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" Final Resting Place of Bruce Lee"
November 27th 1940 - July 20th 1973
Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington.
Bruce Lee Jun-Fan was a Chinese American martial artist and actor widely regarded as the most influential, famous and celebrated martial artist of the 20th century. Lee's films, especially his performance in the Hollywood-produced Enter the Dragon, elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level. His pioneering efforts paved the way for future martial artists and martial arts actors such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chuck Norris.
Lee's movies sparked the first major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong, China, and the rest of the world. Lee became an iconic figure particularly to Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese national pride and Chinese nationalism in his
Many see Lee as a model blueprint for acquiring a strong and efficient body as well as developing a mastery of martial arts and hand to hand combat skills. Lee began the process of creating his own fighting system known as Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee's evaluation of traditional martial arts doctrines is nowadays seen as one of the first steps into popularizing the modern style of mixed martial arts.
Bruce Lee was an American Born Chinese (ABC) born at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco in 1940 to his Chinese father Lee Hoi-Chuen and Chinese-German mother Grace Lee, where Bruce's parents were on a one-year U.S. tour with the Cantonese Opera Company. Bruce's maternal grandmother was Chinese and his maternal grandfather was German.
Bruce's Cantonese given name, Jun Fan, literally means "invigorate San Francisco." At birth, he was given the English name "Bruce" by Dr. Mary Glover. Mrs. Lee had not initially planned on an American name but deemed it appropriate and concurred with Dr. Glover. Interestingly the name "Bruce" was never used within his family until he enrolled in La Salle College, a Hong Kong high school, at 12 years of age, and then again at another Catholic boys' school, St Francis Xavier's College. There he represented their boxing team in inter-school events. In addition, Lee initially had a birth name Li Yuen Kam Mandarin Pinyin: Lǐ Xuànjīn given by his mother, as at the time Lee's father was away on a Chinese opera tour. After several months, when Lee's father returned, the name was abandoned because of a conflict with the name of Lee's grandfather. Lee was then renamed Jun Fan. Finally, Lee was also given a feminine name, Sai Fung, literally "small phoenix". It was used throughout his early childhood in keeping with a Chinese custom traditionally thought to hide the child from evil spirits.
Bruce Lee's screen name was pronounced Lee Siu Lung in Cantonese and Li Xiao Long in Mandarin which literally means "Lee Little Dragon." These were first used by the directors of the 1950 Cantonese movies in which Lee performed. It is possible that the name "little dragon" was chosen based on his childhood name "small phoenix". In Chinese tradition, the Chinese dragon and phoenix come in pairs to represent the male and female genders. However, it is more likely that he was called Little Dragon because he was born in the Year of the Dragon in the Hour of the Dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac.
Education and family
At age 14, Bruce Lee entered La Salle College, a high school, under the wing of Brother Henry. Then, he attended St Francis Xavier's College from 1957-1959.
In 1959, Bruce got into a fight with a feared Triad gang member's son. His father became concerned about his safety and Bruce was sent to the United States to live with an old friend of his father's. All he had was $100 and the title of 1958 Crown Colony Cha Cha Champion of Hong Kong. After living in San Francisco, he moved to Seattle to work for Ruby Chow, another friend of his father's. In 1959, Lee completed his high school education in Seattle and received his diploma from Edison Technical School. He enrolled at the University of Washington as a philosophy major. There he met his future wife Linda Emery.
Bruce and Linda married in 1964 and had two children together, Brandon Lee (born 1965) and Shannon Lee (born 1969). Brandon, an actor like his father, died on a movie set while filming The Crow on March 31, 1993.
Early acting career
A few credits short of graduation, Lee headed to San Francisco and then to Hollywood.
In 1964 at a demonstration in Long Beach, California, Lee met karate champion Chuck Norris. In 1972, Lee later induced Norris to portray one of his opponents in Return of the Dragon, also known as Way of the Dragon, in a famous Colosseum fight scene.
Lee went on to star as Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet, which ran from 1966 to 1967, and afterward opened up his own Jeet Kune Do school. Later, Lee used filmmaking to demonstrate his martial arts fighting techniques and theories.
He had created the character idea for the role of Kwai-Chang-Caine for the TV Series Kung Fu, but the role eventually went to David Carradine instead.
He also appeared in the film Marlowe in 1969 and a few episodes of the TV series Longstreet in 1971.
Martial arts training and development
Tai Chi Chuan
Young Bruce learned the fundamentals of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan from his father, Lee Hoi Cheun. Lee's Wing Chun Sifu, Yip Man, was also a colleague and friend of Hong Kong Wu family teacher Wu Ta-chi. He always held that the principles of Tai Chi Chuan influenced his view of martial arts all through his life as an actor and a martial artist. While it is obvious that the style studied by his father was the Wu style, Lee was seen on at least one occasion demonstrating the 108 Basic Movements of the Yang form.
In between the learning of Tai Chi and Wing Chun, Lee also learned bits and pieces of the Kung fu style Hung Gar from a friend of his father. While we do not know how much he learned of this particular martial art, there are photographs of Bruce demonstrating animal stances and forms found within its teachings.
Bruce Lee began his formal martial arts training at the age of 14 in Wing Chun under Hong Kong Wing Chun master Yip Man. Bruce was introduced to Sifu Yip Man by William Cheung, who was then a live-in student of Yip Man, in early 1954. Like most martial arts schools at that time, Sifu Yip Man's classes were often taught by the highest ranking students. One of the highest ranking students under Yip Man at the time of Lee's training was Wong Shun-leung, who is understood to have had the largest influence. Lee would leave before learning the entire Wing Chun curriculum, but Wing Chun formed a base for his later explorations of martial arts and development of Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee was certainly "Great". Bruce Lee's first formal, organized bout came as a teenager at his high school in Hong Kong. He was to fight a young British boxer, a reigning two-time boxing champion. Bruce knocked his opponent out with repeated strikes, using the Wing Chun technique jik chung chuy.
Jun Fan Gung Fu
Lee began the process of creating his own martial arts system after his arrival in the United States in 1959. Lee named his first martial arts system Jun Fan Gung Fu, which consisted mostly of elements of Wing Chun, with elements of Western Boxing and Fencing. Lee taught the system at the martial arts schools he opened first in Seattle starting with judo practitioner Jesse Glover as his first student who later became his first assistant instructor, and the first person authorized by Lee to teach aspects of Lee's martial arts. After moving to Oakland and Los Angeles, California Lee opened his martial arts school named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.
At the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee appeared in the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships and performed repetitions of two-finger pushups (using the thumb and the index finger) with feet at approximately a shoulder-width apart. In the same Long Beach event he also performed the "One inch punch". The description of which is as follows: Lee stood upright, his right foot forward with knees bent slightly, in front of a standing, stationary partner. Lee's right arm was partly extended and his right fist approximately an inch away from the partner's chest. Without retracting his right arm, Lee then forcibly delivered the punch to his partner while largely maintaining his posture, sending the partner backwards and falling into a chair placed behind the partner to prevent injury, though the force of the impact caused his partner to soon after fall onto the floor.
In 1964, Lee was challenged by Wong Jack Man, a practitioner of Northern Shaolin. Lee claimed that, after arriving in San Francisco, his theories about martial arts and his teaching of "secret" Chinese martial arts to non-Asian students gave him enemies in the martial arts community. In contrast, Wong stated that he requested a bout with Lee as a result of Lee's open challenge during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater; Lee had claimed to be able to defeat any martial artist in San Francisco, according to Wong. The two fought in December, 1964, at a kung fu school in Oakland, California. Lee and Wong provided significantly different accounts of the private bout, which was not filmed. Afterwards, Lee stated in an interview, without naming Wong as the loser, that he had defeated an unnamed challenger. In response, Wong wrote his description of the fight as well as an invitation to Lee for a public match, which was printed on the front page of Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese-language newspaper in San Francisco. Lee did not fight Wong again.
Jeet Kune Do
The match with Wong influenced Lee's philosophy on fighting. Lee believed that the fight had lasted too long and that he had failed to live up to his potential. He took the view that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalistic to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting. Lee decided to develop a system with an emphasis on "practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency". He started to use different methods of training such as weight training for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, and many others which he constantly adapted.
Lee emphasized what he called "the style of no style". This consisted of utilizing a non-formalized approach which Lee claimed was not indicative of traditional styles. Because Lee felt the system he called Jun Fan Gung Fu was too restrictive, it was transformed to what he would come to describe as Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist, a term he would later regret because Jeet Kune Do implied specific parameters that styles connotate whereas the whole point of the system was to exist outside of parameters and limitations. Some confuse the Jeet Kune Do system with the personal version that Bruce Lee practiced. Jeet Kune Do can be seen as both a process and a product, the latter deriving from the former.
Bruce Lee certified three instructors: Dan Inosanto, Taky Kimura, and James Yimm Lee (no relation to Bruce Lee). James Yimm Lee, a close friend of Bruce Lee, died without certifying additional students. Taky Kimura, to date, has certified one person in Jun Fan Gung Fu: his son and heir Andy Kimura. All other instructors are certified under Dan Inosanto. Prior to his death, Lee told his then only two living instructors Inosanto and Kimura (James Yimm Lee had died in 1972.) to dismantle his schools. Both Taky Kimura and Dan Inosanto were allowed to teach small classes thereafter without using the name Jeet Kune Do.
As a result of a lawsuit between the estate of Bruce Lee (also known as Concord Moon) and the Inosanto Academy, the name "Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do" was legally trademarked, and the rights were given solely to the Lee estate. "The name is made up of two parts: 'Jun Fan' (Bruce’s given Chinese name) and 'Jeet Kune Do' (the Way of the Intercepting Fist). The development of Bruce Lee’s art from 1961 until the end of his life was one smooth and indivisible path. In the beginning, he referred to his teachings simply as Jun Fan Gung Fu. Later he further refined his art as a unique Gung fu all its own – Jeet Kune Do" (from the Bruce Lee Foundation Web site).
Some martial arts instructors, in an effort to promote themselves or their martial arts schools, make dubious claims about learning from or teaching Bruce Lee. There are only a few living people who can trace their lineage directly to Bruce Lee.
Physical fitness and nutrition
Bruce Lee felt that many martial artists of his day did not spend enough time on physical conditioning. He did not resort to traditional bodybuilding techniques to build mass; he was more interested in speed and power. The weight training program that Lee used during a stay in Hong Kong in 1965 indicated bicep curls of 36kg and eight repetitions for endurance. This translates to an estimated one repetition maximum of 50kg, placing Lee in approximately the 100th percentile for the 55 to 64 kilogram weight class. Lee believed that the abdominal muscles were one of the most important muscle groups for a martial artist, since virtually every movement requires some degree of abdominal work. Perhaps more importantly, the "abs" are like a shell, protecting the ribs and vital organs. Bruce Lee's washboard abs did not come from mere abdominal training; he was also a proponent of cardiovascular conditioning and would regularly run, jump rope, and ride a stationary bicycle. A typical exercise for Lee would be running two to six miles in fifteen to forty-five minutes.
Another element in Bruce Lee's quest for abdominal definition was nutrition. According to Linda Lee, soon after he moved to the United States, Bruce started to take nutrition seriously and developed an interest in health foods and high-protein drinks. He ate lean meat sparingly and consumed large amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Death by "misadventure"
Bruce Lee's death was officially attributed to cerebral edema.
On July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong, due to have dinner with former James Bond star George Lazenby, with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee's wife Linda, Bruce met producer Raymond Chow at 2 P.M. at home to discuss the making of the movie Game of Death. They worked until 4 P.M. and then drove together to the home of Betty Ting Pei, a Taiwanese actress (claimed by some to be Lee's mistress) who was to have a leading role in the film. The three went over the script at her home, and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting.
A short time later, Lee complained of a headache, and Ting Pei gave him a prescription analgesic known as Equagesic. At around 7:30 P.M., he lay down for a nap. After Lee didn't turn up for the dinner, Chow came to the apartment but could not wake Lee up. A doctor was summoned, who spent ten minutes attempting to revive him before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, Lee was dead by the time he reached the hospital. There was no visible external injury; however, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams (13%). Lee was thirty-two years old. The medical staff examining him concluded that the immediate cause of death was a cerebral edema. Dr. R.R. Lycette of Queen Elizabeth Hospital determined that the swelling in the brain, and Lee's untimely death, was the result of an adverse reaction to one of the compounds in the prescription Equagesic tablet. On October 15, 2005, Chow stated in an interview that Lee was allergic to Equagesic. When the doctors announced Bruce Lee's death officially, it was pronounced Death by Misadventure.
However, the exact details of Lee's death were controversial from the moment it was announced. Bruce Lee's iconic status and unusual death at a young age led to several conspiracy theories about Lee's death, such as a murder involving Triads seeking protection money, vengeful rival martial artists, or other enemies — but none of these are supported by any evidence. His sudden death has since passed into the realm of legend, with one legend claiming that Lee has faked his death, and will return when he has perfected his martial arts.