Interesting Fun and Quite Amazing Facts about Bruce Lee

by NateB11

Bruce Lee, iconic martial arts movie star and founder of Jeet Kune Do, continues to be loved by people across the globe. Find out about his life, his career and his untimely death.

To this day, Bruce Lee remains an icon of the martial arts and action movies. His flair and physical prowess made him famous. The public is fascinated by this super-star who quickly rose to fame in martial arts movies and suddenly died of seemingly mysterious causes when he was still in his early 30s. Find out about this martial arts hero and world-famous film star of the 1970s.

Bruce Lee

Loved By The World

Bruce Lee is popular around the world: Not because of, or in spite of, his race or nationality (though, it should be noted he was an American citizen), but because people have been drawn in by his operatic facial expressions and cat-like screams that added drama to fight sequences that have thrilled audiences for the past several decades. But mostly, I think, it is because we can see he was for real. There was an actual toughness to him that came through in his movies. There was a raw emotion he conveyed in his movies that, arguably, is unparallelled.

He is so much of an icon that modern movie makers use his imagery in their movies to elicit this power he had over audiences. I am reminded of Quentin Tarantino in this regard, who put the long and lean Uma Thurman in Bruce's yellow track suit from Game of Death and made her look spectacular and fierce in Kill Bill.

Fact is, Bruce Lee was for real. He was an actual fighter. He was also a father, a husband, a true athlete and well-read and educated.

Let's find out more about this martial arts super-star.

Featured Image: Bruce Lee with his son, Brandon. By Unknown photographer (RR Auctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bruce Lee

The Interesting Fun and Amazing Facts about Bruce Lee

So, here are the facts:

  • Bruce Lee was born in the US, in San Francisco, in 1940, while his entertainer parents were on tour performing for the Cantonese Opera from Hong Kong. Shortly after they returned home, Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese.
  • Bruce's mother, Grace Ho, was Eurasian and came from a very wealthy Hong Kong family.
  • As an infant, Bruce was an extra in a Hong Kong film. He started his acting career early.
  • In school he was an extrovert and had a lot of friends.
  • He continued acting as a young child, and was a huge success in a movie called Kid Cheung in which he had the lead role. This role has been described as a Chinese Andy Hardy.
  • As a martial arts instructor, Bruce's students included famous actors James Coburn and Steve McQueen and basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabar (who also starred in Bruce's movie Game of Death). Bruce really liked McQueen's physicality and Coburn's philosophy.
  • He created the idea for the Kung Fu television series of the 1970s and was promised the lead role which was instead given to David Carradine because TV execs thought Lee looked too Chinese.
  • He did not intend his early movies made in Hong Kong for American audiences, he thought they were more suited to the Hong Kong audience. However, turned out America loved them.
  • He was a leader of a street gang in Hong Kong in his youth.
  • His father practiced Tai Chi.
  • He started taking Kung Fu to better protect himself and win in street fights, in case he didn't have his gang to back him up. He became so devoted to the practice of martial arts, he left the street gang altogether.
  • He boxed at the Catholic high school he attended, Saint Francis Xavier College.
  • His father sent him to live with a friend in the US because he was getting into too many street fights in Hong Kong.
  • He was the Cha Cha champion of Hong Kong.
  • His son Brandon Lee died about 20 years after Bruce Lee died, also of a freak accident; an accident on the movie set of The Crow in which he was shot with a prop gun which still had "dummy" cartridges(used for filming close-ups of the gun being loaded) in it instead of blanks.
  • He was a waiter at a Seattle restaurant during his early time in the US.
  • He was a philosophy major at The University of Washington, where he met his future wife Linda.
  • He could do push-ups on his thumb and index finger.
  • He could knock a man down with a punch that only traveled an inch, using body mechanics.
  • In Oakland Chinatown, he fought Wong Jack Man, a Kung Fu fighter and student of a prominent teacher of martial arts, because the Chinese community wanted him to stop teaching the martial arts to non-Chinese. He won, so he kept teaching who he wanted.
  • He had training in multiple martial arts, including various forms of Kung Fu (Wing Chun mainly), Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Western boxing and fencing.
  • His Chinese name, Lee Jun Fan, means "return again", because his mother knew he'd return to the US when he was old enough.
  • After he was famous he returned to his old high school to present the kids with awards during one of their rallies. Of course, the kids were loving it. And so did he.
  • His left leg was shorter than his right leg and this is why he used a fighting stance with his right leg forward. He discovered this actually gave him an advantage with certain kinds of kicks. He was near-sighted so felt he was best suited for the martial art Wing Chun because it involved so much close-range fighting. (As reported by Joe Hyams in Zen in the Martial Arts).
  • He liked to keep to himself and only socialize with a few friends and didn't like big parties or wearing "stuffy" clothes. He did not drink or smoke.
  • He ate a diet of raw beef, eggs and milk mixed in a blender.
  • He collapsed while editing his film Enter the Dragon. The doctor who examined him, Dr. David Reisbord, said Bruce had had a "convulsive disorder, a major cause of epilepsy" but didn't know the cause. He gave Bruce a prescription for Dilantin which is used for epilepsy.
  • MGM wanted Bruce to star in a movie with Elvis Presley. Carlo Ponti wanted him to be in a movie with Sophia Loren. Warner Bros had 12 scripts waiting for him and promised him $100,000 a year as long as he or his wife Linda were alive, upon completion of the first movie. James Coburn was ready to star in a 20th Century Fox movie called The Silent Flute with Bruce Lee. He was offered two movies in Hungary that is said would have made him the highest paid actor in the world at the time.

Bruce Lee's Death

Cerebral Oedema: Death by Misadventure

It was July 20th, 1973. He had been visiting prominent Hong Kong movie producer Raymond Chow and Hong Kong actress Betty Ting Pei. He had said he had a headache and Betty gave him some of her prescription pain killers. Bruce took the medication and went and lied down on the bed.

Many rumors have surrounded his death. Some believe he was murdered due to some kind of dispute with organized crime. Others think he's still alive and hiding from those mobsters.

However, most people who knew Bruce, who attended his funeral, including his widow Linda Lee Caldwell, believe the official medical report on Bruce Lee's death.

Bruce had already been taking the epilepsy medication and pain killers for his injured back. Betty Ting gave him one of her Equagesic, her pain killer medication. Later that night she could not awaken him. She called Raymond Chow back to the apartment, he had gone out. Chow could not rouse Bruce either. Bruce, in fact, never did awaken. Was it a bad reaction to that mix of medications in his system?

The doctors at the inquest said it must have been a bad reaction to Equagesic given to him by Betty, or his own pain medication, Doloxene. One or the other caused a seizure which made his brain swell. Ultimately, it was decided by medical examiners that Bruce had had a bad reaction to the aspirin or meprobanate that is contained in Equagesic which consequently caused acute cerebral oedema, or brain swelling; it was ruled a death by misadventure, at the inquest, due to it having been caused by accident after Bruce had been given the Equagesic.

The death was a shock to all his fans. He was only 32 years old, a relatively young man at the peak of his physical condition as well as at the height of his movie career. Hong Kong was really stirred up at the time of his death, newspapers having a field day and fans mourning and crowding all the legal proceedings as well as the funeral.

Bruce Lee is a legend. He's talked about everywhere and remembered by old fans, completely embedded into the psyche of the world. Every generation brings another solid group of Bruce Lee fans with it. His appeal is timeless and true, he's an enduring world-wide icon that continues to fascinate audiences and inspire new generations.

Rare Photos of Bruce Lee

Footage of Bruce Lee on the set of a Hong Kong TV Show

Includes discussion of principles of Bruce Lee's teachings and his physical feats
Updated: 06/15/2015, NateB11
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NateB11 on 06/23/2014

Thanks, Katie. Yes, he is an interesting figure. Glad you enjoyed reading about him.

katiem2 on 06/23/2014

I have always been a big fan of Bruce Lee. I enjoyed learning more interesting facts about him. I always knew he had good qualities unknown to the general public.

NateB11 on 04/08/2014

Thanks, Valeed. Yes, it's quite amazing how quickly he rose to fame and how popular he became and how very long he's remained popular. Some people seem to have that quality, they capture the public's attention for generations.

Tehreem on 04/08/2014

I never knew so much about Bruce Lee. A job well done with this article. Bruce died at the age of 32 which amazes me how can someone be so popular and remembered after so many years after his death.

NateB11 on 04/04/2014

Yes, it must have been rather shocking for everyone who knew him. It's very tragic. Thanks for stopping by and reading and for the compliment, ologsinquito.

ologsinquito on 04/04/2014

How sad. An untold number of people die from these not so innocuous pain relievers, some of which are over the counter. You did a really good job with this article.

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