Bruce Lee. Do I really have to write anymore? Those two words are worth more than anything I will write, mainly because there’s just some many different takes and angles on this incredible person who influenced the world in more ways than one. But too many people don’t realise, he was far more than the punchs and kicks, he was someone who was fully in tandem with how life incorporates both the body and the mind. With the trailer release of the new documentary, I Am Bruce Lee, maybe people might see Bruce as being more than just a guy who can kick ass.
As a kid (some say I still am!) I would often play dress up and run around being my favourite superheroes on tv. Egged on by my sister, I wanted at various times in my life to be the bodyguard of Justice Pao, Jackie Chan (who hasn’t!), the Monkey King from Journey to the West (the Hong Kong series version) and Jet Li. I will always remember my first Bruce Lee movie though, mainly because there was no CG effects, no wild camera angles to add to the fighting, just a clean simple view of Bruce smashing his way through a ton of people. I was pretty mesmerised by it, and since my Dad was a martial arts fan who prodded me in the same direction, I decided to pursue this interest. After 14 years, can I say I understand a bit more of Bruce Lee and his concepts? Definitely not. Even his most famous quote “Be like Water,” simple enough to understand, incredibly difficult to implement.
I remember in primary school, most of my classmates had never heard of Bruce Lee, or quite simply thought Jackie Chan was better. I even heard the blasphemous idea that Chuck Norris could beat Bruce and I considered it to be my responsibility to defend Bruce’s honor (which being small at the time, I often failed). But for many early years, I always saw Bruce in the sense of being a fighter, a person who could beat someone much bigger than him, someone who stood out as defending asians and in the words of one lady from the trailer, “put balls on Chinese men”. He put balls on all Asian men! But what most people miss is the fact that Bruce was more than a guy who could fight. His martial arts was a way of living, the shining example to what it really meant to practice “martial arts.”
Having said that, there are those who discount Bruce as being a fighter, those who discount his achievements and consider his lackluster fight record as proof that he is over-rated. I have even run across those who claim that his body was inherently unhealthy and that he learned his best moves from other martial art practitioners. A publication on letters to the superstar in Dear Bruce Lee show the animosity demonstrated by many people who discounted Bruce and his ideas. I say his lack of fighting record only further shows how he considered it to be empty to be fighting without reason. He wasn’t out to show he had balls. Looking back now, his name is remembered for a reason while others are not.
Whatever the truth, I feel there’s no point arguing over something that is gone. What cannot be denied is the legacy that exists, the impact he had and the continued effects. Do we question the legacy of something great, merely because the person behind it was flawed? I think more than anyone, Bruce realised that progress cannot be made without debate and discussion, that without new input the evolution of martial arts will stop and that the journey never ends, even in death. He may have died before his time, but his influence in the world today has never been stronger.