The Man Who Revolutionized Martial Arts: Bruce Lee

The Man, the myth, the Legend. Bruce Lee was far from a myth, but was a legendary man who completely changed martial arts. He redesigned its foundation so significantly and precisely that no man or woman can perfect it anymore. Today, Martial Artists can only build on that foundation and help fine tune his ideas. Bruce was a motivator, an innovator, and an amazing philosopher. Most importantly he was a True Martial Artist.

A Martial Artist is someone who adapts to any situation. This philosophy is not restricted to fighting or martial arts. It can be used in everyday life. We can use work as an example.

Let’s say you are not doing as well as you thought and know you can do much better. How can you be better at your job? You adapt to it! You listen and learn as much as you can. You go to work each day with a new goal in mind and each day you figure out how to achieve that goal.

As a Martial Artist, I have learned to use what I learn in martial arts in everyday life. Bruce Lee made this apparent in his books and movies. He made his philosophy heard in such a way that it was impossible to ignore.

A personal challenge from me to you: Watch a Bruce Lee movie (Enter the Dragon has great fight scenes and great quotes from Bruce Lee)! Let me know if you felt his passion and heard any of his philosophy. Did it MOTIVATE you? His philosophy has motivated me in such a way that it has changed my view on many things and how I approach every day. No article about Bruce Lee is complete without a little history about him.

A Brief History of Bruce Lee:

The story of Bruce Lee began on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, California. He was born Lee Jun Fan, and was the fourth child of his father, Lee Hoi-Chuen and mother, Grace.

Lee’s father was a Hong Kong opera singer who was on tour in San Francisco when he was born, which made Lee a U.S. citizen. Three months later, the family returned to Hong Kong, which was occupied by the Japanese at the time. When Lee was 12 years old, he enrolled in La Salle College and later took up at St. Francis Xavier’s College, which were both high schools even though it says college. Lee’s father was his first martial arts instructor, he taught the Wu style of Tai Chi Chuan to him early on. After taking up with a Hong Kong street gang 1954, Lee began to feel the need to improve his fighting. This made him start studying Wing Chun Gung Fu under Yip Man. While there, Lee often trained under one of Yip’s top students, Wong Shun-Leung. Wong therefore had a major impact on his training. Lee studied under Yip Man until he was 18 years of age. Most don’t realize how extensive Lee’s martial arts background was. Lee also trained in western boxing and won the 1958 boxing championship against Gary Elms by knockout in the third round. Lee also learned fencing techniques from his brother, Peter Lee (a champion in the sport). This varied background led to personal modifications to Wing Chun Gung Fu, and called his newer version of the style, Jun Fan Gung Fu. In fact, Lee opened his first martial arts school in Seattle and named it Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.

Lee began to formulate a martial arts style that was practical for street fighting and existed outside of the parameters and limitations of other martial arts styles. He kept what worked and what didn’t he did not use. Jeet Kune Do was born in 1965. Lee opened two more schools after moving to California, only certifying three instructors in the art himself. They were Taky Kimura, James Yimm Lee, and Dan Inosanto.

Bruce Lee appeared in his first film at three months of age, acting as a stand in for an American baby in Golden Gate Girl. He made about 20 appearances in films as a child actor. In 1959, Lee got into trouble with the police for fighting. His mother, deciding that the area they were living in was too dangerous for him, sent him back to the United State to live with some friends. There he graduated high school in Edison, Washington before enrolling at the University of Washington to study philosophy. He began teaching martial arts there as well, and that’s how he met his future wife, Linda Emery. Bruce Lee married Linda Emery in 1964. They had two children together: Brandon Lee and Shannon.

Bruce Lee made some American headlines as an actor in the television series, The Green Hornet, which aired from 1966-67. He served as the Hornet’s sidekick, Kato, where he showed off his film-friendly fighting style. Even with further appearances, the acting stereotypes were great barriers and prompted him to return to Hong Kong in 1971. In Hong Kong, he became a huge film star in movies like Fists of Fury, The Chinese Connection, and Way of the Dragon.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong at the age of 32. The official cause of his death was a brain edema, which had been caused by a reaction to a prescription painkiller he was taking for a back injury. Controversy swelled regarding his passing, as Lee had been obsessed with the idea that he might die early, leaving many wondering if he’d been murdered. One month after Lee’s death in the United States Enter the Dragon came out in the U.S., eventually grossing over $200 million. Bruce made a lot happen in a short amount of time. His studies and beliefs led to a universal change in the world of Martial Arts. Today, we have Mixed Martial Arts (A.K.A MMA) which is taking the world by storm and thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and become the fastest growing spectacle in the world. The man to thank is Bruce Lee. His ideas and his ability to reach a wide diversity of people has shown that combining martial arts to find what works and what doesn’t is the only way to become a True Martial Artist.

Thank You Bruce Lee!

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