Bruce Lee. The man, the myth and the
legend? It is an incontestable fact that Bruce
Lee was a great martial artist. His on and off
screen persona oozed with charismatic flair
making him one of the most popular action
hero's of his time. In death, his popularity
seemed only to grow as do legends.
Bruce trained hard and had objectives for
himself. In a letter he wrote, he pledged in
1969 to become the highest paid Asian actor,
to become well-known and financially
independant by 1980 and to achieve inner
harmony and peace. Bruce had goals and
ambitions that drove him to levels of physical
agility, strength and flexibility that none have
been able to compare to as of yet.
Bruce started his carreer as an actor on the defunk series 'The Green Hornet'.
As many of you probably know or have guessed, the character of 'Kato',
played by Bruce Lee, stole the show. When the show was later cancelled due
to a lack of ratings, Bruce moved on to other things. In fact, Bruce helped
formulate and develop the popular 'Kung Fu' series. A series that was, as
some have said, made for Bruce; yet, David Caradine, a caucasian actor,
played the role of th oriental Kung Fu master. Did Bruce let network and
Hollywood prejudice get in the way of furthering his carreer?
Bruce was affected by Hollywood's and
American television's lack of respect for
Asian actors. He felt that if he remained in the
U.S.A. , directors and produces wouldn't
look on him as a martial artist or an actor;
they would rather see an Asian and be
blinded by prejudice. Bruce took a sabbatical
and went to Hong Kong where he received a
hero's welcome. 'The Green Hornet' known
as the 'Kato show' in Hong Kong was very
popular because of Lee. His popularity got
him the attention of prominent movie
producers who begged Bruce to star in their
features which he did. From then on the
world was introduced to 'The Big Boss a.k.a
Fists of Fury', 'The Chineses Connection',
'The Way of the Dragon', and 'Game of Death'
which was never completed by Lee.
Finally receiving the attention he deserved, Bruce was invited to star in the
Warner Brothers prodcution entitled 'Enter the Dragon' which brought him the
super stardom he never had the chance to experience. Bruce Lee's death in
1973 is shrouded in mystery...many theories have been put forward ranging
from Ninja Assassins to the Chinese mafia. The official report claims that
Bruce took a pain killer containing an ingredient he was allergic to. But actually
noone really knows how he died. It's ironic that the
country that had orignally rejected him now mourned him. But that is
sometimes the way of life. We never realize the treasures that some indiviudals
offer us until it is too late.
Speed: Bruce Lee realized that big muscular builds slow you down. He trained for speed. His speed was definately beyond
Timing: Bruce had timing. He would observe his opponent and counter-attack at the precise moment. Again, speed allowed
him to come in and out.
Power: Two Fingered One Armed Push-ups. He did those with great ease. Two inch punches capable of doing more
damage than regular punches. Bruce had the power to bring down any opponent.
Feint: Bruce Lee believed that if two opponents were equal in skill, speed and power, the competitor who could use feinting
techniques would be the clear victor. Bruce Lee accentuated the use of feinting in his movies and in real life.
Movement: There is never any wasted movement in Lee's techniques. This makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Shuffling: Bruce Lee moved like a butterfly and stung like a bee. He believed that the best way to avoid a punch or kick was
to simply dodge or move out of the way.
Focus: Bruce had the desire to be the best at all cost. He trained every day for several hours. He pushed and unfortunately
even abused his body to its limits.
Diversity: Bruce did not dwell in one martial art or in one field of expertise. He read and tried to gain knowledge about
anything that could make him a better individual and martial artist. He read about boxing, fencing and several other techniques
and methods used in the martial arts.
Two minutes: Bruce Lee believed that if a fight lasted more than two minutes, you were finished. That's why his real life fights
lasted less than that.
1940 - November 27 - San Francisco- The Year of the Dragon, Lee Jun
Fan is born at the Jackson Street Hospital in the Chinatown section of San Francisco. Later to be
known as Bruce Lee. His father, Lee Hoi Chuen, a performer with the Cantonese Opera
Company, was touring in America at the time.
1941 - Hong Kong - Bruce and his parents return to Kowloon, their family
1946 - Hong Kong - At the age of six, he makes his professional screen
debut in The Beginning of a Boy. During the later years of his chilhood, Bruce appears in
20 more films in Southeast Asia. Lastly, being the film The Orphan at age 18.
1953 - Hong Kong - After being involved in numerous street fights in
Hong Kong, Bruce begins training under Sifu Yip Man, a master of the wing
system of gung fu.
1958 - Hong Kong - Being an expert dancer, Bruce wins the Crown
Colony Cha-Cha Championship.
1959 - Hong Kong - After more fierce street fighting ending in police
involvement, Mr. and Mrs. Lee decide that Bruce should exercise his American citizenship and
return to San francisco.
1959 - San Francisco - Seattle - Bruce arrives in the U.S. and stays with an
old friend of his father's. He works odd jobs around the various chinese communities. Later
moves to Seattle to work for Ruby Chow, another friend of his father's. He lives in a room above
her restaurant while working as a waiter downstairs. Eventually enrolls at Edison Technical
School and earns his high school diploma. Starts teaching gung fu in backyards and city parks.
1961 - Spring - Seattle- Enrolls at the University of Washington.
Major - Philosophy. Teachs gung fu to students at school.
1963 - Summer - Hong Kong - Returns to Hong Kong for the first time
since his arrival in the U.S. Returns to Seattle at the end of summer to continue school.
1963 - October 25 - Seattle - Bruce takes out Linda Emery (the future
Mrs. Linda Lee) for their first date. Dinner at the Space Needle.
1963 - Fall - Seattle - Moves the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute into a building
(4750 University Way) near the university campus.
1964 - Summer - Oakland - Bruce leaves Seattle to start a second school in
Oakland. His good friend, Taky Kimura, takes over as head instructor.
1964 - August 17 - Seattle - Bruce returns to Seattle to marry Linda
Emery. Residing afterwards back in Oakland.
1964 - Oakland - Several months after he begins teaching, he is challenged
by a leading gung fu practitioner in the Chinatown community. If Bruce lost the challenge, he was
either to close his school or stop teaching Caucasians. At that time, the Chinese were reluctant to
teach Caucasians their martial arts. Bruce accepts and dispatches his opponent in only a couple of
minutes. Later he is bothered on why the fight took so long and begins to re-evaluate his style.
Thus, the early concepts of Jeet Kune
Do, Bruce Lee's own style, are born.
1964 - August 2 - Long Beach, Ca - Ed Parker, known as the Father of
American Karate (Kenpo), invites Bruce to give a demonstration at his first International
Championships. In the audience is Jay Sebring, the hair stylist for Batman producer
William Dozier who is looking to cast a part in a TV series he was developing. Sebring then gives
a film of Bruce's demo to Dozier who is empressed at what he sees. Bruce later flys down to Los
Angeles for a screen test.
1965 - February 8 - Hong Kong - Bruce's father passes away.
1966 - Los Angeles - Bruce and family move to Los Angeles where he
begins working on a new TV series called The Green Hornet as Kato. Later opens third branch of the
Gung Fu Institute in Los Angeles' Chinatown.
1967-1971 - Hollywood - During this time, Bruce lands bit parts in various
films and T.V. series (Marlowe, Longstreet). He also gives private lessons for up to $250
an hour to the likes of Steve McQueen, James Coburn, James Garner, Lee Marvin, Roman
Polanski, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
1969 - April 19 - Santa Monica, CA - Daughter Shannon Lee is born.
1970 - Los Angeles - Bruce injures his back while training. The following
period of inactivity he starts to document his training methods and his philosophy of Jeet Kune
Do. Later after his death, The Tao
Jeet Kune Do is published by his wife.
1971 - Hong Kong. - Takes a short trip back to Hong Kong to arrange for
his mother to live in the U.S..Unknowingly to him, he had become a superstar for The Green
Hornet was one of the most popular TV shows in Hong Kong. Later is approached by
Raymond Chow, owner of a new
company, and offered the lead role in a new film
called The Big Boss. He accepts.
1971- July - Thailand - Filming begins for The Big Boss (released
as Fists of Fury in U.S.). Opens in Hong Kong to great reviews and mobs of fans.
Proceeds to gross more than $3.5 million in little than three weeks.
1972 - Hong Kong - Fist of Fury (called The Chinese Connection in the
released. Grosses more than The Big Boss and further
establishes Bruce as a Hong Kong superstar.
1972 - Rome, Italy - Location shots are made for Bruce's third film
The Way of the Dragon (later called The Return of the Dragon), which he writes,
directs, and stars in. Chuck Norris
Bruce's adversary in the final fight scene. Again, this film surpasses all records set by his previous
1972 - Hong Kong - Bruce begins work on Game of Death and
several fight scenes including Danny Inosanto and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
1973 - February - Hong Kong- Filming of Enter the Dragon
begins. It is the first-ever production between the U.S. and Hong Kong film industries. Game
of Death is never completed. (Later completed after his death using a stand-in for Bruce's
1973 - April - Hong Kong - Filming of Enter the Dragon is
1973 - July 20 - Hong Kong - Bruce Lee dies in Hong Kong. But noone really knows
how he died.Enter the Dragon premieres a month later
to much success.
1973 - July 25 - Hong Kong - A funeral ceremony is held for friends and
fans in Hong Kong consisting of over 25,000 people. Bruce is dressed in the Chinese outfit he
wore in Enter the Dragon.
1973 - July 30 - Seattle - After a smaller second ceremony, Bruce Lee is
buried at Lake View Cemetery. His pallbearers included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Danny
Inosanto, Taky Kimura, and his brother, Robert Lee.
Chronology researched and written by me using the following references:
Linda Lee, The Bruce Lee Story (Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications, 1989)