Yesterday was Bruce Lee’s death anniversary. They were showing a special feature on him on Discovery channel.
I was first introduced to Bruce Lee as a boy when my father brought home a VHS tape of Enter the Dragon. The fascination was instant. Right after that night I remember watching all his movies every week. The Big Boss, Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury and so on. I also remember turning off the VCR after watching the first 20 minutes of Game of Death. I couldn’t stand the stand in actor and the card board replacement of Bruce Lee. I turned it on again a bit later and went straight ahead to the fight scenes.
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Bruce Lee was inspiring. He was also the reason I took up Karate (Well, not to mention Ralph Machhio’s Karate Kid series, hard not to admit that).
He was the Elvis of the Martial Arts world.
At the same time, He is more than Martial Arts. He stood for something more significant than just producing movies that stand the test of time and become part of popular culture. This in itself by the way is already a feat.
Let me go back to why he is larger than Martial Arts.
Bruce Lee came to the United States to in search of the american dream. The promise that says anyone can make it in america. It’s all about pursuing the opportunities. But in his case, it was more difficult than that. Back in the 60s, this was a bit difficult for him to achieve. There is no comparison to the 2000s. For one, the american society back then was not very encouraging to asians trying to succeed.
He wanted to teach Kung Fu to americans. He had very noble reasons in doing so. He
felt the problem of fitting in and he thought that a possible reason is that the society back then did not understand fully well the culture of the Chinese people. Hethought that by teaching Kung Fu, he could show them the beauty of his culture. I surmise that he also felt that Kung Fu was such a wonderful thing to keep a secret and not share with the rest ofthe world. This was a big problem to the Chinese Kung Fu elders at that time. They wanted to keep it to themselves. At that time they were the law and all Chinese immigrants and Kung Fu practitioners should abide by their law.
Bruce Lee fought for his right to teach whoever he wanted to teach. To the point also, of literally “fighting” for it. You probably heard of the fight between Bruce Lee and Won Jack Man. They fought to determine whether Bruce Lee can continue teaching the americans or not. I guess we all know who won that fight.
Hw went on to build his school and teach Kung Fu, which he later developed into a more fluid and integrated martial art called Jeet Kune Do.
He was discovered in the movie industry and contrary to what most casual fans know, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Again he had to fight for his place. He clearly filled in a void in Hollywood given his skills and charisma but there were a lot of struggle for him to finally make it big. He was taken out of the Kung Fu series, a TV show which was supposed to be conceptualized for him. It was eventually given to David Carradine. He had to go back to Hong Kong and make movies there. He pursued his dream no matter what. When he finally made it big, his life was cut short via a mysterious cause.
That he became an action movi superstar is probably like the looking at the finger when it points to the moon – You miss the substance. Bruce Lee is larger than Martial Arts because through him, people saw that dreams do come true – to anybody. That means anybody of any race. He served as an example to not just Chinese, or Asians but basically to everyone that there are no boundaries. There are no limits.
This is why he is what he is today. An inspiration. A symbol.
His Jeet Kune Do is definitely better than anybody’s cheeseburger. His Legacy is larger than Martial Arts.