24 of the Most Intriguing Facts about Bruce Lee

24 of the Most Intriguing Facts about Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee. Source: Creative Commons

Lee Jun-fan, famously known as Bruce Lee, was one of the most celebrated martial artists and philosophers the world has ever known. The Enter The Dragon star inspired millions of fans across the world with his artistry, poetry, and philosophy about various life-related issues. This article covers some of interesting facts about Bruce Lee that most people didn’t know about throughout his life, and even after death.

1. He was a Hong Kong American

This kicks off our series of facts about Bruce Lee that you probably didn’t know about. A Hong Kong American, also known as a Hongkongese American, is a term used to define Americans who are also permanent residents of Hong Kong. Also known as Hongkongers, they are attached and associated with Hong Kong through growth, culture, residence, birth, and other forms of affiliation. Bruce Lee’s parents were from Hong Kong, which explains why he was considered a Hongkongese. (South China Morning Post)

2. Lee Jun-fan was not his original name

It is believed that Bruce Lee’s mother was superstitious. In an attempt to stop any evil spirits that may have circled over her son’s life at a tender age, she named him Sai-fon, meaning “small phoenix.” He was then renamed to Lee Jun-fan when he was much older but was famously known as Bruce Lee.  (Encyclopedia)

3. He was a Cha Cha champion

Bruce Lee was not only good at martial arts, but also dancing. In 1958, he was named the Crown Colony Cha Cha dance champion of Hong Kong. (Hong Wrong) 

4. He was discovered by a hair stylist

The turning point of Bruce Lee’s movie career was in 1964 when he was discovered by celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring during the Long Beach Karate Championship. The celebrated stylist later told one of his high-profile clients, actor and producer William Dozier, about Bruce Lee. Sebring described Lee as a young talented martial artist with great potential. Later, Dozier got in touch with Lee and as they say, the rest was history. (South China Morning Post) 

5. He had terrible eyesight

One of the most interesting Bruce Lee facts is that even though he rarely missed his punch or kick, he had a bad eyesight. His eyesight was so bad that he became one of the first people to ever try out contact lenses. He was pictured several times wearing large glasses, but not so many people knew he had bad vision. (Kung Fun) 

6. He risked it all for love

Despite appearing as a tough-faced no-nonsense movie star, Bruce Lee had a soft heart. In the summer of 1963, Bruce had a young student named Linda Emery at his martial arts school in Seattle. After one of their training sessions, Lee asked Linda out for a date. She agreed, and Lee took her to the famous Space Needle in Seattle. One year later, Bruce and Linda were married, even though at that time, interracial marriages were highly prohibited both socially and legally. But being the tough guy with a soft heart, Bruce risked it all for love. (Heavy.com) 

7. He was more than a martial artist

Most people remember Lee as a martial artist thanks to his world-famous movies. But the Hongkongese star was also a poet and a philosopher. He actually studied philosophy at the University of Washington after completing his GED at the Seattle-based Edinson Technical School. (UW Department of Philosophy) 

8. His father was an actor and opera singer

Bruce was lucky enough to be born to a father who was already famous in Hong Kong. His father, Hoi Chuen, had close to 70 film credits in his 22-year career (1939 to 1961). Bruce Lee was born when his parents were on an opera tour in San Francisco in 1940. (The Famous People)

9. He was a star since childhood

When Bruce was still a kid, he had featured in at least 20 movies. This is probably one of the most fascinating facts about Bruce Lee that many people do not know about. Many people believe that his childhood role in movies was majorly because of his father’s status as an already-established celebrity. Whatever the reason, Bruce seemed to be a talented kid right from the onset. (YouTube) 

10. He was involved in street fights

Bruce Lee’s fighting skills were not only for the movies; he was an actual street fighter. Speaking to Black Belt magazine in 1967, the celebrated martial artist confessed that he used to go out to the streets of Hong Kong looking for fights when he was still a young boy. He also admitted that the street fighting techniques he learned in Hong Kong helped him become a better fighter. (Black Belt Magazine) 

11. He worked as a dish washer

During his days in high school, Lee was a dish washer in Seattle. He worked at a restaurant belonging to one of his family friends. To cut costs of transport, he lived in an apartment above the restaurant throughout high school. (The Washington Post) 

12. He trained high-profile actors

Some high-profile actors in the ‘70s who learned martial arts from Bruce Lee include Steve McQueen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Coburn and James Garner. Bruce also had a close friendship with McQueen and Coburn; the two actors were pallbearers at his funeral. (Screen Rant) 

13. He wasn’t so good at kicking until he met Chuck Norris

No, this is not one of those famous Chuck Norris jokes; on the contrary it is actually one of the many mind-blowing facts about Bruce Lee. While he was good at martial arts, specifically Kung Fu, Lee was good at hand movements, but not that good at kicking. After featuring alongside Chuck Norris in the film Way of the Dragon, the two developed a close friendship. Norris then gave Lee some important tips about kicking. He said to him:

 “You should be able to have the ability to kick anywhere … if there’s an opening high then you should be able to take advantage of that.”

And of course, Bruce Lee being a motivated fighter, he worked extra hard and perfected the art of kicking, something that was evident in all of his martial arts movies. (Mixed Martial Arts) 

Interesting Bruce Lee Facts
Chuck Norris (far left) and Bruce Lee (middle). Source: Creative Commons

14. He was so fast, some of his movies were in slow motion

There are mind-blowing facts about Bruce Lee, and then there’s this; his hand and feet movements were so fast that producers had to shoot some scenes in slow motion. The famous film Enter The Dragon, for instance, had to be captured in slow motion after producers realized that Lee’s moves were too fast for viewers. (Your Dictionary) 

Facts about Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon. Source: Creative Commons

15. He voiced most of the English voices in his movies

Bruce Lee was the voice behind all the English-speaking characters in most of his movies. For example, in the Way Of The Dragon, Lee was the voice behind all the guys in the movie, except Chuck Norris. If you’re probably wondering why Norris, it’s simple: he is the mighty Chuck Norris. (Martial Arts & Action Movies) 

16. He had his armpit sweat glands removed

One of the strangest facts about Bruce Lee is that he had the sweat glands in his armpit removed surgically. Even though there is no specific reason why he made this decision, some conspiracy theories believe that it contributed to his untimely death. Sweat glands, even though they may seem gross, help the body cool off when exposed to environments with excessive heats. Some theories claim that Lee died from overheating, having already suffered a stroke in the summer while re-recording a film in a room with no air conditioning. (Grunge) 

17. Barred from serving in the U.S. Army

In 1963, Lee tried to enroll to the U.S. Army but was rejected due to an undescended testicle. This is among the most astounding facts about Bruce Lee, considering that he was so fit that he could even do pushups using his two fingers.  (Fighting Spirit: a Biography) 

18. He was denied admission to many Kung Fu schools in Hong Kong

Back in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee had a tough time finding a Kung Fu school that would accept him. This was partly because his Grandfather was British, although there are other reports that suggest he was partly German. Whether he was British, or German, is not the main point here; the main point is, Bruce Lee was not considered a pure Chinese, therefore making him ineligible for Kung Fu lessons in Hong Kong. (Times Of Israel) 

19. He got circumcised to become ‘more American’

According to Matthew Polly, author of Bruce Lee: A Life, the famous actor was circumcised on a trip to Hong Kong to ‘become more American.’ The author also claims that Lee even dropped his pants to show his family what he had done. When his brother Robert asked him why he decided to get circumcised, Lee reportedly replied:

‘It’s what they do in America. I’m American, I want to look the part’. (Bruce Lee: A Life) 

20. He changed the name from ‘Gung Fu’ to ‘Kung Fu’

While in America, Bruce became friends with James lee, a martial arts author. To make it easier for James to pronounce ‘Gung Fu’, the original Cantonese name of this type of martial art, Bruce changed it to ‘Kung Fu.’ The name ‘Kung Fu’ became popular in the US, UK and across the world because it was easier to pronounce compared to ‘Gung Fu.’ (Black Belt Magazine)  

21. He asked the same girl to marry him, thrice

Before settling with his wife Linda, Bruce had asked a girl named Amy Sanbo to marry him, but she rejected the proposal three times. The last rejection came in the summer of 1963. It is believed that Bruce was so devastated that he decided to end the relationship. (MSN) 

22. He looked up to Muhammad Ali  

In yet another of the many facts about Bruce Lee, a story is told about his respect for Muhammad Ali. In the 1987 book The Making of Enter the Dragon, director Robert Clause revealed how Bruce thought Ali, the world heavyweight champion at the time, was strong enough to kill him. Speaking about the possibility of fighting Ali at some point in their career, Bruce reportedly said: 

“Everybody says I must fight Ali some day. I’m studying every move he makes. I’m getting to know how he thinks and moves. Look at my hand,” he said. “That’s a little Chinese hand. He’d kill me.”

The Bruce Lee vs Muhammad Ali fight would have been one of the greatest fights of all time, but sadly, Bruce did not live long enough to make it happen. (The Making of Enter the Dragon) 

23. He died at just 32 years old

Of all the facts about Bruce Lee, this is the most devastating and heart-breaking. The celebrated martial artist, poet and philosopher breathed his last on July 20, 1973. At the time, he was only 32 years old. Even though the exact cause of his death is not clear, it is believed that he suffered from cerebral edema, the excessive accumulation of fluid in the extracellular and intracellular areas of the brain. (The Sun) 

24. He was buried in Seattle, Washington

Bruce Lee loved Seattle so much that his family decided to bury him at the city’s Lake View Cemetery. His funeral was attended by a host of high-profile celebrities, with the likes of Steve McQueen, Chuck Norris, George Lazenby and James Coburn serving as pallbearers. There is also an exhibition dedicated to Bruce Lee at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle’s International District. The other one is in Hong Kong. These are the only two Bruce Lee exhibits in the whole world. (Time Magazine) 

Amazing Bruce Lee Facts
The grave bearing the remains of Bruce and his son Brandon Lee at the Lake View Cemetery in Settle, WA. Source: Creative Commons

Judging from these facts about Bruce Lee, there is no doubt that he was a man who was loved by many. One fascinating thing about Bruce is how tough he was from the outside, and soft from the inside. His numerous relationships with different women, and his love for humans from all walks of life, attest to this. Even though he has been resting for decades, he is still remembered as one of the greatest actors and philosophers of all time. 

SOURCES

  1. South China Morning Post: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/1856266/inside-bruce-lees-hong-kong-home-cranes-nest-love
  2. Encyclopedia: https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/film-and-television-biographies/bruce-lee
  3. Hong Wrong: http://hongwrong.com/bruce-lee-dancing-cha-cha/
  4. South China Morning Post: https://www.scmp.com/culture/film-tv/article/2154838/bruce-lee-steve-mcqueen-and-hairdresser-killed-manson-family-who  
  5. Kung Fun: https://www.kungfun.com/kung-fu-stars/bruce-lee/some-secrets-of-bruce-lee-get-into-his-world-and-try-to-understand-what-he-is-about.html  
  6. Heavy.com: https://heavy.com/sports/2020/06/bruce-lee-wife-kids-linda-lee/
  7. UW Department of Philosophy: https://phil.washington.edu/news/2020/11/12/remembering-bruce-lee-and-his-time-seattle-80th-anniversary-his-birth
  8. The Famous People: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/lee-hoi-chuen-13553.php
  9. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ilqwRQZnEs&t=1s
  10. Black Belt Magazine: https://blackbeltmag.com/nong-o-rodlek-one-championship
  11. Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/dragonthebruceleestorypg13harrington_a0ab6c.htm
  12. Screen Rant: https://screenrant.com/bruce-lee-actors-trained-martial-arts/
  13. Mixed Martial Arts: https://www.mixedmartialarts.com/karate/chuck-norris-i-taught-bruce-lee-how-to-kick/
  14. Your Dictionary: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/articles/how-did-bruce-lee-die.html
  15. Martial Arts and Action Movies:  https://martialartsactionmovies.com/way-of-the-dragon-with-bruce-lee/
  16. Grunge: https://www.grunge.com/216105/the-real-reason-bruce-lee-had-his-armpit-sweat-glands-removed/  
  17. Fighting Spirit: a Biography https://www.google.com/books/edition/Bruce_Lee/yE1HsGFasGYC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=bruce+lee+undescended+testicle&pg=PA53&printsec=frontcover  
  18. Times Of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/mixed-martial-artist-uncovering-bruce-lees-hidden-jewish-ancestry/
  19. Bruce Lee: A Life: https://www.amazon.com/Bruce-Lee-Life-Matthew-Polly/dp/1501187627/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=dmdeserthome-20&linkId=b1dcc96001e6586b31ee1d488edd7e8c
  20. Black Belt Magazine: https://blackbeltmag.com/meet-james-yimm-lee-the-man-who-helped-make-bruce-lee-a-success
  21. MSN: https://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/news/how-bruce-lee-became-a-global-protest-icon/ar-BB15fRbA
  22. The Making Of Enter The Dragon: https://www.amazon.com/Making-Enter-Dragon-Robert-Clouse/dp/0865680981
  23. The Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/12559289/bruce-lee-cause-of-death-revealed-mysterious-the-dragon/
  24. Time Magazine: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1919236_1919237_1919230,00.html

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