36. BRUCE LEE: There are no limits
The story goes like this: In 1964, Bruce Lee had moved to Oakland from Seattle and opened his own martial-arts school named Jun Fan Gung-Fu (Bruce’s Chinese name is Jun Fan). Lee was an expert in Wing Chun, a style of Chinese kung-fu he learnt as a teenager in Hong Kong. He was teaching a modified version of this Wing Chun style to a variety of students – Chinese, Japanese, black, white – whoever wanted to learn was welcome. However, Oakland and nearby San Francisco had a very large and traditional Chinese community who weren’t too pleased that Lee was teaching non-Chinese students. At that time, kung-fu still had an mystical aura surrounding it, and the different schools were very protective of their fighting techniques. They passed down their secrets from generation to generation like a precious family heirloom and always kept it among their own people. So for Lee to be teaching non-Chinese students was a serious offence.
The old guard issued an ultimatum to Lee: stop teaching to non-Chinese or we’ll visit your school and beat the crap out of you. Lee refused. He had been the victim of racism his whole life (he grew up in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, got teased as a kid for having caucasian heritage and most likely got teased when he moved to America for having Chinese heritage), so he was going to teach whoever the hell he pleased. And that’s where this comic starts: A posse turns up to Lee’s school with their number one fighter, Wong Jack Man, to challenge Lee to a fight.
The duel was a life-changing event for Lee. Although he won, he didn’t beat Wong as quickly or efficiently as he liked. It was messy and over 3 minutes long, with Lee having to run around the school chasing his opponent and bruising his hands from punching the back of Wong’s head. After the fight Lee, out of breath and despondent, faced a harsh reality: he wasn’t in the best shape and Wing Chun was nowhere near a complete fighting system.
This isn’t easy to do for a lot of people, to look at yourself critically and admit that you still have a lot to learn, even if others have already labeled you a ‘master’. But Lee was willing to look as his performance objectively and make the necessary changes.
From then on, Lee took his training to a new level. He began serious aerobic and strength training and also studied different fighting styles. Now when I say ‘took it to a new level’, I mean he was freakin’ OBSESSED. He lived, breathed and probably dreamed about martial arts. Lee was fanatical about training, sometimes to a fault as he seriously injured his back during a workout. He refined his fighting style into a system he named Jeet Kune Do, which translates into The Way of the Intercepting Fist. Lee became something like a martial-arts celebrity in California, with experts in other styles (like Karate champ Chuck Norris) coming to train with him. Over the years he transformed himself from a pretty fit, Wing-Chun expert into an almost super-human, half-human, half-dragon, cyborg fighting machine, capable of incredible demonstrations of speed and strength. All it took was dedication, hard work and having the determination to never stay on a plateau.
- The woman in the comic is Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce’s devoted wife. It was Linda who worked a steady job during this time to pay the bills that allowed Bruce to concentrate on his martial arts training. And the baby Bruce is shoulder pressing is his son, Brandon, who also died way too young.
- The yin-yang symbol in the final shot is the Jeet Kun Do logo Lee came up with.
- The official Bruce Lee website.