Bruce Lee: The Definitive Guide

Welcome to the definitive guide to Bruce Lee.

The goal of this guide is to provide people with an in-depth reference guide to the martial arts master Bruce Lee. Our hope is that this guide will be an ever expanding reference work of which we will add more information as we get it. However if you see any factual discrepancies please get in touch. We have included a menu below to allow you fast access to the parts of the document that you wish to read. 

An Overview Of The Life Of Bruce Lee

The Facts

Bruce Lee was born on 27th November 1940 in San Francisco, California. He became a child actor in Hong Kong but later came back to the United States to teach martial arts and enter further education. He went on to have a brilliant career in film and television.  He died on 20th July 1973 just before his film ENTER THE DRAGON made its way to movie theaters; he was only 32 years of age.

The Life Of Bruce Lee At A Glance

  • In early 1940’s, the Lee family moved back from the USA to Hong Kong.
  • From 1946, Bruce Lee made appearances in at least 20 films where he played the role of a child actor. He studied dance as well and went on to win Hong Kong’s cha-cha competition. 
  •  He studied Wing Chun kung fu under Master Yip Man. Before the end of that decade, the Lee’s returned to U.S and lived with family friends in Washington. He took up the job of a dance instructor
  • Lee completed High School in Edison, Washington and enrolled for philosophy major at Washington University.
  •  While teaching Wing Chun, he met Linda Emery who he married in the year 1964. During this period, he had opened his own school of martial arts in Seattle
  • Bruce Lee and Linda later moved to California; he opened 2 more schools in Los Angeles and Oakland. He mostly taught a style he usually liked to call Jeet Kune Do i.e. the way of intercepting fist.
  • He eventually chose to major his career in the world of cinema because he didn’t want to commercialize his teachings.
  • Lee and his wife expanded their family by having two children Brandon and Shannon ; they were born in 1965 and 1969 respectively
  • Lee rose to stardom following his role in THE GREEN HORNET. This was a television series that aired 26 episodes between 1966 and 1967. In the series that was based on a 1930 radio program. He went ahead and made guest appearances in TV shows like LONGSTREET and IRONSIDE. He was also involved in the movie MARLOWE in 1969 that was starred by James Garner
  • Lee was devoted to several physical training activities and workouts. During this time he suffered from a severe back injury only to recover, he took some time off to take care of himself and was a writer during his free time.
  • He is credited for coming upon with the Buddhist monk TV series popularly known as KUNG FU even though he was denied an opportunity to take up the leading role. David Carradine took up the leading role a role that had been slated for Bruce Lee because they believed an Asian actor would never have pulled enough audiences as the lead actor.
  • Conflicted because of the roles he played in the movies together with the stereotypes that were associated with Asian performers, Lee had very few options. He left Los Angeles and returned to Hong Kong during the summer of 1971
  • By the end of the year 1972, Lee had become a well-known movie star across Asia. Together with Raymond Chow, he co-founded The Concord Productions and released the fist movie that he both directed and starred i.e. THE RETURN OF THE DRAGON. Even though he had not gained stardom in the United States, he was on the brink. He embarked on his 1st Hollywood project, ENTER THE DRAGON
  • On 20th July 1973, just a month before the release of ENTER THE DRAGON, Lee was only 32 years when he died in Hong Kong. His sudden death wasn’t expected. Autopsy records indicated that he died from brain edema. 

The Films of Bruce Lee

Young or old, movie fan or not, nearly of us know or have at least heard of Bruce Lee. He is undoubtedly a true martial arts movie star who rose to fame for his fighting ability.

Bruce played many roles throughout his career and while we love the man, some of his movies we love more than others. Read on for some of this icon’s most memorable works;

The Big Boss

Released in 1971, the big boss is a drama film in which, Bruce is out for revenge. This time his relatives have been slain by their boss who is a bad gangster. The twist here is that Bruce lee’s character (Cheng Chao-an) is a young man sworn to an oath of non-violence but after his cousins are killed after failing to cooperate with their boss who is a drug baron in disguise, his rage is set loose. Cheng goes on to kill many people involved including the bad boss after which he surrenders himself to the police in an interesting twist. His surrender was probably because he had gone against the very oath that prohibited him from committing violent acts.

Fist of Fury

Loosely set against real historical events this is arguably one of Lee’s darkest films. He plays the star martial arts student in a school whose master is soon murdered by a rival Japanese school. Due to this, a chain of vengeance is unleashed as Bruce tries to avenge his fallen master.

Fist of Fury is a riveting, action-packed film that features Bruce Lee in powerful stunts as he fights foes from the rival Japanese school. The whole story is phenomenal in many aspects save for the fact that critics thought that the portrayal of the Japanese was rather critical. Never the less many people still regard it as his strongest film ever, and the fight scene inside the rival school is one of the most well known in history

Way of the Dragon

This was produced in the busiest year of his career when he was also working on other feature films. It was the first film he ever directed and most remarkably it was a departure from his ordinarily darker, serious films. In this movie he plays a Hong Kong native trying to save his uncle’s restaurant from gangsters.

It is a funny movie that showcased a local man from Hong Kong adjusts to life in a new world. Unfortunately, he did not perform thrilling stunts in this one which to some people made the movie rather dark. The film ends with an iconic battle with Chuck Norris at the Coliseum 

Enter the Dragon

This is easily Bruce Lee’s best movie not just because of the fighting but because of how well rounded they managed to make it. Here lee plays a scorned brother whose sister was led to suicide by crime boss’ henchmen. To get his revenge Bruce must participate in an underground fighting tournament held by the man whose men led to the death of his beloved sibling. As he fights his way to the last man, we see the legend beat up greats like Sammo Hung as well as appearances by Jackie Chan. Many people believe that Enter the Dragon is the movie that paved the way for other successful martial arts films by upholding choreography and production values.

The Game of Death

This movie was not completed because Bruce Lee  died during its making. 100 minutes of action had been shot before the master died but some of it was misplaced in the archives. 

The film was later released with other actors involved but this did not match the original idea that Bruce Lee had. 

The Martial Arts Of Bruce Lee

In the early years, Bruce was trained in the art of Wing Chun, however, he was passionate about learning from a  variety of other martial arts and sports. This lead to an exposure to boxing, Judo, Wrestling, and many other styles.

Jeet Kune Do later emerged as a name for his system however Bruce was not passionate about names of any kind and saw Jeet Kune Do as a personal system of growth rather than a fixed system of moves or techniques. 

In this classic video, Bruce appears on a  TV drama and actually explains a lot of his martial arts philosophy himself.

After Bruce Lee passed away  Dan Inosanto took over the mantle of teaching Jeet Kune Do and spreading the awareness of the art. In the next video we hear Dan talking about the art and the philosophy 

Although many argue about what Jeet Kune Do is, Bruce Lee himself stated " What is Jeet Kune Do (JKD)? Chinese martial art, definitely.  It is a kind of Chinese martial art t hat does away with the distinction of branches, an art that rejects formality, and ana art that is liberated from the tradition"

Bruce Lee's One Inch Punch

One of the most well known of Bruce Lee's techniques was the one-inch punch. Essentially this is a short range strike that uses the power of the hips and shoulder to drive the opponent backwards.

Bruce used this  technique in various demonstrations and always stunned on lookers. ​

Bruce Lee Interviews

Please find below a collection of Bruce Lee Interviews

The Pierre Berton Show​

Casting Interview

The Death Of Bruce Lee

The death of Bruce lee came as a shock for the world. How could a man who seemed invincible and at his physical peak suddenly die? 

We have tried to piece together some of the events of that day based on the various reports and articles available. 


On July 20th 1973 At 1930hrs that evening,  Bruce Lee was  at the apartment of actress Betty Ting when he complained of experiencing a headache. Ting gave him one of her own Equagesic pain killers that had been prescribed to her by her doctor. Lee went to lie down for a little while on Ting’s bed. 10 minutes later, Chow left the apartment to attend the meeting with Georrge Lazenby at the Miramar Hotel. At 2100hrs he rang Ting to know why they were not at the meeting and to find out where they were.

Ting explained that she had tried to wake Lee up twice but he hadn’t responded. Chow told Ting that he would head back to her apartment and half-an-hour later he arrived. It seemed like Lee was sleeping peacefully and Chow could not wake him up either.

Out of concern, Raymond rang Ting’s doctor up (Dr. Eugene Chu). The phone was constantly engaged but was finally able to get through to the doctor. He quickly showed up at Ting’s apartment but after about 10 minutes he too couldn’t wake Lee up.

He immediately called for an ambulance and Lee was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth’s hospital. At 2200hrs Chow called Linda and asked her to immediately come to Queen Elizabeth’s hospital. 15 minutes later, the ambulance arrived where with a team of readily waiting to help Lee. They doctors tried all they could to save his life, but it was all in vain.

Raymond Chow gave the shocking news to the press at around 2300hrs.

Mourning was held for Lee’s fans and friends on the 25th of July. More than 25,000 people from all corners of the world attended. After the mourning Lee’s body was then flown to the US.
On the July 30, after a second mourning was held in Butterworth funeral parlor in Seattle, Washington before Bruce was finally laid in his last resting place.

Conclusion

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Have you spotted an error? If so let us know so we can fix it.

Bruce Lee was an iconic ​figure in the martial arts that inspired many to take up the arts to better their lives.  

If you have enjoyed or found this guide useful please share with your friends and if you are looking for more check out our guide to Bruce Lee Quotes

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