Most people have at least heard of Bruce Lee. He was one of the first great martial arts actors. But many people don't realize that he was a lot more than that. Check out my list of ten things most people probably don't know about the man who was known as "the little dragon" and see how well you fair.
10. He was near sighted
Bruce Lee was renowned for his physical attributes, but even he had some physical problems to overcome. It's said that aside from the fact that he saw it as an extremely good martial art for use on the street, one of the main reasons that Bruce Lee chose to begin his martial arts training in the art of Wing Chun was that most techniques in the art were done in a relatively close range. So, he could see his opponent better. It's also said that Bruce wore contact lenses in his movies.
9. He had no rank
That's right. For all the talk about how good he was, Bruce Lee never earned a black belt, sash, or any other kind of official rank in a martial art. But don't let that fool you. He was GOOD. That's why black belts from other arts were all too happy to come and train with and under Lee. It's possible that he might have earned a rank in Wing Chun had he continued on with that training. I'm unsure if he did continue to train with his sifu in that art later on or not. But my understanding is that Wing Chun or at least that branch of it did not have a ranking system with belts or sashes. So, either way, Bruce probably wouldn't have gotten one. Some have recalled hearing Bruce say that certificates and belts of that nature were best used for cleaning up messes. He didn't feel that such things should be used to judge someone's worth and I can only guess that that is why he chose not to have a belt system in his own art when he developed it.
8. He was Not the father of MMA
This is something that has been spouted on about by certain people associated with the sport for quite some time. Frankly, I think it's due to the fact that if you can throw Bruce Lee's name in the mix with something, in certain people's eyes it automatically lends more legitimacy to that thing. But, and I know this is partly just my opinion, Bruce Lee was not the father of MMA. And I'll tell you why. When people say he was, they are mainly referring to the fact that he was mixing parts of different arts way back in the sixties and seventies. And that's what the UFC and other such organizations are known for. But Bruce Lee was not the only martial artist to do such things. He did something which was less common for the day in that he was combining different things together,but he certainly wasn't the only one. Chuck Norris had a black belt in Tai Kwon Do (an art which dealt mainly with kicking and other strikes) and at least a brown belt in Judo (an art which focuses on grappling and throws). He naturally combined the things he was taught in his training. The founder of Aikido combined Japanese Jiu jitsu and elements of Japanese sword fighting together in his art. All of this aside, there was one really big difference between what Bruce Lee was creating and anything in MMA. It says it right in his own personal notes which can be read in the collection which makes up the book "Tao of Jeet Kune Do". Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee's art is not intended as a sport. It is for real fighting. That's why there are groin kicks and eye gouging.
7.He was a street fighter
Often times, younger and more ignorant people who really don't know what they're talking about dismiss Bruce Lee as a "real" martial artist or as being "actually good", because he didn't compete. Anyone who actually knew Bruce Lee usually tells a very different story. He did his fighting in the street, on sets of movies (and I'm not talking about what they filmed), in bars, and even in his own backyard. The thing about being as famous as Bruce Lee was in both the world of movies and in martial arts is that he got challenged on pretty much a daily basis. And by all accounts, he was the real deal.
6. He was a student of film
Reportedly, Bruce Lee wasn't just another guy who could kick and punch and was thrown into action movies. He was really a student of film from everything from facial expression to fight sequences to camera angles. His first roles in film were actually as a boy. And his father was a fairly popular actor himself in his day. As a matter of fact, Bruce Lee was born in America while his father was touring for a play. So, in a way, Bruce was going into the family business.
5. He was a fan of Muhammad Ali
Bruce Lee loved Muhammad Ali's footwork and would even watch film footage of the boxing legend in a mirror to try and figure it out in relation to the lead that Lee wanted to use. According to Kareem Abdul Jabar (a former student and friend of Bruce Lee even before he went into the NBA), Lee talked about how he may fair in American boxing and what weight class his attributes would legitimately put him in. Some even say he wanted to fight Ali just as a test. If nothing else, you can see that Bruce wanted to integrate the lightness of foot which Ali displayed in his own art of Jeet Kune Do as he felt that the footwork of Wing Chun was too limiting for what he wanted to do.
4. He was a muscle building pioneer
This is another thing which most people don't think about when they think of Bruce Lee. But long before you saw such things on infomercials, Bruce Lee was using electrical current to stimulate muscles in his body and he was incorporating weight training into his martial arts training which was something rarely heard of in his day. Body builders will tell you that Bruce had the tree trunk torso which is preferable in the field as well. And everyone who's seen him remembers the abs.
3. He grappled
Yes kids. Before the UFC and BJJ, there was still such a thing as grappling and Bruce Lee incorporated it in his own training and what he taught to others. It may not have been the same exact techniques as you see in say the octagon these days, but that doesn't make it any less effective. Jeet Kune Do was designed to work at any and all fighting ranges. Bruce insisted that there be no gaps, because you never know where a fight will go to.
Due at least in part to its inclusion in what is now taught under the name of Jeet Kune Do, many people today believe that Bruce Lee chose to go with his dominant hand as his lead, because of Kali, a philipine weapons based martial art. And I'm sure Lee had at least some knowledge of the art, but there is no documented evidence that this was a factor in his choices of lead in Jeet Kune Do. There IS however documentation on another weapons based art being a strong influence for Lee. And that is the European Sword fighting found in fencing. Bruce's brother, Robert, was involved in the sport and it seems that Bruce may have picked a few things up from him. You can read the influence in Lee's notes.
1. He was a philosopher
With all the talk of the scientific and realistic approaches taken by Lee in terms of the martial arts, many people miss something else about Lee. He had a strong inclination towards philosophy. In fact, he studied the subject in college. And he seemed to very much want it to be a part of his art. There is reason behind what Bruce Lee did and what his art was aimed toward. And unforunately, it seems a lot of people since his time have missed out on that.