Bruce Lee was a special fighter; his moves were powerful and accurate, but what made him so watchable was his dance-like fluidity combined with the ease with which he could knock any opponent out. Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940; it was the year of the dragon, and according to his birth records he was even born within the hour of the dragon. When his family returned to Hong Kong, young Bruce was cast in a movie as a stand-in for an American baby, and with that his career took off. Maybe not quite so quickly – but he acted in many more movies, and had an incredible knack for dancing, poetry and Kung Fu. During his short life, Bruce Lee invented his own martial art, founded a fight school, starred in many classic Kung Fu movies, and paved the way for Asian American actors and fighters who until then were often overlooked by Hollywood. Here are some cool facts you probably didn’t know about the father of mixed martial arts.
Bruce Lee lied his way to private lessons
Coming from Chinese heritage made Bruce a target for bullying in a Hong Kong school with predominantly British students. The taunting became so bad, he joined a gang and studied Kung Fu to win at street fights. Bruce’s specific training was in Wing Chun and his master was the legendary Ip Man. Lee wanted to have private lessons but when he was refused his request, he’d secretly wait outside the dojo and tell the other students classes were cancelled until he had the lesson for himself. His dedication was admirable, but the con did get him in to a lot of trouble with the teacher.
Bruce Lee went above and beyond to perfect his technique
Bruce famously practiced 5000 punches a day, but it wasn’t only his practice sessions that made him such a great fighter. He read about the body, studied bone structure and muscle movement, read philosophy books (his personal library included over 2000 books), and most importantly he studied the moves of the one fighter he admired most, Muhammad Ali. Bruce saw Ali as the master of technique and speed, watched all of his fights and hoped he’d be matched up against him in the ring one day.
Lee’s style was steeped in art
As a child, Lee starred in over 20 movies. He also loved dancing and won a cha-cha competition while still living in Hong Kong. His charisma and dancing skills were always present in his movies and fight scenes. Bruce loved to draw, and in fact his sketches could have been made by an art student. In his book ¨The Tao of Jeet Kune Do¨, Bruce included his poetry, which he would often write.
Many of the people who Bruce Lee worked with went on to be stars themselves – Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan to name a few. He also taught a number of celebrities (there are a few surprises in this list): Mike Stone, James Coburn, James Garner, Roman Polanski and Steve McQueen were all students (Bruce charged $275 an hour – $1800 by today’s currency). Bruce Lee influenced movies beyond his years, was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine, and even had several major video game characters designed after him, including Liu Kang from the action game Mortal Kombat. He was an extraordinary person. He entered the world a dragon, and left it a dragon.