Why is “Bruce Lee” considered to be a legend in the martial arts world?

Bruce Lee's Statue in Hong Kong

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own” is a profound quote made by the great martial artist, actor, and film director Bruce Lee. Born as Lee Jun-fan in San Francisco’s Chinatown, he is considered to be the man who revolutionized the “art of fighting”. Furthermore, he popularized martial art forms throughout the United States of America (at first), and then gradually around the globe using cinema as the medium. And so, here is presenting an analysis on why Lee is considered to be such a “pioneer and legend” in the martial arts world.

Bruce Lee, the “martial artist:

“Wing Chun” is the kung fu based martial art form that played a major role in the developing Brue Lee into a combat artist. It was in the year 1957 when Lee was 16 that he began studying the art of Wing Chun under the guidance of a teacher named “Yip Man” in Hong Kong.  His training regime included a technique called chi sao (also known as sticking hand drills), wooden dummy techniques, and free sparring. However, due to his growing tendency of getting into street fights his parents decided to send him back to the United States of America (his birthplace) to reside with his elder sister Agnes Lee. It is after settling down in a much peaceful atmosphere in America that Lee began teaching martial arts. He officially began with training his friends in a combat form termed “Jun Fan Gung Fu” (which when literally translated means Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu) in 1959. This martial art form that Lee taught was essentially a “modified” version of the Wing Chun. He later even established a martial art school in Seattle, and appropriately named it “Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute”.

It was in 1964 though, after a practice bout with Wong Jack Man who was an exponent of a Chinese martial art form known as “Xing Yi Quan” that, Lee felt he had not made full use of the Wing Chun technique since the fight lasted for a long time. Analyzing further, he felt that the traditional martial art forms were too “simplistic” in style, and that their application in “street fights” would not be effective. And so, he developed an entirely new martial art form by fusing together elements such as “practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency”, which he named “Jeet Kune Do” which when literally translated meant “Way of the Intercepting Fist”.

The “philosophy” of martial artist Bruce Lee:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water,” said Bruce Lee while explaining his martial art philosophy on the “Pierre Berton” television show. So, essentially Lee combined the elements of martial arts with deep (and what can also be termed as eclectic) philosophy. The fact that he had studied eastern and western philosophy as a student at the University of Washington is a major reason why he used it in teaching martial arts. Apparently, he based “Jeet Kune Do” on a philosophy that he termed as “the style of no style”, which basically encourages abandoning a systematic approach for a more “flexible” one. When asked about his philosophical inspirations, he stated “Taoism, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Buddhism” as his major influences.

The “actor” within the martial artist Bruce Lee:

“Drama” is the other subject that Bruce Lee is said to have studied during his university days in Seattle, Washington. And so, it is not surprising that while participating in the “Long Beach International Karate Championship” in 1964, that Lee was invited to audition for a role in a show titled “Number One Son”, which unfortunately was shelved. However, it was eventually in the TV series titled “The Green Hornet” that Lee officially made his debut as an actor. It was after the success of this television series, that he began getting offered a number of supporting roles by “Hollywood”, which he rejected. Feeling unhappy he decided to return to Hong Kong hoping for better luck. Now, having become a sort of a “star” due to the telecasting of “Green Hornet” throughout the country, he was eventually signed as a lead actor by the Golden Harvest production house. It was eventually with the release of the movie “The Big Boss” in 1971 that the actor first tasted success, which was soon followed by “Fist of Fury” in 1972 which broke a box office record. It was eventually in 1973 that “Hollywood” once again came calling, with Warner Brothers offering to co-produce the movie “Enter the Dragon” (with Lee as the protagonist) in partnership with Golden Harvest and Concord Production Inc (the actor’s production house).  It was this movie that immortalized Lee as a martial arts legend all over the globe forever. Additionally, what the success of this great martial artist and actor also achieved was that it created a path on which talents such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li were able to blossom.

Unfortunately, it was six days before the release of “Enter the Dragon” on July 20th, 1973 that Lee died apparently due to “cerebral edema”. Although his death was unexpected, this great martial artist through his body of work has proven that the “art of fighting” can be made appealing to a large number of people by blending “philosophy” with effective “technique”.

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