Bruce LeeBruce Lee (1940-1973)
Legend Award 2004

Bruce "Jun Fan" Lee was born in the hour of the Dragon, in the year of the Dragon, in San Francisco's Chinatown on November 27, 1940 while his father was on tour with the Chinese Opera. Lee quickly became obsessed with martial arts and bodybuilding, and at age 13 he began studying the Chinese Gung Fu system of Wing Chun under renowned Grandmaster Yip Man.

As a child actor back in Hong Kong, Lee appeared in 20 movies and rarely participated in school. He was part of a small gang that was big enough to cause his mother to ship him to America before his 18th birthday so he could claim his dual-citizenship and avoid winding up in jail. Boarding at a family friend's Chinese restaurant in Seattle, Lee got a job teaching the Wing Chun style of martial arts that he had learned in Hong Kong.

bruce leeIn 1964 at a tournament in Long Beach, California, the first major American demonstration of Kung Fu took place. Lee, an unknown, ripped through black belt Dan Inosanto so quickly that Inosanto asked to be his student.

Shortly after, Lee landed his first U.S show-biz role, as Kato in The Green Hornet, a 1966-67 TV superhero drama from the creators of Batman. With this minor celebrity, he attracted students like Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to a martial art he called Jeet Kune Do, "the way of the intercepting fist."

Living in L.A, Bruce became the vanguard on all things '70s. He was a physical-fitness enthusiast; running, lifting weights and experimenting with isometrics and electrical impulses meant to stimulate his muscles while he slept.

A rebel, he flouted the Boxer-era tradition of not teaching Kung Fu to Westerners, even as he happily railed against the robotic exercises of other martial arts that prevented self-expressive violence. One of his admonitions: "Research your own experiences for the truth. Absorb what is useful ... Add what is specifically your own ... The creating individual ... is more important than any style or system."

Bruce LeeDespite his readiness to embrace American individuality and culture, Lee couldn't get Hollywood to embrace him, so he returned to Hong Kong to make films. In these films, Lee chose to represent the ‘little guy’; and so, in his movies, he'd fight for the Chinese against the invading Japanese, or the small-town family against the city-living drug dealers.

The films set box-office records in Asia, and so Hollywood finally gave him the American action movie he longed to make. But Lee died a month before the release of his first U.S. film, Enter the Dragon. The movie would make more than $200 million. Bruce Lee’s career ended all too briefly.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee passed away from an allergic reaction to a prescription medication. A month later "Enter the Dragon" was released catapulting Lee into international stardom. Lee was laid to rest in Seattle, Washington by his friends and family.

What he did achieve in his short life has seen him become a cult figure and an inspiration to minorities of whatever making, to be the best they can be.

Website: - The Times 100 Most Important people of the Century - Info and images about Bruce Lee

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