article is an excerpt from the bruce lee foundation
LEE (1940-1973) is considered the greatest martial artist of
the 20th century. A true renaissance man, Lee was a talented artist,
poet, philosopher, writer and actor, apart from being a formidable
fighter. His insights into philosophy, physical fitness, self-defence,
and movie making, have been enjoyed and lauded by millions of people
around the world for well over two decades. He is the founder of
Jeet Kune Do, the first martial art to ever be predicated on total
freedom for the individual practitioner. A learned man, Lee attended
the University of Washington where he majored in philosophy. His
personal library contains over 2500 books on topics ranging from
Eastern Yoga to Western Psychoanalysis. His philosophy and example
continue to inspire athletes and artists from around the world.
BRUCE LEE was born in San Francisco in 1940. He returned
to Hong Kong with his parents at the age of three-months. While
growing up in Hong Kong, Lee made a total of 18 films. At the age
of 18, he boarded a ship that returned him to America. After staying
briefly in San Francisco, Lee finally settled in Seattle where he
went on to study philosophy at the University of Washington. Lee
published his first book in 1963 entitled Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical
Art of Self-defence After thoroughly researching the human sciences
of kinesiology and physiology, Lee began to create his own method
of self-defence - predicated for the first time in the history of
combat on unconditional freedom of expression for the individual
As a direct result of his personal applications of his research,
Bruce Lee quickly emerged as the leading martial artist of his generation,
eventually opening three schools located in Seattle, Oakland and
Los Angeles. He married in 1964 to American Linda Emery, then a
student in one of his Seattle gung fu classes. Together they formed
a perfect example of yin-yang; with each one complementing the distinctive
qualities of the other. Their union also brought forth two children;
Brandon Bruce Lee, (born February 1, 1965) and Shannon Emery Lee
(born April 19, 1969). Lee was a devoted family man, who much preferred
staying home with his wife and children than attending parties,
film premieres and the resulting celebrity trappings that attend
a successful career in film.
After a particularly electrifying demonstration at a Long Beach
karate tournament in 1964, Lee was offered the role of "Kato"
in The Green Hornet television series. The syndication of the show
gave Lee a substantial following, and after continuing to ply his
trade both as an actor and a teacher in America, he accepted an
offer to star in two movies in Hong Kong. The films were huge box-office
successes in Southeast Asia ("The Big Boss" and "Fist
The financial success of his first two films gave Lee the
creative latitude to direct his next film "The Way of the Dragon,"
which he also scripted, co-produced and starred in. At the same
time, he was signed to star in "Enter the Dragon", his
last film, and the first co-production between American and Hong
Kong film studios. The film proved to be an international hit, famous
as much for its pearls of wisdom ("It is like a finger pointing
a way to the moon - [but] don't concentrate on the finger or you
will miss all that heavenly glory") as it was for its spectacular
martial art action sequences.
During his lifetime, Bruce Lee cultivated a personal philosophy,
a synthesis of Eastern and Western insights into the human condition,
which helped him overcome many adversities and to achieve unparalleled
greatness in his career. Lee passed away at age 32 on July 20, 1973,
the result of hypersensitivity to a pain medication he had taken
to alleviate a headache. Despite his passing, Lee's thought continues
to inspire and influence thousands of individuals from all walks
of life, while Lee's contributions to the action film genre opened
the door for all of the action films and action film stars that
have followed in the years since his passing.
A tribute to commemorate Bruce Lee from Master
Wai-Po Tang of the Martial
Art Institute International. "To Bruce: a Great Warrior
and a Great Innovator -A man whom made changes to the world's perception
of the Chinese identity and it's respect."
information on this page based on the biography
"Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew" by Linda Lee.
- November 27 - San Francisco- In the The Year of the Dragon
between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. (the hour of the dragon), Lee Jun
Fan, Bruce Lee is born at the Jackson Street Hospital in San Francisco
Chinatown while his father and mother travelled to the US Lee Hoi
Chuen, Bruce's father, was performing with the Cantonese Opera Company
in America. At three months old, Bruce debuts in "Golden Gate
Girl" in San Francisco, CA. He plays role of a female baby,
carried by his father.
1941 (Age 1): Hong Kong - Bruce and his parents return to
Kowloon, their family home. They move to into an apartment at 218
Nathan Road, Kowloon district. The apartment is located on the second
story of a building which contained a store on the ground level.
1946 (Age 6): Hong Kong - Bruce makes his first major childhood
movie in The Beginning of a Boy. Later this year, he performs in
The Birth of Mankind, and My Son, Ah Cheun. (During the later years
of his childhood, Bruce appears in 20 more films in Asia. In these
films, Bruce's vivid facial expressions begin to delve, and they
foreshadow his future expressions in his famous Kung-Fu movies.
Bruce becomes nearsighted and starts wearing glasses. (He will later
start wearing contacts, suggested to him by a friend who is an optometrist.)
1952 (Age 12): Hong Kong - Bruce begins attending La Salle College.
Sifu Yip Man
1953 (Age 13): Hong Kong - After being beaten up by a street gang,
Bruce begins to take Kung-Fu lessons, despite local Hong Kong laws,
outlawing streetfights. This is the first, and the last time Bruce
looses a fight. He begins to train under Sifu Yip Man, a master
of the Wing Chun system of Kung-Fu.
Bruce standing next to Wing Chun Great Grandmaster Yip Man
1954 (Age 14): Hong Kong - Bruce takes up cha-cha dancing.
1958 (Age 18): Hong Kong - Bruce wins the Crown Colony Cha-cha Championship.
Bruce has a leading role in the film The Orphan. This is the last
movie Bruce makes as a child actor. This is the only movie where
Bruce does not fight.
1958 (Age 18): ??? - Bruce enters the 1958 Boxing Championships
and defeats the reigning three year champion, Gary Elms.
1959 (Age 19): Hong Kong - Because of numerous street fighting,
causing police involvement, Bruce's father and mother decide that
Bruce should take a three week voyage to the United States. The
trip is a possible means to get him back on the right track. He
return to his birthplace -- San Francisco Chinatown. Time was also
running out for him to claim his American Citizenship.
1959 (Age 19): San Francisco - Seattle - With $15 from his
father, and $100 from his mother, Bruce arrives in the United States,
living with an old friend of his father's. He works odd jobs around
the various Chinese communities. Later, he moves to Seattle to work
for Ruby Chow, another friend of his father's. He lives in a room
above her restaurant while working as a waiter downstairs. He eventually
enrols in Edison Technical School and earns his high school diploma.
Bruce begins to teach his Martial Art skills in backyards and city
1961 - March (Age 21): Seattle- Bruce enrols at the University
of Washington, studying Philosophy. He teaches Kung-Fu to students
1963 - Summer (Age 23): Hong Kong - Bruce proposes to Amy Sanbo
but is turned down. Bruce returns to Hong Kong with friend Doug
Palmer for the first time since his arrival in the US to visit family.
He then returns to Seattle at the end of summer to continue his
1963 - October 25 (Age 23): Seattle - Bruce takes out Linda Emery
(his future wife) for their first date. They have dinner at the
Space Needle. Bruce gives notice to Ruby Chow and leaves her restaurant.
He starts the first Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute.
1963 - Fall (Age 23): Seattle - Bruce moves his Jun Fan Kung-Fu
Institute into a building (4750 University Way) near the university
campus. He teaches any person of any race. (most Asian Martial Arts
schools would only teach people of their own race)
The One Inch Punch
At Garfield High School, Bruce demonstrates the "One-Inch Punch".
This is the punch he would later make famous at the 64' Long Beach
Internationals and which was developed by him and James DeMile in
Seattle. Bruce would hold his arm straight out, and with a shrug
of his shoulder, knock a man straight across the ground.
1964 (Age 24): Bruce meets Jhoon Rhee at the International
Karate Championships. The two would remain good. (Jhoon Rhee will
invite Bruce to Washington, D.C. to appear at tournaments.)
1964 - June (Age 24): ??? - Bruce discusses with James Yimm Lee
plans to open a second Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute in Oakland, CA.
1964 - Summer - Oakland (Age 24): Plans are finalise, and Bruce
leaves Seattle to start a second Jun Fan Kung-Fu school in Oakland.
His good friend, Taky Kimura, takes over as head instructor.
1964 - August 17 (Age 24): Seattle - Bruce returns to Seattle to
marry Linda. They soon move to Oakland.
1964 - August 2 (Age 24): Long Beach, Ca - Ed Parker, known
as the Father of American Karate (Kenpo), invites Bruce to give
a demonstration. Bruce shows off his "one-inch punch,"
and his two-finger push-ups, where he literally does "two"
finger push-ups. At his first International Karate Championships,
Jay Sebring, the hair stylist for Batman, William dozier, a producer,
who is looking to cast a part in a TV series he was developing.
Sebring then gives a film of Bruce's demo to Dozier who is impressed
at Bruce's superhuman abilities. Bruce later files down to Los Angeles
for a screen test.
1964 - August 4 (Age 24): Oakland - Bruce leaves for Seattle. He
will propose to Linda.
1965 (Age 24): Oakland - Several months after he begins teaching,
he is challenged by, Wong Jack Man, a leading Kung-Fu practitioner
in the Chinatown Community. They agree: If Bruce looses, he will,
either close his school, or stop teaching Caucasians; and if Jack
looses, he will stop teaching. Jack Man Wong does not belie Bruce
would actually fight, and tries to delay the match. Bruce becomes
angered and insists that they not wait. Wong then tries to put limitations
on techniques. Bruce refuses "rules"and the two go no
holds barred. Bruce begins to pound his opponent in only a couple
of seconds. As Bruce is winning, Wong attempts to flee, but is caught
by Bruce. Bruce begins to beat him on the ground. Students of the
other teacher attempted to step in and help their teacher, James
Lee, Bruce's good friend prevent this. Later he is bothered on why
the fight took so long and begins to re-evaluate his style. He is
determined that he is not in his top physical condition. Thus, the
early concepts of Jeet Kune Do (JKD), "The art of the intercepting
fist" is created. JKD is an art including techniques of all
types of fighting. (i.e. American Boxing, Thai Kick Boxing, Japanese
Karate, etc.) His style is no style.
Bruce is signed to a one-year option for The Green Hornet. He is
paid an $1800 retainer.
Linda, Bruce,and son, Brandon
1965 - February 1 (Age 25): Oakland, CA - Brandon Bruce Lee is
1965 - February 8 (Age 25): Hong Kong - Bruce's father passes
away in Hong Kong. Bruce returns to Hong Kong for his fathers
funeral. As tradition dictates, in order to obtain forgiveness for
not being present when his father died, Bruce crawls on his knees
across the floor of the funeral home towards the casket wailing
loudly and crying.
1965 - May (Age 25): ??? Bruce uses the retainer money from the
Green Hornet and files himself, Linda, and Brandon back to Hong
Kong in order to settle his father's estate affairs. While in Hong
Kong, Bruce takes Brandon to see Yip Man to persuade Yip to perform
on tape. Bruce wants to take the footage back to Seattle and show
his students what the man looks like in action. Yip modestly declines.
1965 - September (Age 25): Seattle - Bruce, Linda, Brandon return
Bruce Lee as Kato
1966 (Age 26): Los Angeles - Bruce and family move to Los Angeles
to an apartment on Wilshire and Gayley in Westwood. This is where
he begins working on a new TV series called The Green Hornet as
Kato. The Green Hornet series starts filming and Bruce was Paid
$400 per episode. Bruce buys a 1966 blue Chevy Nova. Bruce is later
known to have got the part of Kato because he was the only person
who could accurately pronounce the star's name, Britt Reid. He later
opens third branch of the Jun Fan Kung-Fu Institute in Los Angeles'
1966 - September 9 (Age 26): Los Angeles - The Green Hornet series
1967-1971 (Age 27-31): Hollywood - During this time, Bruce lands
bit parts in various films and TV series. He also gives private
lessons for up to $250 an hour to personalities Steve McQueen, James
Coburn, James Garner, Lee Marvin, Roman Polanski, and Kareem Abdul
Jabbar. Bruce meets Chuck Norris in New York at the All American
Karate Championships in Washington DC Chuck fights Joe Lewis and
1967 (Age 27): Washington, DC - Bruce meets Joe Lewis at The Mayflower
Hotel while both were guests at the 67' National Karate Championships.
Joe is competing in the tournament and Bruce is making special appearances
1967 - February (Age 27): Los Angeles - Bruce opens a 3rd school
at 628 College Street, Los Angeles, CA. Dan Inosanto serves as assistant
1967 - July 14 (Age 27): Los Angeles - The last episode of The Green
Hornet Series shows. The movie is later said to have failed because
Bruce, a minor role became more popular than the main character.
1969 - April 19 (Age 29): Santa Monica, CA Shannon Lee is born.
1969 (Age 29): ??? - A scriptwriter is hired and paid $12K by Stirling
Silliphant and James Coburn to write a script for the Silent Flute.
The script produced is unacceptable, and no other scriptwriter could
seen to do the job. They then decide to write it themselves.
1970 (Age 30): Los Angeles - Bruce injures his sacral nerve and
experienced severe muscle spasms in his back while training. Doctors
told him that he would never kick again. During the months of recovery
he starts to document his training methods and his philosophy of
Jeet Kune Do. Later after his death, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is
published by his wife in memory of Bruce Lee.
1970 (Age 30): Hong Kong - Bruce and Brandon fly to Hong Kong and
are welcomed by fans of The Green Hornet Show.
Bruce sends Unicorn to talk to Run Run Shaw on his behalf and inform
Shaw that he would be willing to do a movie for him for $10K. Shaw
makes counteroffer of a seven year contract and $2K per film which
1971 - February (Age 31): India - Bruce, James Coburn, Stirling
Silliphant fly to India to scout locations for The Silent Flute.
They spend one month searching but are forced to call off the search
as Coburn backs out of the project. This trip gives Bruce the idea
for Game of Death, where a fighter, mastering in several techniques,
will go from one level to the next in a temple: the first level
(the level of weaponry), the second level (the level of the nine
degree black belt), and the third level ( "The level of the
1971 (Age 31): Hong Kong. - Bruce takes a short trip back to Hong
Kong to arrange for his mother to live in the US Unknowingly to
him, he had become a superstar for The Green Hornet was one of the
most popular TV shows in Hong Kong. Later, he is approached by Raymond
Chow, owner of a new production company, and offered the lead role
in a new film called The Big Boss. Bruce accepts.
Bruce is supplied with small furnished apartment at 2 Man Wan Road
- Kowloon, HK. Wu Ngan, moves in with Bruce and Linda. Later Wu
Ngan marries and his new wife moves in as well. Brandon attends
La Salle College. The same school Bruce attended only 15 years before.
Bruce Lee interviewed by Pierre Berton
Bruce is interviewed by Canadian talk show host, Pierre Berton,
for a TV program being filmed in Hong Kong. This is the only on
film said to be in existence.
1971- July (Age 31): Thailand - Filming begins for The Big Boss
(released in the US as Fists of Fury). The Big Boss opens in Hong
Kong to great reviews and mobs of fans. Proceeds to gross more than
$3.5 million in little than three weeks.
1971 - December 7 (Age 31): Hong Kong - Bruce receives telegram,
notifying him that he had not been chosen for the part in the upcoming
series, The Warrior. This series was later released as Kung-Fu,
staring David Carradine, who doesn't know shit about martial arts.
(The show aired as ABC-TVs Movie of the Week on February 21, 1972.)
Bruce in fist of Fury
1972 (Age 32): Hong Kong - Fist of Fury (released in the US As The
Chinese Connection) is released. It grosses more than The Big Boss
and further establishes Bruce as a Hong Kong superstar. Bruce gets
a larger budget, a larger salary, and more power of directing in
Bruce and Kareem Abdul-Jabbarin Game of Death
Bruce begins work on Game of Death and films several fight scenes
including Danny Inosanto and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Bruce appears on Hong Kong's TVB channel for a hurricane disaster
relief benefit. In a demo Bruce performs, he breaks 4 out of 5 boards,
one of which is hanging in the air with a line of string. Brandon
even performs and breaks a board with a sidekick!
Bruce helps Unicorn, a fellow actor, by assisting him for one day
and supervises fight action sequences in Unicorn's film, The Unicorn
Palm - Footage of Bruce on the set is used in the movie and Bruce's
name appears in the credits to his surprise causing Bruce to become
angry and make a public announcement denying his endorsement of
the film. Unicorn was advised to get Bruce's name in the credits,
so his movie would have a better chance at being a success.
Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Return of the Dragon (Way of The
1972 (Age 32): Rome, Italy - Location shots are made for Bruce's
third film The Way of the Dragon (released in the US As The Return
of the Dragon). This time Bruce gets almost complete control the
the movie, which he writes, directs, and stars in. Chuck Norris
is Bruce's adversary in the final fight scene. Again, this film
surpasses all records set by his previous two films.
1972 - December 28 (Age 32): Oakland Bruce's brother, James, dies
of "Black Lung."
Enter the Dragon
1973 - February (Age 33): Hong Kong - Bruce gets his chance at American
stardom as filming of Enter the Dragon begins while Game of Death
is put on hold. It is the first-ever production between the US and
Hong Kong film industries.
On February 20, Bruce is guest of honour at St. Francis Xavier's
school for Sports Day ceremonies.
1973 (Age 33): Los Angeles - Grace Lee, Bruce's sister, sees Bruce
in Los Angeles, CA. Bruce tells her that he does not expect to live
much longer and that she is not to worry about finances as he will
make sure she is provided for. She rebukes him for talking that
1973 - April (Age 33): Hong Kong - Filming of Enter the Dragon is
Bruce is at Golden Harvest Studios in Hong Kong dubbing his voice
for "Enter The Dragon". The air conditioners had been
turned off, so the microphones won't pick them up. The temperature
soared. Bruce takes a break looping lines to go to the bathroom
and splash water on his face. In he bathroom, he passes out on the
bathroom floor. He revives twenty minutes later just as an assistant
sent to find out what was keeping him walks in and discovers him
on the ground. He tries to conceal his collapse by acting as though
he has dropped his glasses on the floor and is searching for them
and is helped up by the assistant. As they are walking back to the
dubbing room, Bruce collapses again and is rushed to a nearby hospital.
1973 - July 10 (Age 33): Hong Kong - Bruce Lee is walking through
the Golden Harvest Studios and overhears Lo Wei in a nearby room
bad mouthing him. He confronts Lo Wei who retreats and summons the
local police. When the police arrive Lo Wei falsely accuses Bruce
of threatened him with a knife concealed in his belt buckle. He
further insists that Bruce sign a statement that he will not harm
him. Bruce signs the statement to get Lo Wei off his back although
Lo Wei lied to the police and Bruce never had a knife nor threatened
to kill him.
That same day, Bruce appears on the Hong Kong TV show, Enjoy Yourself
Tonight with host Ho Sho Shin. Bruce alludes to his problems with
director Lo Wei, but does not mention him by name. Bruce is asked
to display his physical prowess and demonstrates his abilities.
Bruce demonstrates a technique and Shin is hurled across the stage.
The show of power causes the press to indite Bruce in the paper
and accuse him of bullying the talk show host though this was not
1973 - July 16 (Age 33): Hong Kong - Heavy rains fall caused by
a typhoon off the coast of Hong Kong. Bruce makes a $200 phone call
to speak to Unicorn in his hotel room, who is filming a movie in
Manila. Bruce tells Unicorn that he is worried about the many headaches
he is experiencing.
1973 - July 18 (Age 33): Hong Kong - A bad Feng Shui deflector,
placed on the roof of Bruce's Cumberland Road home in Hong Kong
is blown off the roof by heavy rain and winds. The deflector had
been placed on the house to protect Bruce and family from bad Feng
Shui; previous owners had all been plagued by financial disaster
and it was believed that this was because of the incorrect positioning
of the house. The deflector was to ward off evil spirits.
1973 - July 20 (Age 33): Hong Kong - Early in the morning Bruce
types a letter to his attorney, Adrian Marshall, detailing business
ventures he wants to discuss on his upcoming trip to Los Angeles.
Bruce had tickets already set to return to the US for a publicity
tour and was scheduled to appear on the Johnny Carson show.
Raymond Chow goes by Bruce's house and the two discuss plans for
their upcoming movie Game of Death. Linda kisses Bruce goodbye and
says she is going out to run some errands and will see him later
Raymond and Bruce visit Betty Ting Pei at her apartment to discuss
her role in Game of Death. That evening plans had been made for
them all to meet George Lazenby over dinner and enlist him for a
part. Bruce explains that he has a headache, takes a prescription
pain killer offered by Betty, and lies down on her bed to rest prior
to dinner. Raymond Chow departs and says that he will meet them
Raymond Chow and George Lazenby meet at a restaurant and await Bruce
and Betty's arrival, but the two never show up. At 9:00 p.m. Chow
receives a call from Betty; she said that she has tried to wake
Bruce up but he won't come to.
Betty summons her personal physician who fails to revive Bruce and
who has Bruce taken to the hospital. Bruce does not revive and is
pronounced dead. The doctor's are surprised that he had lasted as
long as he did that night but unfortunately Betty did not get him
help as soon as she could have.
Bruce Lee dies in Hong Kong of an apparent cerebral edema (swelling
of the brain). After much confusion and debate, doctors declared
the death of Bruce Lee as "death by misadventure." Enter
the Dragon was delayed from its initial premieres a four days later
because of the actors death.
1973 - July 25 (Age 33): Hong Kong - A funeral ceremony is held
for friends and fans in Hong Kong consisting of over 25,000 people.
Bruce is dressed in the Chinese outfit he wore in Enter the Dragon.
1973 - July 30 (Age 33): Seattle - After a smaller second ceremony
in Seattle, Washington at Butterworth Funeral Home on East Pine
Street, Bruce Lee is buried at Lake View Cemetery. His pallbearers
included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Danny Inosanto, Taky Kimura,
Peter Chin, and his brother, Robert Lee.
1973 - August 24 Hollywood - Enter The Dragon premiers at Graumann's
Chinese Theatre. The movie is a success, and Bruce Lee achieves