Although Bruce passed away at a young age nearly 50 years ago, his legacy has persisted. From the timeless allure of his film roles, to his family's efforts to preserve the heritage of his teachings, Lee has left an impact on generation after generation.
Bruce founded his own method of martial arts training - Jeet Kune Do (Way of Intercepting Fist), after years of personal experience in the arts. But what was Lee's first foray into fighting?
At a young age, Bruce was involved in stage and film production, mostly due to his father Li Hoi-Chuen, a well known Cantonese opera star at the time.
Having been involved in several street fights, his parents encouraged the young Lee to begin training in martial arts. His friend William Cheung suggested he train in Wing Chun, introducing him to the legendary Yip Man (Ip Man). At this time, it was considered improper to teach foreign students. As Lee was a quarter German on his mother's side, he was turned away from training.
After Cheung vouched for Bruce, he was hesitantly accepted into the school. However, many of the students would refuse to spar with Lee given he was not of full Chinese heritage. Nonetheless, Lee was persistent and showed a keen interest in Wing Chun, training privately with Yip Man.
After two years in Wing Chun, Bruce had progressed quickly, going on to win the Hong Kong schools boxing tournament, knocking out the previous champion.
Bruce's involvement in street fights persisted, at one point beating up the son of a feared triad family. After a rival school, Choy Li Fut, challenged Lee's Wing Chun school, they engaged in a fight on a rooftop. When one of the rival students delivered an unfair punch to Lee, he beat the rival so badly the boys parents filed a police report against Bruce.
After this incident, Lee's mother suggested he, as an American citizen, return to the United States to finish his studies. His father, knowing that the educational prospects in the US were more promising, agreed to let Lee move back.
Although Bruce delved into many styles of the Martial Arts, his early teaching in Wing Chun influenced his fighting philosophy throughout the remainder of his life.
Want to learn more interesting fight history? Come back each week to see new articles on the history, art and science of the fight game!