I recently read an article in the Times about how Kung Fu and Bruce Lee were passé in Hong Kong. Maybe so, but not in my house. There, Bruce Lee rules! When you watch a Bruce Lee film there’s no denying he was a star. Make that a supernova. The man was huge.
Bruce Lee was born in the year of the dragon. What’s more, in the hour of the dragon? In Chinese culture, it doesn’t get much better than that. The dragon symbolizes power, strength and good luck. Only the most excellent, outstanding people compare. Sorry, Rita Ora 🙁
Bruce was born in San Fran in 1940, but raised in Hong Kong when it was occupied by Japan during WW2 and afterwards. It was violent all over town in those days. When just 13 years old, Bruce learned how to whop a punk’s ass from the legendary Kung Fu master Yip Man. He was a natural. Plus, he excelled in, well, practically everything else. Besides martial arts competitions, Bruce won dance contests, boxing competitions, swim suit competitions (JK!) and even was a child star, appearing in 20 films before 18. BEYONCÉ WHO!?!
When Bruce moved back to the States he didn’t jump into acting right away. He had some personal growing to do—teaching Kung Fu, getting married, baby making and creating his own martial arts style, called Jeet Kune Do. But it wasn’t long before Bruce caught the acting bug again, co-starring in The Green Hornet as Kato, a badass Mister Belvedere who wasn’t the one to fu*k with!
But after a year of being hot, playing Kato, The Green Hornet was cancelled. The years that followed were filled with small roles, Bruce all the while determined to make it, like Daenerys Targaryen working hard to get her hands on that damn throne. He even had to deal with that shady queen, David Carradine snatching the lead role on the hit series Kung Fu. The show’s producers said they went with David because Bruce had a heavy accent. Guess they never heard of Ricky Ricardo or Donald Duck!
While David Carradine was parading around on TV in shaolin monk cos-play, #oscarssowhite, Bruce returned to Hong Kong and snagged the lead in The Big Boss, his first big screen role. The movie broke box office records and Bruce followed it up by starring in Fists of Fury and Way of the Dragon, which featured Chuck Norris looking like a ginger version of Stewie from Mad TV. Next came Game of Death, which gave us yellow cat suits, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s legs for days, a hot song track and a whole lot of Bruce serving bitches Jeet Kune Do to their faces! But then Game of Death was put on hold so Bruce could star in the first American-made Kung Fu movie, the iconic, Enter the Dragon.
Bruce never lived to see the film become a smash hit. A month before its premiere he passed away from an allergic reaction to a pain medication he was given for a headache. Enter the Dragon went on to be one of the highest grossing films of 1973 and let the world know Bruce Lee was the baddest that ever was!
Bruce’s impact can still be felt today, video game characters like Marshall Law and Fey Long from Tekken and Street Fighter have shared Jeet Kune Do with a new generation of martial arts fans. And let’s not forget that the philosophy which accompanied Bruce’s martial art style was simple, direct and all about personal freedom.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put in into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”