Bruce Lee Biography
born Lee Jun Fan, 27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973. "Jun Fan" translates to "return again", his parents named him this with the hope he would return to America. Bruce Lee was an actor, martial artist, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and founder of the Jeet Kune Do concept. He is considered as one of the most influential martial artist of the 20th century, and a cultural icon
Bruce Lee was born at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco. He received his early education and Kung Fu training in Hong Kong. Because of his father's fame as a Chinese opera actor, Lee had the opportunity to appear in several Chinese movies as a child. He studied the martial art known as Wing Chun for a few years and, at a young age, picked up the languages of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. In 1959, Lee went to Seattle, to complete his high school education. He received his diploma from Edison Technical School and enrolled at the University of Washington as a Philosophy major. It was at the University of Washington that he met his future wife, Linda Emery, whom he would marry in 1964 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Washington. Lee has two children- a daughter and a son, Brandon, who was tragically killed during a film set accident. Some Chinese people believe this was a curse of sort.
Due to his father's entertainment industry connections, Lee was a child actor in several 1950s Hong Kong movies. After graduating from the University of Washington, Lee went on to star as Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet, which ran from 1966 to 1967 and afterward opened up his own Jeet Kune Do school.
In 1971, unable to find acting roles and faced with stereotypes regarding Asian actors, Lee returned to Hong Kong with his family. There, he starred in martial arts movies, earning $30,000 for his first two feature films and cementing his fame.
Yuen Wah, a member of the Seven Little Fortunes, and later to become a well known actor in his own right (notably starring in 2005's Kung Fu Hustle), was Lee's stunt double in Lee's last few films. The Karate black belt, and actor, Chuck Norris was introduced, portraying one of Lee's enemies in Return of the Dragon.
Martial Arts Training and Development
Lee began his formal martial arts training at the age of 13 in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Hong Kong master Yip Man. Like most martial arts schools at that time, Yip Man's classes were often taught by the highest ranking student. Lee did not finish Yip Man's curriculum. It would not be until his arrival in the United States, however, that Lee began the process of creating his own style, which he would later teach at the martial arts schools he opened in Oakland and Los Angeles, California (named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute). After becoming dissatisfied with existing schools of martial arts, he later modified his style, which consisted mostly of elements of Wing Chun, with elements of Western Boxing and Fencing, and named it Jun Fan Gung Fu. Lee expanded this style over time, including elements from Muay Thai, Indo-Malay Silat, Panantukan, Sikaran, Bando, Catch Wrestling, Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido, and other arts. It would be much later that he would come to describe his style as Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist) or JKD. It took a violent confrontation to start Lee's adaptation of his art. Bruce was issued a challenge by Chinese elders in the region in response to his teaching Asian "secrets" to westerners. A contest was scheduled between him and another popular artist in the area to settle the dispute. According to Linda Lee (Cadwell) the fight lasted a total of three minutes, most of which consisted of Lee chasing the man around the room until finally submitting him. Although he won the duel, Bruce was forlorn, thinking that the fight had taken too long and that he had failed to live up to himself. At this point he decided to start training hard: weights for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, plus many other methods of training, which he constantly adapted as he grew as a martial artist.
During this time he developed his own combat techniques as well as the famous one inch punch, which comes from Wing Chun, which he demonstrated during a Karate tournament in Long beach.
Prior to his death, Lee told his then only two living instructors, Dan Inosanto and Taky Kimura (James Yimm Lee had passed away in 1972), to dismantle his schools. He no longer wished to call his art Jeet Kune Do or have his students associate what they were learning as Bruce Lee's style. His last wish was that Dan Inosanto never use the name JKD or Jeet Kune Do again. Though there are many who claim to teach Jeet Kune Do around the globe, Inosanto, following Lee's request, still refers to the Bruce Lee curriculum taught at his school as Jun Fan Gung Fu.
Today, there is often some controversy between Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu (a.k.a. "original Jeet Kune Do") and "Jeet Kune Do concepts," which explore other styles not previously incorporated into Jeet Kune Do by Lee. Depending on the instructor a person trains under, the name of "the style of JKD" is usually specific to a time period in Lee's process although many of the techniques are often the same. Perhaps a reason for Lee himself later regretting even giving a name to his philosophy/fighting style was that it became just another "martial art style." Lee saw loyalty to a particular martial arts style as being dogmatic and having limitations. This and Lee's other ideas about teaching martial arts made him many enemies in the martial arts community of the 1960s/70s. Yet, much of the dispute about Jeet Kune Do instruction is not about the names, but the credibility of the instructors teaching these Jeet Kune Do fighting systems.
Jeet Kune Do Instructors
There were three certified instructors Dan Inosanto, James Yimm Lee and Taky Kimura.
Dan Inosanto received the highest certification in Lee's art (a notable exception is Taky Kimura, senior most instructor in Jun Fan Gung Fu) and is widely regarded as the most senior JKD instructor. All other instructors (again except Taky Kimura and the late James Yimm Lee [no relation to Bruce Lee]) are certified under Inosanto, even Bruce's other original students. Kimura, to date, has certified only one person in Jun Fan Gung Fu, his son and heir, Andy Kimura. James Yimm Lee, a close friend of Lee's, in December 1972, just a few days before he died, gave Professor Gary Dill a two year JKD training outline along with a dozen of the "JKD Student Handbooks", so that Dill could pass on his knowledge of JKD to his friends and selected students. Professor Dill trained at Bruce's Oakland JKD branch school under Sifu James Yimm (Jimmy) Lee. Jeet Kune Do in Oakland was the essence of street combat. There were no rituals, no sport, no fancy acrobatics. Professor Dill started teaching JKD in January 1973, and has trained thousands of students in JKD since that time. Inosanto often serves not only as the leading instructor and historian of Jeet Kune Do Concepts; he also teaches and practices other styles such as Kali, Silat, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jujitsu, some of which were already incorporated into the Jun Fan system. Another student of Lee's at the Jun Fan Gung Fu institute in Seattle was Joseph Cowles, who was not certified by Lee as a Jun Fan Gung Fu instructor, but was encouraged by him to teach martial arts. Cowles then founded the Wu Wei Gung Fu system. The serious students of Jeet Kune Do are also aware that the development of the grappling range techniques in this system were assigned to Larry Hartsell. Hartsell has continued his research into this area with various discrete techniques that now form the core of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Grappling.
Bruce Lee's death was officially attributed to cerebral edema. On July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong, due to have dinner with former James Bond star George Lazenby, with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee's wife, Linda, Bruce met producer Raymond Chow at 2 pm at home to discuss the making of the movie Game of Death. They worked until 4 pm, and then drove together to the home of Betty Ting Pei (?), a Taiwanese actress who was to also have a leading role in the film. The three went over the script at her home, and then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting. A short time later, Lee complained of a headache, and Ting Pei gave him a tablet of analgesic. At around 7:30 pm, he lay down for a nap. After Lee didn't turn up for the dinner, Chow came to the apartment but could not wake Lee up. A doctor was summoned, who spent 10 minutes attempting to revive him before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, Lee was dead by the time he reached the hospital. The ensuing autopsy found traces of cannabis. There was no visible external injury; however, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams. Lee was 32 years
old. On October 15, 2005, Chow stated in an interview that, of
the three pain-killing ingredients, stated that Lee was
hypersensitive to one of the three ingredients in the
medication, equigesic, whose generic name is Flunixin Meglumine. It is thought that the reaction Lee suffered was exacerbated because of his strict diet and training regime. Lee lived on only rice and water and was so pure that even a normal dose of this particular NSAID
1973 Original Photo of Bruce Lee from “Enter The Dragon”
A similar incident had occurred a few months before. On May 10, during the final dubbing of Enter the Dragon, Lee suffered a sudden attack of seizures and a nonfatal cerebral edema. Lee's death was officially recorded as being the result of an abnormal reaction to painkillers he took for severe back pain, possibly in combination with the analgesic for a headache. Lee incurred this back problem when he was younger, after pinching a nerve in his lower back while doing good morning exercises using heavy weights without properly warming up -- a condition that left him temporarily in a wheelchair. Fortunately, contrary to his doctor's prognosis that he would never kick again, Lee regained his range of motion and martial arts ability.
He is interred in Seattle's Lake View Cemetery.
Although he made only a handful of films and television appearances in his adulthood, Bruce Lee has become an iconic pop culture figure in his movies as an Asian man who became the epitome of what his fans see as the mental and physical perfection in martial arts. His fame also sparked the first major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West. The direction and tone of Bruce Lee's movies have forever changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in America.
Authentic signature of Bruce Lee