Bruce Lee, The Greatest Martial Arts Action Hero By Clint Leung

Bob Hubbard

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Bruce Lee, The Greatest Martial Arts Action Hero
By Clint Leung

Before Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van
Damme, there was Bruce Lee. In a way, it is a real shame that
many of todays generation of action film fans have never been
exposed to Bruce Lee because he was perhaps the greatest martial
arts action hero of all time. His martial arts on film may not
have been as fancy as say Jackie Chans or Jet Lis but his on
screen ferocity and charisma are unequalled. Even more important
was the impact on martial arts that Bruce Lee had which still
endures today even over 30 years since his passing.

Bruce Lee always considered himself a martial artist first and
an actor second. As a martial artist, he was way ahead of his
time in developing his own style of martial arts he called jeet
kune do. His martial arts incorporated the most practical
techniques from various combative disciplines as he moved away
from the traditional and classical techniques. His martial arts
abilities were real and
respected by other prominent martial artists like Jhoon Rhee,
Chuck Norris, Ed Parker and Joe Lewis. His name was inducted
into the prestigious Black Belt Hall of Fame twice, once while
he was alive and the other after his death. These are honors
that no other martial arts action hero has ever come close to.
Martial arts schools in North America enjoyed a huge growth in
enrollment because of Bruce Lee.

North America got an early glimpse of Bruce Lee when he played
Kato in the Green Hornet television series and a bit role in the
movie Marlowe. He went to Hong Kong and made a few films like
Fists of Fury (called the Big Boss in the Asia market) and the
Chinese Connection which made him a huge star in Asia. Bruce Lee
also wrote, directed and starred in his own movie production
called the Way of the Dragon which featured perhaps one of the
greatest martial arts fight scenes ever. This scene took place
in the Roman Coliseum and was with Chuck Norris which gave
Norris his first film start. It was Enter the Dragon that broke
him to North America. Unfortunately, he died tragically at the
age of 32 in 1973 before he was able to witness the success of
that movie. At the time of Lees death, he had completed the
fight scenes for another movie called Game of Death which
featured basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabar, who was actually
one of his martial arts students. Other students of Bruce Lee
included actors Steve McQueen and James Coburn. Game of Death
was completed with look-alike actors later on.

One of the most significant contributions Bruce Lee made is
that he opened the door for other Asians in the entertainment
industry worldwide. He was the first Asian to achieve any
significant success in the North American entertainment scene.
He became a star in North America and the rest of the world by
playing heroes rather than past stereotype roles for Asians such
as like servants, gangsters, laundry workers or other pigtail
coolie characters. On an even greater scale, Bruce Lee gave
Asians, particularly the Chinese people worldwide, a reason to
be proud. Bruce Lee influenced them to be confident in pushing
forward to achieve their goals no matter what field they were

About the Author: Clint Leung is a lifelong martial artist with
over 32 years of training experience in kung fu, tae kwon do,
karate, kickboxing and martial arts weaponry. He has won
Canadian and world championship titles (NASKA, NBL and WSKF). He
is also owner of Free Spirit Activewear
( , an online retailer and
designer of premium martial arts activewear. Free Spirit
Activewear has martial arts info articles.


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Sr. Grandmaster
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Aug 21, 2003
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Chattanooga, TN
Nice article.
My only nit-pick is that I recall hearing Lee referring to himself as an Actor first then a Martial Artist. He used Martial Arts to get into acting, which was his dream and (one of) his true callings, Martial Arts was another calling true, but I see it more as having the extreme talent and drive to excel in it and the inner-knowledge/awareness to see a need to create a new form/style (JKD) for the future.

That Lee is still influential to this day says volumes about the man himself. Last night I was having a light dinner with some younger (20-somethings) cavers and they asked about my own MA experiences. I mentioned JKD and they knew instantly what it was and who founded it. That says a-lot right there. :D