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ALL THINGS BRUCE LEE

Bruce Lee came up in another thread, and rather than derail it, I thought it would be better to start a new thread. He transcends lots of boundaries, whether you are a gamer, a martial artist, a movie enthusiast or a cultural commentator, he comes up a lot. I came to him largely by way of martial arts. As a kid I remember hearing about him a lot and eventually seeing his movies. But it was when I started taking martial arts, that I became obsessed. Because even though there is a cinematic quality to the fights in his movies, he was one of the few people who looked and moved like a real martial arts practitioner to me (and to be more specific he looked and moved like someone who understood sparring and full contact). Return of the Dragon is my favorite, followed by Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon. What do others have to say on the topic?
 

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Weirdly, I have never seen a Bruce Lee film.

If you haven't seen him before, and want to, Enter the Dragon might be a good starting point because it is very accessible (you don't have to be a pure kung fu fan to enjoy it, it has some James Bond elements to broaden its appeal). And Fist of Fury is probably another good choice (just be aware some version of this one have different titles and another one of his movies, the Big Boss, occasionally is mislabeled Fist of Fury). But Fist of Fury is the one with the feud between the Chinese school and the Japanese school (which is a pretty standard Kung Fu craze trope). I will say there is a reason he is so famous. He has an amazing screen presence
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
Like many stars who died far too young, the very fact of his early death is part of what adds to his popularity as it also did with his son, and people like James Dean. It's that, "Just how big would they have been had they lived" thing that makes them even bigger than they were in life.

I got to know about him fairly early on, though he'd already done some acting in the Far East at the time. My exposure was the '60s "Batman" and "The Green Hornet." Like in Seth Rogan's "Green Hornet" movie, that came out a few years ago, Lee's "Kato" was the real star of the show. Van Williams' "Britt Reid" was supposed to be the main protagonist but had nowhere near the energy and charisma of Lee.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Let's see-

1. There is a recent, decent ESPN Documentary about Bruce Lee called Be Water. It's pretty good.

2. Bruce Lee's filmed output is positively minuscule. There are multiple cuts, edits, titles, and so on of his movies ... but for all practical purposes he had 4 films (or 5, depending on how you count Game of Death which wasn't finished before he died) in 1971 and 1972 that are his "oeuvre," and that's it.

3. The fascination with Bruce Lee in the west is partly because he became a huge international star after he died. Enter the Dragon (a complete masterpiece) earned more than $1 billion (adjusted for inflation). It is the ur-movie for Hong Kong martial arts, to the extent that many movies of the 80s and 90s would have people searching for so-called books of Bruce Lee's techniques.

He was truly a star.
 


Mookus

Explorer
Bruce Lee, man did I have an obsession. Don't get me wrong, I still appreciate his artistry, his athleticism, his charisma, his philosophies, his bright-burning screen presence. But for a couple of years in high school, I consumed everything Lee (as did, tbf, quite a large number of young boys in the '80s "kung fu" explosion).

When I was around 11, I rented a VHS copy of "Enter the Dragon" and it broke my world. How does a man move like that? The grace, the power. It wasn't his character, it was him, really him, even though it looked like a special effect! I then watched all his movies, then watched really bad rip-offs of his movies with "stars" like Bruce Li, and Le. Read biographies (well, the two I could find!), magazine articles, bought posters, joined a McDojo. I jumped in with both feet (though I never did learn the cha-cha lol).

It eventually dimmed from that level of intensity, as most of my obsessions do, to be replaced by an implacable certainty that he was not just the greatest martial artist I may ever see, but a truly great man by the bulk of accounts. Personally, I find his life quite inspiring.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
His fight scenes were spectacularly choreographed. It's tough to see them and then watch post Bruce Lee martial Arts movies (IE Van Damme) without being let down by the latter.

Besides that he broke a lot of molds. In an era were Asian men in film pretty much acted only one way he and a few others Like Jack Su and George Takei refused to fit the stereotype. He was brash, confident, and macho. He also accepted students of all backgrounds to his martial arts acedemy.

A philosopher, showman, entertainer and artist all in a pretty short life.
 

Tonguez

Legend
Let's see-

1. There is a recent, decent ESPN Documentary about Bruce Lee called Be Water. It's pretty good.

2. Bruce Lee's filmed output is positively minuscule. There are multiple cuts, edits, titles, and so on of his movies ... but for all practical purposes he had 4 films (or 5, depending on how you count Game of Death which wasn't finished before he died) in 1971 and 1972 that are his "oeuvre," and that's it.

3. The fascination with Bruce Lee in the west is partly because he became a huge international star after he died. Enter the Dragon (a complete masterpiece) earned more than $1 billion (adjusted for inflation). It is the ur-movie for Hong Kong martial arts, to the extent that many movies of the 80s and 90s would have people searching for so-called books of Bruce Lee's techniques.

He was truly a star.

Bruce Lee was the perfect package, not only was he a skilled and determined martial artist, he was also handsome, charismatic, confident, had a great physique and was a showman able to sell the package and thus introduce an entirely ‘new’ genre of movies to Hollywood and the global market.

Even moreso he embraced the whole ‘Artist’ aspect of fighting and honed and developed his philosphy and style into something remarkable. Enter the Dragon and Game of Death are entirely about Bruce showcasing his Art for the world to experience.

Morrus you really need to watch a Bruce Lee movie

personally I prefer Jackie Chan movies but Jackie Chan credits Bruce for his success too (Chan was an extra in both Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon)
 
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Ryujin

Adventurer
Bruce Lee was the perfect package, not only was he a skilled and determined martial artist, he was also handsome, charismatic, confident, had a great physique and was a showman able to sell the package and thus introduce an entirely ‘new’ genre of movies to Hollywood and the global market.

Even moreso he embraced the whole ‘Artist’ aspect of fighting and honed and developed his philosphy and style into something remarkable. Enter the Dragon and Game of Death are entirely about Bruce showcasing his Art for the world to experience.

Morrus you really need to watch a Bruce Lee movie

personally I prefer Jackie Chan movies but Jackie Chan credits Bruce for his success too (Chan was an extra in both Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon)

It's worth noting that, in interviews, Jackie Chan has stated that he would never make it as another Bruce Lee clone, so he purposely set out to be the anti-Bruce Lee. Where Lee would put his fist through a door without flinching, Chan would punch the door and then start jumping around, nursing his hurt fist.

Watch for it in his movies. It becomes obvious, quick ;)
 


Mercurius

Legend
 



Zardnaar

Legend
Never got into them thought they were lolbad even in the 80s as a kid.

Apparently Kung Fu is borderline fake. Not very good in MMA.
 

Never got into them thought they were lolbad even in the 80s as a kid.

Apparently Kung Fu is borderline fake. Not very good in MMA.

One of the big things that set Bruce Lee apart from other martial artists at the time was his philosophy eventually became about taking what works, and not focusing so much on styles. A lot of people in MMA, even those who push back against some of the legend that has emerged around Bruce Lee, still usually respect him for this reason.

Also, these are movies. The martial arts you see in a Bruce Lee film, are different from the way he sparred with his students. Obviously he is a martial artist from a much different time, and martial arts have evolved a lot since that period. For his time though he was very forward thinking. But movie martial arts and real martial arts are not the same thing. What is effective in terms of actual combat is a much bigger discussion (and one where I think MMA has shown us a lot, but also one where even many of the harsher critics of TMA are starting to realize there is value in many TMA techniques). That, again, is a big topic. My thinking has evolved a lot on it over the years, and I think at the end of the day, whether a martial art is valuable to you, depends on why you are training in it. I started in TMA, got exposed in a competition in a painful way, to the advantages of fight sport style MA, and switched to Muay Thai, and from there trained in a variety of more MMA oriented styles. But many of the things I learned in TMA I was able to incorporate into MMA. And you see this in actual MMA, where a particular technique is not thought of much until someone figures out how to use it well within the MMA ruleset. If someone were to press me, I would say I do think combat sports are better training for real fights, but for me the point of training in martial arts is not to get into real fights, so it doesn't matter in the end.

Also when you are talking kung fu movies in general, there is a very big difference between the way Bruce Lee was doing it, and the way many of the other kung fu craze films were doing it. Bruce Lee moves much more like a sport fighter on camera (his footwork looks like it is derived from regular sparring for example), whereas a lot of the other kung fu craze movies, even the ones that came after him, are much more stylized or much more traditional. But even those run the gamut in terms of authentic martial arts. Lau Kar Leung Films are known for their fidelity to real styles of Kung Fu, for instance. Ultimately though these are still movies, and the thing that makes them beautiful isn't that the things the actors are doing would work in real life. It is beautiful because of the displays of athleticism, the way the scenes are edited and choreographed. A well done fight scene in one of these movies is stunning to watch (whether it is realistic or not).
 

Tonguez

Legend
Never got into them thought they were lolbad even in the 80s as a kid.

Apparently Kung Fu is borderline fake. Not very good in MMA.
Lol

Theres a a long history of debate about whether Bruce Lee would win in a ‘real fight’ and whether Kung Fu is any good vs modern MMA

On the subject of Kung Fu Bruce Lee did say that "80% of what they are teaching in China is nonsense. Here, in America, it is 90%." So generally he agreed traditional kung fu was too flowery.

But judging Bruce Lees technique against modern MMA is a bit pointless, by all accounts he was primarily a street fighter and adapted quickly to new challenges, had he survived into the MMA era Im sure he would have adapted further.
 


Lol

Theres a a long history of debate about whether Bruce Lee would win in a ‘real fight’ and whether Kung Fu is any good vs modern MMA

On the subject of Kung Fu Bruce Lee did say that "80% of what they are teaching in China is nonsense. Here, in America, it is 90%." So generally he agreed traditional kung fu was too flowery.

But judging Bruce Lees technique against modern MMA is a bit pointless, by all accounts he was primarily a street fighter and adapted quickly to new challenges, had he survived into the MMA era Im sure he would have adapted further.

I do often wonder about this aspect of the topic. It always struck me as a silly discussion because Bruce Lee was 5'7"(I've seen 5'8" listed too) and 140 pounds, and in these conversations it is often a matter of pitting him against a 200 pound opponent (which would not happen in modern MMA), to prove he isn't a bad-ass or something. I was in exactly that weight category when I competed (and the same height). I once competed against a 200 lb opponent and he destroyed me (as you would expect). So imaging scenarios where he is fighting people who outsize him significantly seems unfair. I think had Bruce Lee invested the time and interested in competing in that weight category: he had the talent, the dedication to training, the innovation in training methods, the physicality and the deep martial arts experience, that he could have been a top contender in any number of fight sports. Outside that weight category, you are obviously going to see different results (but that is true of any human being, whether they are Bruce Lee or not). Also who knows what that 140 pounds mean. His weight fluctuated. He always looked bigger to me in his earlier films, so I think it is entirely possible he could have gained muscle weight and gone up several weight categories if he wanted to, and done well in higher weight categories.

On the subject of styles like Kung Fu competing against MMA or Muay Thai, while my gut is usually with the combat sport practitioner, I've seen enough footage of Kung Fu guys holding their own against Muay Thai or MMA guys to know this: it comes down to the fighter and how they train. Plucking people at random from styles and squaring them off, tells you very little. I think it is unwise to underestimate any style of martial arts, as it often comes down to the individual anyways.
 

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