BRUCE LEE THE legEND
Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940, in San Francisco, California. He was a child actor in Hong Kong who later returned to the U.S. and taught martial arts. Bruce Lee was born Lee Jun Fan, in San Francisco, California, in both the hour and year of the Dragon. His father, Lee Hoi Chuen, a Hong Kong opera singer, moved with his wife, Grace Ho, and three children to the United States in 1939; Hoi Chuen's fourth child, a son, was born while he was on tour in San Francisco. Lee received the name "Bruce" from a nurse at his birthing hospital, and his family never used the name during his preschool years. Bruce Lee appeared in roughly 20 films as a child actor, beginning in 1946. He also studied dance, winning Hong Kong's cha-cha competition, and would become known for his poetry as well.
As a teenager, he was taunted by British students for his Chinese background and later joined a street gang. In 1953, he began to hone his passions into a discipline, studying kung fu (referred to as "gung fu" in Cantonese) under the tutelage of Master Yip Man. By the end of the decade, Lee moved back to the U.S. to live with family friends outside Seattle, Washington, initially taking up work as a dance instructor.
The largest influence on Bruce Lee's martial arts development was his study of Wing Chun. Lee began training in Wing Chun when he was 16 years old under the Wing Chun teacher Yip Man between late 1956 and 1957, after losing to rival gang members. Yip's regular classes generally consisted of the forms practice, chi sao (sticking hands) drills, wooden dummy techniques, and free-sparring. Yip tried to keep his students from fighting in the street gangs of Hong Kong by encouraging them to fight in organized competitions. After a year into his Wing Chun training, most of Yip Man's other students refused to train with Lee when they learned of his mixed ancestry, as the Chinese were generally against teaching their martial arts techniques to non-Asians. Bruce Lee's sparring partner, Hawkins Cheung, states, "Probably fewer than six people in the whole Wing Chun clan were personally taught, or even partly taught, by Yip Man". However, Lee showed a keen interest in Wing Chun and continued to train privately with Yip Man and Wong Shun Leung.
Lee finished high school in Edison, Washington, and subsequently enrolled as a philosophy major at the University of Washington. He also got a job teaching the Wing Chun style of martial arts that he had learned in Hong Kong to his fellow students and others. Through his teaching, Lee met Linda Emery, whom he married in 1964. By that time, Lee had opened his own martial arts school in Seattle. He and Linda soon moved to California, where Lee opened two more schools in Oakland and Los Angeles. He taught mostly a style he called Jeet Kune Do, or "The Way of the Intercepting Fist." Lee was said to have deeply loved being an instructor and treated his students like a clan, ultimately choosing the world of cinema as a career so as not to unduly commercialize teaching.
Lee and Linda also expanded their immediate family, having two children -- Brandon, born in 1965, and Shannon, born in 1969. Lee gained a measure of celebrity with his role in the television series The Green Hornet, which aired in 26 episodes from 1966 to '67. In the show, which was based on a 1930s radio program, the wiry Lee displayed his acrobatic and theatrical fighting style as the Hornet's sidekick, Kato. He went on to make guest appearances in such TV shows as Ironside and Longstreet, while a notable film role came in 1969's Marlowe, starring James Garner as the notable detective created by Raymond Chandler.
Lee, who was devoted to a variety of workouts and physical training activities, suffered a major back injury that he gradually recovered from, taking time for self-care and writing. He also came up with the idea that became the basis for the Buddhist monk TV series Kung Fu; however, David Carradine would get the starring role initially slated for Lee due to the belief that an Asian actor wouldn't pull in audiences as the lead. Confronted with a dearth of meaty roles and the prevalence of stereotypes regarding Asian performers, Lee left Los Angeles for Hong Kong in the summer of 1971.
On July 20, 1973, just one month before the premiere of Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong, China, at the age of 32. The official cause of his sudden and utterly unexpected death was a brain edema, found in an autopsy to have been caused by a strange reaction to a prescription painkiller he was reportedly taking for a back injury. Controversy surrounded Lee's death from the beginning, as some claimed he had been murdered. There was also the belief that he might have been cursed, a conclusion driven by Lee's obsession with his own early death. More rumors of the so-called curse circulated in 1993, when Brandon Lee was killed under mysterious circumstances during the filming of The Crow. The 28-year-old actor was fatally shot with a gun that supposedly contained blanks but somehow had a live round lodged deep within its barrel.