Bruce Lee and Martial Arts

Bruce Lee is generally acknowledged as the most influential martial artist of the last century. He has put the Chinese movie, particularly the martial arts movie, on the Hollywood map in the 1970s. His popularity triggered an interest in Chinese martial arts never seen before in the Western world.

Bruce Lee was born in the US in 1940, to a Chinese opera singer father and a Chinese-German mother. He moved to Hong Kong as a young man where he formally studied the “Wing Chun” style of kung fu under Yip Man at age 13. He made several movies and was a famous child star in Asia before he conquered Hollywood.

He moved back to the US and enrolled at the University of Washington to study philosophy. He also set up his own school of martial arts called the Lee Jun Fan Kung Fu Institute. His martial arts style, called the “Tao of Chinese Kung Fu” was a combination of Wing Chun and northern and southern Kung Fu styles. He continued studying classical schools of martial arts and developed his own style, a merging of Wing Chun and western boxing and fencing which he then called Jun Fan Kung Fu. He later incorporated certain features from “Muay Thai,” “Aikido,” “Jujitsu,” “Judo,” Catch Wrestling, “Bando,” “Sikaran,” “Panantukan,” “Indo-Malay Silat” and several other martial arts styles and named it “Jeet Kune Do” or “Way of the Intercepting Fist.”

Bruce Lee would later regret having called his style Jeet Kune Do and directed his two instructors in his martial arts school to stop using the name. For him, giving a particular style a name only promotes rigidity, much like in organized religion. While he taught specific martial arts techniques and drills, he wanted to focus on the concepts or the philosophy behind them.


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