Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Bruce Lee!!!

Happy 70th Birthday Bruce!!! 

Bruce Lee was more than just an actor, he was an accomplished martial artist, an international film star, a philosopher, and a proponent of Chinese nationalism. Lee was born here, in San Francisco, at the Chinese Hospital on Jackson street. (the SAME place where I was born!!!) Lee was allegedly given a girl's name at birth due to a "death curse" on the family, which supposedly claimed the life of the infant son born before him, and so the evil spirits would have a more difficult time finding him.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved back to Hong Kong but his mother gave him a Chinese name of Jun-fan, which translates to return again, because his mother felt that he would return to America one day. Despite coming from a wealthy background, Hong Kong was overcrowded and a young Bruce Lee had regular run-ins with street gangs. Welcoming the challenge, Bruce never backed down and his confrontations were becoming increasing violent. His father then decided to teach him the fundamentals of Wu family style Tai Chi but his greatest influence in martial arts came when he began studying Wing Chun under his teacher Yip Man. Finding out about his ancestry a year into his training, the other students refused to train with him after discovering his mother was half-German. (The Chinese were pretty strict about not teaching their arts to foreigners) This led to Bruce Lee receiving private sessions with Yip Man where he had but a single training partner in Wong Shun Leung. Despite Yip Man's encouragements to participate in organized competitions Bruce Lee would still get into street fights regularly and even once beat the son of a triad family up. Fearing that there would be a contract on his life, his parents sent him to America.

Arriving back in his hometown of San Francisco but only staying for a few short months, Lee moves out to Seattle in 1959 and continues his education out there. Eventually being accepted into the University of Washington where he would go on to study philosophy, psychology, and various other subjects. This is where he meets his future wife, with whom he would have two children. There he would open his own school where he taught Jun Fan Gung Fu, which was basically Bruce Lee's own take on Wing Chun. His first student would be a Judo practitioner by the name of Jesse Glover. Lee also competed in various competitions, one in 1962 where he would knock out a Karate Black Belt during a full contact match in 11 seconds. Ed Hart, who was the timekeeper of the match, had the following to say:
"The karate man arrived in his gi (uniform), complete with black belt, while Bruce showed up in his street clothes and simply took off his shoes. The fight lasted exactly 11 seconds – I know because I was the time keeper – and Bruce had hit the guy something like 15 times and kicked him once. I thought he'd killed him."
In the spring of 1964, Lee would drop out of college and move to Oakland where he stayed with James Yimm Lee, an older and established figure in the local martial arts community. He would also be the one to introduce Lee to Ed Parker, who is responsible for organizing the Long Beach International Karate Championships. Lee opens his second martial arts school in Oakland, much to the dismay of the local martial arts community who issued Lee an ultimatum to stop teaching foreigners. Apparently it was during this time that a highly controversial private match took place between Lee and Wong Jack Man over the future of Bruce Lee's schools. If Lee were to win, he would be free to teach whomever he wanted. If Wong Jack Man were to win, Lee would have to shut down his school. There are two different accounts of what happened that day because it took place behind closed doors. One party says that the match lasted 20-25 minutes but according to Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, and James Yimm Lee say that it only lasted about 3 minutes. (Either way, Bruce did not stop teaching Caucasians)

At the invitation of Ed Parker, Lee attended the aforementioned Long Beach International Karate Championships where he demonstrated the one inch punch and performed two-finger pushups. (it was here that Bruce Lee was discovered by Hollywood)  A man by the name of William Dozier invited Lee to audition for a show that was never picked up but he was then invited to play for the role of Kato, the sidekick on the TV show The Green Hornet. Apparently, it was during the taping one of the seasons of this show when Bruce Lee founded his own martial art style. Following his match with Wong Jack Man, Lee concluded that it had taken entirely too long to dispatch of his opponent using just his Wing Chun techniques. This led to Lee deeming traditional forms of martial arts to be "too rigid" thus prompting him to develop his own style of martial arts that was more practical to use during real combat. This was the birth of...

Jeet Kune Do, which literally translates to "The Way of the Intercepting Fist". This was the first ever hybrid style of martial arts that took the most useful and practical parts of different styles and rejected anything that wasn't feasible. In this way, many call Bruce Lee the Godfather of MMA. JKD emphasizes fluidity of motion so as not to be too rigid and avoids being "stuck" in forms.

Some time after they axed The Green Hornet show, Lee returned to Hong Kong where he had apparently become a superstar due to the airing of his Green Hornet show. (where it was unofficially dubbed "The Kato Show")  Back in Hong Kong, Lee was approached by director Raymond Chow about doing a couple films. These films were The Big Boss and Fist of Fury, both largely commercial successes. After starting his own production company with Chow, Concord Productions Inc, Lee was given complete creative control over his third project in The Way of the Dragon. The rest, as they say, is history...

Z-portal would like to honor Bruce Lee... teacher, entertainer, and master. Happy Birthday Bruce!!!