Bruce Lee: man or legend?

It is unlikely that anybody involved in martial arts doesn’t know who Bruce Lee was; even today, nearly 35 years after his death he seems a very actual character.  Personally I have read many articles and books about him or written by him.  I have also watched all of his movies and heard many interviews about Bruce Lee from people that lived, trained or worked with him.  All these documents agree on the same things:

  • A great martial artist highly dedicated to express himself and his art.
  • A very powerful fighter, somebody who learnt how to transform the body of a small size Chinese man in a deadly weapon that could deliver strikes so powerful that were unseen at that time.
  • An innovator as he first mixed training methods from Oriental martial arts with methodologies taken from Western sports such as American football, boxing, weight lifting.
  • A visionary, somebody who saw that martial arts, being free expression of the practitioner cannot be kept secret and segregated to a minority of people. That was the biggest innovation of his way of thinking: no borders or frontiers for martial arts. Before him many styles were kept secret and just taught to Chinese people.
  • A philosopher that applied the way of living his martial arts in everything he did. In fact the depth of understanding of ancient philosophers and masters he had is one of the things that most amazes me when I watch his interviews. Aged just above 20 years he speaks with the wisdom of an ancient master.
  • A great business man and marketer, as he soon realized that the best way of promoting the expression of his art was to make movies that many million people would have watched for many years to come.

Without intending to diminish the great fame of a man that inspired millions of martial artist to train and improve themselves (including myself) there are a some of doubts about this person and his skills, just by analyzing what was written, said and filmed:

  • Wing chun, the martial art that Bruce Lee first introduced to the West is a very powerful, out of the ordinary style: it can very easily outfight Karate or Judo practitioners making them look clumsy and defenceless. Even nowadays a skilled wing chun practitioner can easily demonstrate this superiority against a number of different styles.
  • Being the first person in challenging the traditions and cross training different styles from different countries (even non Chinese, kind of heretic behaviour in the ‘60ies and early ‘70ies) he was also the first to achieve these results that are nowadays reachable by a broad range of martial artists.

My conclusion is that although great and amazing he became so famous because he was a precursor, he was the first in most things he did: if he lived today he would surely be a good martial artist but one of the many that walk the Earth.

Well, in fact, if he did not live, perhaps, martial arts today would not be as well known as they are… or would they be?

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