Top 10 Amazing Facts About BRUCE LEE
He was a martial arts legend, starring in over two dozen films and inspiring handfuls of posthumous video games and documentaries. Pulled from the world far too soon at the age of 32, Bruce Lee led a life of success as a martial artist, actor, and philosopher, earning him status as an icon well into the 21st century. We’re chronicling the life of the Little Phoenix with these top 10 amazing facts about Bruce Lee.
Controversy and Curses
On July 20th, 1973, actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee suffered a brain edema allegedly caused by a reaction to pain medication and passed away. After his death, Lee became a cultural icon and was well remembered through the posthumous release of Enter the Dragon, but there loomed questions on many minds regarding the sudden passing of such a young star. Rumors started to surface that Lee had either been murdered by the Triads, the Italian mafia or succumbed to a curse that was placed on him and his family. Supporting claims of a curse on the Lee family was the sudden and accidental death of Brandon Lee, who was shot on the set of The Crow. Post-mortem, it was found that he had earlier ingested cannabis leaves, adding to the farfetched theory that the cannabis reacted with the medication.
A Star-Studded Funeral
After his unexpected death, Bruce Lee’s funeral served as a reunion for many of the people he trained and worked with. Along with Bruce’s brother, Robert, close friend, Peter Chin, and American martial artists Daniel Arca Inosanto and Taky Kimura, the late actor’s casket was carried by four pallbearers easily recognizable on the silver screen. Assisting in carrying the martial artist’s casket were action stars Steve McQueen, Chuck Norris, James Coburn, and former Agent 007, George Lazenby. Each of the four actors knew Lee for his acting and martial arts prowess, even learning a few things from him over time, but also grew to befriend him.
Lee vs. Wong Jack Man
That Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man squared off against one another is undeniable, but the events of the one-on-one quarrel have turned into a jumbled mess and have been a subject of debate between Lee and Wong Jack admirers. As legend has it, Lee caught flak from the Chinese martial arts community for taking on students that were not of direct Chinese heritage and, in response, was challenged to fight Wong Jack Man for his right to continue teaching as he wished. According to Wong, this was far from accurate and the fight started as a challenge made by Lee. Depending on who you listen to, the fight only lasted three minutes, with Lee pummeling Wong to victory. Those on the other side of the ring timed the fight to 25-minutes and claimed it ended with both fighters equally as exhausted. Regardless of what happened, Lee continued teaching just as he did before the bout.
Few Fights Under His Belt
Though he was known for his ability to fight, Bruce Lee didn’t actually leave behind much of a professional fighting record. There are scattered reports from eyewitnesses that claim to have been present during private bouts between Lee and other fighters, but there are very few recorded fights involving the late martial artist, with three being among the most notable. The first of his professional face-offs was against Gary Elms during a Hong Kong amateur boxing tournament. Reports about the match claim that Elms survived the entirety of the 3 one-minute-long rounds despite being knocked out on multiple occasions by Lee. Lee’s second fight and victory took place at a YMCA in Seattle, Washington and was against Yoichi Nakachi. The two allegedly squabbled over which fighting style was better, Lee’s Gung Fu or Japanese Karate. The actor’s third infamous bout was against Wong Jack Man and is famously shrouded in rumors and myths.
The Pen is Mightier Than the Fist
When we think of Bruce Lee, we picture the muscular actor that threw punches said to be too quick for the camera; but the fighter was far more than a small ball of aggression with hand-to-hand prowess. In fact, he often lowered his fists to pick up a pen and write poetry. Yes, poetry, like Robert Frost and John Keats. Even more surprising than the fact that he wrote poetry is that it is actually considered good. Among some of Lee’s poetic works are “Night Rain,” “The Humming Bird,” “All Streams Flowing East or West,” “Boating on Lake Washington,” and “The Silent Flute,” which Lee translated into a screenplay that later inspired Richard Moore’s The Circle of Iron.
A Child Star is Born
Before becoming a martial arts icon in cinema, Lee actually started his career as a child star. Allegedly, Bruce was 6-years-old and visiting his father on the set of a film when the director took notice of the young boy and felt audiences would love him. Since his first role in his father’s film, the youthful Lee appeared in over 20 different films starting in the 1946 film The Birth of Mankind. His first appearance, however, was only 1 year after his birth in Golden Gate Girl. Through much of his child acting career, Lee was typecast as a juvenile delinquent, a role he seemed to latch onto quite well in real life, as well.
He Was Terrible Behind the Wheel
The man may have been a master of throwing punches but if rumors from his closest acquaintances are true, the martial artist was a pretty bad driver. Attributed to his poor eyesight, the actor who ironically played the Green Hornet’s proficient wheelman and sidekick, Kato, was so bad behind the wheel that he often asked former student Steve Golden to give him a ride. In an interview with Golden, the martial arts teacher revealed that Lee didn’t own any sort of fancy foreign vehicle and had branded his car with a sticker that read “This car protected by the Green Hornet.”
The Era of Bruceploitation
After Bruce Lee passed away in 1973, low-brow filmmakers saw an opportunity to recreate his image and popularity with look-alike actors, or Lee-alikes. What spawned from this concept was Bruceploitation, an era in China and Hong Kong during the 1970s that saw a multitude of martial arts films aiming to cash in on Lee’s fame and success. Leeching off of the late actor’s notability, some actors - including Tadashi Yamashita, Wong Kin Lung, and Binshlee – took on stage names that were typically just different spellings of Bruce Lee. To exploit the actor’s death, some movies were advertised as genuine Bruce Lee films and were released to coincide with the showing of real Lee movies. Bruceploitation films were given clever titles including The Clones of Bruce Lee; My Name Called Bruce; Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger; and, our personal favorite, Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave.
People with very specific Hollywood images are bound to provide inspiration for somebody down the road and when it comes to the very iconic Bruce Lee, there seemed to be no shortage of video game characters that were quite obviously drawn in his image. Small-time characters like Fatal Fury’s Hon Fu, Jann Lee from Dead or Alive, Wang from China Warrior, and World Heroes’ Kim Dragon all bore striking resemblances to the famous martial artist. Larger franchises such as Tekken rather obviously recreated Lee in digital form, giving his persona and look to the fast-footed Forrest and Marshall Law. Other characters that have Lee to thank for their inception include League of Legends’ Lee Sin, Oolong from Yie Ar Kung-Fu, and even Hitmonlee from Pokemon.
Bruce Lee: Cha Cha Master
Considering he’s so quick on his feet during his fight scenes, it’s not surprising to think that Lee would also be a pretty decent dancer, but to think of him as the Cha-Cha Champion? It may not fit his typical image, but in 1958 at 18-years-old, the martial artist won Hong Kong’s Cha Cha Championship. It’s believed that, while studying arduously alongside Kung Fu, the dancer kept a notebook stocked with 108 different Cha Cha steps. After returning to the United States from Hong Kong, Lee started a career as a dance instructor before launching his American martial arts career.