Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

By his real name Lee Jun-Fan, was a Hong Kong, Chinese and American actor, martial artist, philosopher, filmmaker, and founder of the martial art, Jeet Kune Do. Lee was the son of Cantonese opera star, Lee Hoi-Chuen. He is widely considered by commentators, critics, media, and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.

An US citizen from the moment of birth, the Little Dragon, as he was to be called, has benefited from the help of a relatively rich family in those days. His father, Li Hoi Chuen, was the co-leader of a troupe of Cantonese opera and a renowned film actor in the growing world of Chinese immigrants. His mother, Grace Li, had a more impressive background, belonging to the To Hung clan, one of the richest and most influential families from Hong Kong.

Although his parents enrolled him in the best schools from Hong Kong, the future Bruce Lee has already made friends with a gang of petty criminals and diligently learned the street language. Street battles in Hong Kong are tougher than in many other places, not only because here is the headquarters of the dreaded Triads. In the dangerous world of juvenile delinquency, Lee entered at the age of 13 years old. His strong character, coupled with his courage and innate leadership ability, propelled him soon to order a small gang of thugs where he belonged. Here he learned a creed to which he would remain faithful his entire life “Winning is everything: the style and rules do not matter in the fight.”

In a 1967 interview, Bruce recalls: “What would have happened if during a scandal, I would not have had the band with me? I decided then to learn Kung Fu to be able to defend myself.” His father decided to enroll his turbulent offspring to the Taijiquan courses, Wu style. Taji boxing is a complex and esoteric style that has much to do with cultivating the internal Qi energy, relaxation, reflection and meditation. Many of the precepts from the Taiji philosophy of Bruce Lee appeared later. But the little rascal just wanted to fight. He sook a more effectively style to liquidate his opponents.

Through master Wu Ta-Chi, his Taiji teacher, Bruce came in contact with none other than Yip Man, the last great master of the Wing Chun style. This small but deadly fighter had barely take refuge in Hong Kong from communist China, bringing with him the secrets of six generations of fighters. Lee trained with old Yip Man for 5 years, a period in which he won a few boxing championships, as well as the championship title at Cha Cha dancing.

After he spent several months working as a waiter in the restaurant of Ruby Chow, a friend of his father, Bruce Lee decided that he didn’t come to America to serve meals, so he consequently graduated from Edison Technical School in Seattle. Attracted by philosophy and acting, he enrolled at the University of Washington, which he abandons however after three years and a half. In the Little Dragon’s life, his future wife, Linda Emery already appeared and he desired to show to the white man the mysteries of the Chinese martial arts. In consequence, his ambition and unseen fighter qualities propelled him directly in the TV series “The Green Hornet”.

He received regular roles in television series like Batman, Longstreet, Ironside or Here Comes the Brides. He planned to launch a series by himself, which would portray the wanderings of a Shaolin monk. The show would be called “The Warrior” and Bruce Lee would have to play the leading role. Warner Bros stole his idea and distrustful of Lee’s qualities, they renamed the show to “Kung Fu” series, giving him the leading role to David Carradine, an actor with no training in martial arts.

Disappointed, Lee returned to Hong Kong. There, among those of the same race and culture of him, he would come to know success. “The Big Boss” (1971) was the film that turned him into an instant Chinese hero and an international star. In just one month he grossed 3,197 million $, a huge sum in those days. In “Fists of Fury” (1972), Lee restored the wounded honor of the Chinese that were humiliated in the years of Japanese occupation during the Second World War. It remains anthological the sequence in which Chen Chen, the character played by Lee, breaks with a jumping leg a board located at the entrance of a park. On the board, the Japanese had written: “Entry prohibited to dogs and Chinese.”

For “Way of the Dragon” (1972), Lee spared no effort to outdo himself. For the action scenes, he called Unicorn Chan and as a second director, he used Ricky Chick. The film set a series of records: Bruce Lee became the first Chinese actor who started his own film production company, was the first Chinese film shot in Europe and Lee used for the first time double nunchaku screen techniques. Bruce was on this occasion the first Chinese producer, main star, writer and director of his own films.

To be capable of such performances, the Little Dragon gave great attention to his daily diet. His wife recalls in her memoirs that Lee prepared a daily fresh juice after his own recipe made from apples, celery, carrots and a few plants from China. Not missing from his diet were pollen, lecithin granules, unpasteurized milk, wheat germ oil, along with huge amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables that were consumed daily. Bruce Lee avoided at all costs flour products baked in the oven, arguing that they were full of useless calories for the effort he made.

At the age of 32 years old, on 22 July 1973, the Little Dragon passed away taking with himself the secret of his own death. The avalanche of assumptions and variations of the cause of death, which followed the official investigation, has only deepened the mystery. The official conclusion was that Bruce Lee died of a cerebral edema caused by an acute rejection response against the Equagesic analgesic.

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