Where does one begin when talking about the legacy of Bruce Lee?
The most influential martial artist ever, founder of Jeet Kune Do ("The way of the intercepting fist"), martial arts innovator and instructor, actor, director, he is also one of the first stars to reveal and celebrate the enduring power and beauty of Chinese martial arts to the world.
The story of his short and turbulent life is the stuff of legends. Childhood in Hong Kong that included several appearances as a child actor and his introduction to the Kung-fu style of Wing Chun under the expert eye of master Yip Man. The move to the United States, life at university, his early forays into teaching martial arts, and performance at martial arts exhibitions. His first break in the west through his role as Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet. Introspection and the development of "the style of no style" (later formalised as Jeet Kune Do). Frustration at the Hollywood's resistance to cast an Asian actor. The return to Hong Kong. The phenomenal rise to superstardom with his feature films there. And then, his shock death on 20th July 1973 at the age of 32.
For the film buff, Lee’s legacy is contained in just five feature films - The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973; released after his death) and Game of Death (completed after his death and released in 1978).
The story of his short and turbulent life is the stuff of legends.
A remarkably small film output when one compares that to other famous martial art stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen. But in those five films, Lee did the unprecedented. He redefined martial arts films by introducing mixed martial arts on screen as an effective foil to the stuffy tradition-bound forms of the past and became the inspiration of millions – not just the man on the street, but professional martial artists, fitness instructors, actors, directors and new age thinkers. That skinny young man, with the unnerving war cry, the superfast kicks and power-packed punches, showed a completely mesmerised audience that all it takes is self-belief, discipline and courage.
In front for the camera, Lee moved panther-like. Before even the most formidable opponents, his shuffling feet and cocksure attitude made you believe that this David was going to slay any Goliath that the world could throw at him. This was no playacting. His sinewy strength came from his obsessive exercise and diet regime. His technique came from hours of contemplation and training.
"Empty your mind” he once said. “Be formless, shapeless—like water. ..Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." His words – studied and meditated on by generations of film and Kung-fu fans since sum up the power of this inimitable icon. Lee was no brief meteor blazing for a while; he was a pioneer who fortunately left us a celluloid legacy of a human with superhuman ambition and the will to realise that vision.