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Profile of Bruce Lee
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||27th November 1940
|Place of Birth:
||San Francisco, California, USA
Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940 â€“ July 20, 1973), was a Chinese American martial artist and actor who is widely regarded as among the most influential martial artists of the 20th century. Lee's few movies, especially his performance in the Hollywood-produced Enter the Dragon, elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity, paving the way for future martial artists and martial arts actors such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, and Chuck Norris.
His family included his wife (and former martial arts student), Linda Emery, with whom he had a daughter, Shannon, and a son, Brandon. Brandon would eventually follow in his father's footsteps, becoming a martial artist and actor. Both Bruce and Brandon had untimely deaths. Lee's family also include his brother and sisters who are still alive.
- Lee was named Lee Jun Fan in Cantonese (æŽæŒ¯è—©; Mandarin Pinyin: LÇ ZhÃ¨nfÃ¡n; literally means invigorate [San] Francisco, paying homage to the Chinese name of his birthplace, ä¸‰è—©å¸‚).
- At birth, Lee was given the English name Bruce by nurses at the hospital, a name he retained.
- Lee's mother initially gave him a name (æŽç‚«é‡‘; Mandarin Pinyin: LÇ XuÃ njÄ«n), since Lee's father was away on a Chinese opera tour at the time. When Lee's father returned after some months, the name was abandoned due to a conflict with the name of Lee's grandfather; in Chinese culture, it is considered a taboo to give a child a name that is the same as an ancestor's. Lee was then renamed Jun Fan.
- Lee was also given a feminine name throughout his early childhood, Sai Feng (ç´°é³³, literally Slender PhÅ“nix, a typical feminine name). The alias was given by the family in response to the death of Lee's brother, who was stillborn; the family wished to disguise Bruce's identity from demons, who were believed to steal baby boys (a Chinese belief).
Lee Siu Lung in Cantonese or Li Xiaolong in Mandarin (æŽå°é¾; Cantonese pengyam: Ley5 Siw2 Long4; Mandarin Pinyin: LÇ XiÇŽolÃ³ng), literally Lee Little-dragon, first named by director è¢æ¥é›² in the 1950 Cantonese movie ç´°è·¯ç¥¥).
Bruce Lee was born at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco to a Chinese father, Lee Hoi-Chuen (æŽæµ·æ³‰), and Chinese-German mother Grace Lee (ä½•é‡‘æ£ ). Bruce Lee was an ABC (American-born Chinese) although he had received his early education and Kung Fu training in Hong Kong. Because of his father's fame as a Chinese opera actor, Lee had the opportunity to appear in several Chinese movies as a child. He studied the martial art known as Wing Chun for a few years and, at a young age, picked up the dialects/languages of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
In 1959, Lee went to Seattle, to complete his high school education. He received his diploma from Edison Technical School and enrolled at the University of Washington as a Philosophy major. It was at the University of Washington that he met his future wife, Linda Emery, whom he would marry in 1964 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Washington.
Due to his father's entertainment industry connections, Lee was a child actor in several 1950s Hong Kong movies.
After graduating from the University of Washington, 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.
In 1971, unable to find acting roles and faced with stereotypes regarding Asian actors, Lee returned to Hong Kong with his family. There, he starred in martial arts movies, earning $30,000 for his first two feature films and cementing his fame.
Yuen Wah, a member of the Seven Little Fortunes, and later to become a well known actor in his own right (notably starring in 2005's Kung Fu Hustle), was Lee's stunt double in Lee's last few films.
The Karate black belt, and actor, Chuck Norris was introduced, portraying one of Lee's enemies in Return of the Dragon.
Martial arts training and development
Lee began his formal martial arts training at the age of 13 in Wing Chun Gung Fu under Hong Kong master Yip Man. Like most martial arts schools at that time, Yip Man's classes were often taught by the highest ranking student. Lee did not finish Yip Man's curriculum.
It would not be until his arrival in the United States, however, that Lee began the process of creating his own style, which he would later teach at the martial arts schools he opened in Oakland and Los Angeles, California (named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute). After becoming dissatisfied with existing schools of martial arts, he later modified his style, which consisted mostly of elements of Wing Chun, with elements of Western Boxing and Fencing, and named it Jun Fan Gung Fu. Lee expanded this style over time, including elements from Muay Thai, Indo-Malay Silat, Panantukan, Sikaran, Bando, Catch Wrestling, Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido, and other arts. It would be much later that he would come to describe his style as Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist) or JKD.
It took a violent confrontation to start Lee's adaptation of his art. Bruce was issued a challenge by Chinese elders in the region in response to his teaching Asian "secrets" to westerners. A contest was scheduled between him and another popular artist in the area to settle the dispute. According to Linda Lee (Cadwell) the fight lasted a total of three rounds, most of which consisted of Lee chasing the man around the room until finally submitting him. Although he won, Bruce was forlorn, thinking that the fight had taken too long and that he had failed to live up to himself. At this point he decided to start training hard: weights for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, plus many other methods of training, which he constantly adapted as he grew as a martial artist.
During this time he developed his own combat techniques as well as the famous one inch punch, which comes from Wing Chun, which he demonstrated during a Karate tournament in Long beach.
Prior to his death, Lee told his then only two living instructors, Dan Inosanto and Taky Kimura (James Yimm Lee had passed away in 1972), to dismantle his schools. He no longer wished to call his art Jeet Kune Do or have his students associate what they were learning as Bruce Lee's style. His last wish was that Dan Inosanto never use the name JKD or Jeet Kune Do again. Though there are many who claim to teach Jeet Kune Do around the globe, Inosanto, following Lee's request, still refers to the Bruce Lee curriculum taught at his school as Jun Fan Gung Fu.
Today, there is often some controversy between Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu (a.k.a. "original Jeet Kune Do") and "Jeet Kune Do concepts," which explore other styles not previously incorporated into Jeet Kune Do by Lee. Depending on the instructor a person trains under, the name of "the style of JKD" is usually specific to a time period in Lee's process although many of the techniques are often the same. Perhaps a reason for Lee himself later regretting even giving a name to his philosophy/fighting style was that it became just another "martial art style." Lee saw loyalty to a particular martial arts style as being dogmatic and having limitations. This and Lee's other ideas about teaching martial arts made him many enemies in the martial arts community of the 1960s/70s. Yet, much of the dispute about Jeet Kune Do instruction is not about the names, but the credibility of the instructors teaching these Jeet Kune Do fighting systems.
There were three certified instructors: Dan Inosanto received the highest certification in Lee's art (a notable exception is Taky Kimura, senior most instructor in Jun Fan Gung Fu) and is widely regarded as the most senior JKD instructor. All other instructors (again except Taky Kimura and the late James Yimm Lee [no relation to Bruce Lee]) are certified under Inosanto, even Bruce's other original students. Kimura, to date, has certified only one person in Jun Fan Gung Fu, his son and heir, Andy Kimura. James Yimm Lee, a close friend of Lee's, never certified anyone before his untimely death. Inosanto often serves not only as the leading instructor and historian of Jeet Kune Do Concepts; he also teaches and practices other styles such as Kali, Silat, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jujitsu, some of which were already incorporated into the Jun Fan system.
Another student of Lee's at the Jun Fan Gung Fu institute in Seattle was Joseph Cowles, who was not certified by Lee as a Jun Fan Gung Fu instructor, but was encouraged by him to teach martial arts. Cowles then founded the Wu Wei Gung Fu system.
Physical Training, Fitness, and Nutrition
Lee worked a fitness routine and tracked the evolution of his training in personal notes and diaries, which have been collected and published in The Bruce Lee Library by John Little, a "martial arts historian" from Bruce Lee's Estate. Lee used electric current as an aid to strength training, because of the alleged leanness the muscles gained in working against themselves. However, this muscle stimulator was only one of many pieces of equipment and exercise routines Lee used to achieve his on-screen physical appearance.
Lee took an interest in nutrition and developed an interest in health foods and high-protein drinks. "Several times a day, he took a high-protein drink made up of powdered milk, ice water, eggs, eggshells, bananas, vegetable oil, peanut flour and chocolate ice cream,". "He also drank his own juice concoctions made from vegetables and fruits: apples, celery, carrots and so on, prepared in an electric blender."
At the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee appeared in the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championship 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 a so-called "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 to the partner.
- The weight training program Lee used during a stay in Hong Kong in 1965, indicated bicep curls of 80 pounds and 8 repetitions for endurance. This translates to an estimated one-repetition-maximum of 110 pounds, placing Lee in approximately the 100th percentile for the 121 to 140 pound weight class.
- Lee typically exhibited a very lean and muscular appearance in his films, particularly in his upperbody.
Bruce Lee was quick to discover the concept of circuit, which was currently in development in several forms. Circuit training is a method of performing several exercises in order, for a predetermined period of time, with a predetermined period of rest between the exercises. He would use these exercises to develop cardiovascular ability, martial technique, and would also use exercises that developed coordination, and balance. He would frequently train his students in such programs. Later on in his career, with the purchase of a marcy circuit training machine, he began a modified routine of circuit training with weights. These exercises included lat pull downs, bench presses, shoulder lifts, squats, biceps curls, tricep extensions, etc. This routine is largely responsible for the ultra defined physique seen in his last movie, Enter the Dragon.
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 pm at home to discuss the making of the movie Game of Death. They worked until 4 pm, and then drove together to the home of Betty Ting Pei (ä¸ç®), a Taiwanese actress who was to also 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 tablet of analgesic. At around 7:30 pm, 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 10 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. The ensuing autopsy found traces of cannabis. There was no visible external injury; however, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams. Lee was 32 years old. On October 15, 2005, Chow stated in an interview that, of the three pain-killing ingredients, stated that Lee was hypersensitive to one of the three ingredients in the medication, equigesic, whose generic name is Flunixin Meglumine.
A similar incident had occurred a few months before. On May 10, during the final dubbing of Enter the Dragon, Lee suffered a sudden attack of seizures and a nonfatal cerebral edema.
Lee's death was officially recorded as being the result of an abnormal reaction to painkillers he took for severe back pain, possibly in combination with the analgesic for a headache. Lee incurred this back problem when he was younger, after pinching a nerve in his lower back while doing good morning exercises using heavy weights without properly warming up -- a condition that left him temporarily in a wheelchair. Fortunately, contrary to his doctor's prognosis that he would never kick again, Lee regained his range of motion and martial arts ability.
He is interred in Seattle's Lake View Cemetery.
Although he made only a handful of films and television appearances in his adulthood, Bruce Lee has become an iconic pop culture figure in his movies as a personification of an Asian man who became the epitome of what his fans see as the mental and physical perfection in martial arts.
His fame also sparked the first major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West. The direction and tone of Bruce Lee's movies have forever changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in America.
Although he is best known as a martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee majored in Philosophy at the University of Washington. His philosophy often mirrored his fighting beliefs. Yet he was quick to point out that his martial arts were solely a metaphor for such teachings. His influences were largely Taoist, Buddhist, and a conglomeration of contemporary hippie philosophers, perhaps the most visible of which was his writings of philosphy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of his favorite contemporary authors.
See Wikiquotes for quotes by Lee.
Awards and honors
- Bruce Lee was named by TIME Magazine as one of the greatest and among the most influential martial artists of the 20th century.
- In 1958, Lee was the Cha Cha Champion of Hong Kong. He worked part time as a Cha Cha instructor for a short time when he returned to San Francisco in April 1959.
- The 1993 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is a fictionalized biography of his life/legend.
- In September 2004, rumors circulated (e.g., a BBC story) that the Bosnian city of Mostar was to honour Bruce Lee with a statue on the Spanish Square, as a symbol of solidarity. After many years of war and religious splits, Lee's figure is to commend his work: to successfully bridge culture gaps in the world. By September 2005 news reports showed this plan to be nearer to reality.
- Bruce Lee is one of the very few actors to have commercially released computer and console videogames named after themselves, not after a character they played. These games are as follow:
- Bruce Lee, by Datasoft, for Commodore 64, PC Booter, and Apple II.
- Bruce Lee, by Ocean Software, for ZX Spectrum.
- Bruce Lee Lives: The fall of Hong Kong Palace, by The Software Toolworks, for DOS.
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, by Acclaim, for SNES and Game Gear
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, by Atari Corporation, for Jaguar.
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, by Acclaim, for Sega Master System.
- Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon, by Universal Interactive Studios, for Xbox.
- Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend, by Vivendi Universal Games, for Game Boy Advance.
Characters based on Lee
Anime and Manga
- Lee Bailong (Lee Pai-Long) in Shaman King, essentially the manga's version of Bruce. The character was killed so that his body could be made into a Jiang Shi in service to the Tao family.
- Rock Lee from Naruto, bearing some similarity to Bruce Lee (as does his teacher Gai). In the anime and manga, the character is a martial arts master.
- The PokÃ©mon Hitmonlee was named after him.
- Spike Spiegel from the anime Cowboy Bebop uses the quote "be like water" and fights in a fashion similar to Lee's movie characters. Spike uses the nunchaku as Lee does and shares similar fighting stances. Cowboy Bebop contains other Bruce Lee references such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar (an NBA player and one of Lee's students) and Bruce Lee posters. Cowboy Bebop also incorporates many elements of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do philosophy.
- Kenshiro from the manga and anime Fist of the North Star got the same famous "cat screech" noise and "atatatah" battle cry whenever Kenshiro is punching his enemies. The creator Tetsuo Hara admits that he is a big fan of Lee's movies and his character Kenshiro is a tribute to Lee.
- Several fighting games have characters based off of Bruce Lee, enough that it has become an archetype within the genre. Notable examples include:
- Fei Long in the Street Fighter series.
- Marshall Law and his son Forest in the Tekken series. In the early Tekken games, one of Marshall's outfits was a yellow jumpsuit.
- Kim Dragon in the World Heroes series.
- Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat series.
- Jann Lee in the Dead or Alive series.
- Maxi in the Soul Calibur series.
- Ling Tong in Dynasty Warriors 5 uses a Nunchaku, moves quickly, and has similar physical characteristics and movements as Bruce Lee.
- Fei Fong Wong in Xenogears has a similar fighting style, techniques, and stance as Bruce Lee. Fei Fong Wong also wears simlar pants Bruce Lee wore in many of his movies.
- In Double Dragon, Billy and Jimmy Lee are a tribute to Bruce Lee (the surname Lee is a big give away). In the remake Double Dragon Advance, there are Bruce Lee posters during the China Town level and in the cutscenes Billy and Jimmy looks similar to Lee when angry.
- Stephen Chow, Hong Kong actor and director, is a fan of Lee and has played roles which are reminiscent of Lee, such as:
- Sing (Brother #5) in Shaolin Soccer (2001)
- Sing in Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
- David Carradine, American actor, played the characters written for Lee in the 1978 version of The Silent Flute.
- Lee from Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 was named after Bruce Lee and has a similar fighting styles as Bruce Lee.
- In the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill, Uma Thurman yellow jumpsuit is a tribute to Bruce Lee from the movie Game of Death.
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