demonstrate to Hollywood once and for all what he is capable of, so Bruce Lee accepts the proposal and signs to shoot the movie Enter the Dragon. Meanwhile, in December 1972, The Furor of the Dragon is released, again breaking all records.

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On May 10, 1973, during one of the sessions in which Bruce Lee went to the dubbing room to dub Operation Dragon (the Chinese films of the time were filmed without live sound), he suffered an apparent epileptic attack, which knocked Bruce Lee unconscious and he had to be taken to the hospital. 

Due to the seriousness of the matter, and genuinely concerned about his health, Bruce Lee travelled to Los Angeles determined to put in the hands of the best specialists who, after numerous tests and analyses, specified not only that there was no type of problem, but also that Actor had, at 32, a better greeting than an 18-year-old boy.

The film finished filming in April 1973, literally sweeping its premiere, elevating Bruce Lee to the status of a movie star in his longed-for American mecca, and making him definitely a myth.

Four months later, on July 10, 1973, and despite having made the pilgrimage by numerous reputable specialists who found no problem or difficulty in Bruce Lee's health, Bruce Lee died in strange circumstances as a consequence (supposedly) of a cerebral edema due to an unknown allergy to an antibiotic compound. 

Be that as it may, a string of conspiracies by the mafia, Chinese curses and others will always haunt the memory of Bruce Lee and his tragic end. On July 25, a funeral took place in Hong Kong, attended by more than 25,000 people. A sign read A star sinks in a sea of ??art. Days later, on July 31, Bruce Lee would finally be buried in Seattle in a much more intimate ceremony. 

In August of that same year, Enter the Dragon was released in the United States, catapulting Bruce Lee to Hollywood stardom, irremediably elevating him to the category of legend ... and as with legends, Bruce Lee will continue to live; as long as we remember him ... he will not die.

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