Sitting down to discuss martial arts legends with people is asking for a debate to happen, since everyone has their favorite movie star, their favorite MMA fighter, and won’t be moved from the idea that their favorite could kick any other person’s ass under the right circumstances. When the talk starts to move in the direction of the late, great Bruce Lee though, one can’t help but sit back and listen to the fawning and adoration that’s injected into the tone of even the most jaded individual, since Bruce Lee’s legend is something that still gets a great deal of attention across the internet and can be seen in countless Google searches. Seriously, this guy is still an idol to many and has been for years.
Was Bruce Lee the ‘Real Deal’?
According to those that knew him best, Bruce was the real deal. There isn’t a lot of video or picture proof that he was in fact as real as everyone wants to claim, so it’s a matter of trusting a person’s word, which is kind of difficult these days. But there are a few reasons why judging him for being seen as an actor and nothing else is erroneous (big word, I know, it’s okay).
- He trained to fight, which is practical since he wasn’t training to show off or to make it clear that he could beat people up if he wanted to. Bruce was a philosopher, a teacher, and in many ways was likely a more dangerous fighter than people realize since he didn’t look for a fight, but he didn’t back down either.
- The man hit steel dummies. STEEL dummies, not wood and not cloth bags with sand or sawdust. Just in case you need to feel the difference, go hit a piece of sheet metal with your bare knuckles, then after that heals go and strike a bag or a piece of wood, it might feel like a cushion by comparison.
- He had blinding speed and was so fast that the cameras had to slow down occasionally just to capture his movements. You might be thinking ‘yeah sure’ but there are plenty of videos that show Bruce’s real speed, not something that was sped up, but the man as he was, punching at full speed. If you can see him moving at his quickest then you’re either a liar or another martial arts master, but I’m betting on the former.
Some People Gotta Hate
There are quite a few people out there who sadly think that Bruce was just an actor and just a teacher but wouldn’t be able to stand up to a fight in today’s martial arts world. The problem with this line of thinking is this:
- A lot of martial artists, actors, and various athletes credit Bruce as an inspiration to their own success. Sugar Ray Leonard even attributed his quickness to Lee, and it’s not surprising since so many people wanted to be like him in some way and studied his teachings to increase their own level of skill.
- As much doubt as there is out there, the fact is that Bruce Lee trained and sparred with some of the most famous names of his time. The fact that he and Chuck Norris had a chance to star together was amazing, and the fact that someone like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was able to move as he did is a great credit to Bruce’s teaching, and Kareem’s agility and coordination as well.
- The realization of MMA is in a small part at least in debt to Bruce Lee since this guy was able to take one style and blend it with another so seamlessly that crediting him for contributing to the idea of MMA is simply polite.
The Art of Fighting without Fighting
Sure, we heard it in Enter the Dragon, and it was a slick way to get out of a fight that Bruce’s character didn’t want at that time, but it also makes a lot of sense as it pertains to his life. It’s not that he avoided fights that often, it’s that he avoided hurting people when he didn’t need to.
WTR? (Why’s That Radass?)
The fact is that Bruce Lee was a real person and it’s fair to state that he was very good at what he did. But where the truth of his life gets muddied is in the telling of his legend, which carries some truths but is more or less the product of gossip and rumor. He was an impressive human being to be certain.